The Tragedy Of Life Is Not In Our Failure, But In Our Complacency

Ann and I were in Burlington VT over the weekend for the graduation of our youngest, Matthias — our first with a Bachelor of Science: Environment and Natural Resources.

God at the Commencement

The ceremony was held on the Green in front of UVM’s main Building for the first time in over forty years. It was the 200th graduation. Drizzle throughout the ceremony seemed to bother nobody, certainly not the graduates.

We’ve been to our kids’ graduations from Notre Dame, Northern Illinois University, Champaign-Urbana, University of Arizona, Yale, Loyola of Chicago. We’ve loved them all. But this being the last held a special place for us.

The commencement address was delivered by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and two-time Oscar nominee, novelist, actor and poet David Mamet, of The Spanish Prisoner, Hoffa, The Untouchables, We’re No Angels and American Buffalo fame. He also taught acting at the University of Chicago.

In his engrossing talk he reminded us, “We all have to die in the end; but what’s the use of dying in the middle?” Mamet ended his address with a Psalm asking the God to shine upon the students.

President Daniel Mark Fogel quoted from Marian Wright Edelman’s book, Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors:

The tragedy of life is not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but in doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.

Donald DeHayes, dean of our son’s school, ended his talk wishing Godspeed to the graduates.

It seems secular schools can get away with religious references more easily than many Catholic Universities do. Incidentally, Matt’s thesis, a mix of his own music and a variety of sounds from nature, was played during a receptions honoring graduating seniors. It was well received.

Encouragement from St. Paul

Here at the office we read all the same bad news you are reading and, like World magazine’s Joel Belz, we also find it getting harder and harder to remain an optimist. Belz’ May 29 column sums up the current horror stories out of Iraq, gay marriages, international murders, indifference to morality even among many Christians, the President’s drop in the polls, even gasoline heading toward $3 a gallon by fall.

We could add some Belz left out. But then, nobody promised us a Rose Garden. In Tuesday’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, read beautifully by my daughter Annie at our Office Mass, St. Paul speaks of his tears and trials and plots against him, as well as warnings he received that “imprisonment and hardships await me.” Yet, Paul concludes:

I consider life of no importance to me if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus — to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace. . . . I know that none of you to whom I preached the kingdom will ever see my face again.

But Paul is not discouraged. He laid out for them God’s plan, and that was his mission. Paul knew hatred and beatings and stoning and rejection like few of us have ever known, but what kept him from despair was his mission to spread God’s truth. And that is our mission, too. So as long as we’re still carrying out our mission, we have reason for ultimate optimism, no matter how bad things get. So stay optimistic. You, too, Joel.

Please Pray for Julie and Family

Julie McCreevy is back at our office with the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, following the funeral of her father, Sylvester “Red” Connolly on Friday. Please keep Julie and her family in your prayers during their time of bereavement.

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