Commencement Address to the Graduating Class of 2024 at Thomas Aquinas College

The Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary: May We “Imitate What They Contain and Obtain What They Promise”

Divine Mercy Sunday Reflection

Synodality versus True Identity of the Church as Hierarchical Communion

Notification to Christ’s Faithful (can. 212 § 3) Regarding Dubia Submitted to Pope Francis

Appeal for Prayer for the Armenian People

Discipline and Doctrine: Law in the Service of Truth and Love

Message to the Faithful Priests of the Church in Germany

Death of Cardinal George Pell

Death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Purity of Heart and the Holy Family

Advent and the Door of our Hearts

The Exaltation of the Cross

Purity of Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha’s Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary

Purity of Heart and the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Mary the Mirror of Justice

Purity of Heart

Advent and Apocalypse

Christ and the Church: Triumphant, Suffering and Militant

Presentation list

Commencement Address to the Graduating Class of 2024 at Thomas Aquinas College

Thomas Aquinas College

Northfield, MA

May 18, 2024


President O’Reilly, Dean Cain and Members of the Faculty and Staff, Mr. Turicchi and Members of the Board of Directors, Father Markey and Father Viego, Honored Graduates and your families and friends, and benefactors and friends of Thomas Aquinas College:

“Brethren, what shall we do?”[1] Such was the response of “devout men from every nation under heaven”[2] to Saint Peter’s Pentecost Discourse. The Holy Scriptures tell us that “that they were cut to the heart.”[3] Saint Peter had proclaimed to them the truth of the Redemptive Incarnation with these words:

Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know – this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. …
This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear. …
Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.[4]

Witnessing the transformation of the Apostles by the Descent of the Holy Spirit and hearing the preaching of Saint Peter, the devout men understood that the event which they were witnessing and the enduring reality which it manifested had changed their lives forever. They recognized the abiding victory of Jesus, “Lord and Christ,”[5] over sin and death through the outpouring of His Spirit, God the Holy Spirit, upon the Church, into the hearts of the faithful members of the Church, Christ’s Mystical Body.

To their heartfelt question, “Brethren, what shall we do?”, addressed to the Apostles, Saint Peter, without hesitation and without equivocation, responded:

Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him. And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying: “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”[6]

The Scriptures attest that “those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls”[7] and that their lives were marked by holding “steadfastly to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.”[8]

Dear graduates of the New England Class of 2024 of Thomas Aquinas College, you have received a Catholic university education. You have been pondering in depth the truth of the immeasurable and enduring love of God for man, both as it is prefigured in everything good, true, and beautiful – the fruit of the law of God written in nature and, above all, upon every human heart – and as it is perfectly revealed in the Redemptive Incarnation of God the Son Who dwells in human hearts by the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit in the Church. It is the truth that Saint Peter, inspired and made courageous by the Holy Spirit, announced to the “devout men from every nation on earth” on Pentecost.

Having completed your years of study at Thomas Aquinas College, having been blessed to have contemplated the truth announced by Saint Peter on Pentecost both through the cultivation of God’s gift of reason and through the embrace of His even more wonderful gift of faith, you have come to Commencement on the Vigil of Pentecost Sunday. Having been so enriched with the pursuit of Divine Truth and Love, you, like the devout souls who witnessed Pentecost and listened to the preaching of Saint Peter, must be “cut to the heart,” asking the successors of the Apostles “Brethren, what shall we do?”[9] As a successor of the Apostles, as a shepherd of God’s flock, of the Church – Christ’s Mystical Body – , I am pleased to honor today’s Commencement, Thomas Aquinas College, and you her graduates of 2024 by responding to your question.

The answer to the question is simple: Convert daily to Christ, repent of your sins, and respond with all your heart to Christ’s call to holiness of life. Your lives, like the lives of those baptized on Pentecost, must be marked by a steadfast adherence to the truths of our Catholic faith handed down to us in an unbroken line through the Apostolic Tradition, to our communion with one another as true sons and daughters of God in God the Son by virtue of the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, to faithful participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – “the breaking of the bread” by which Christ makes sacramentally present the fruits of His Sacrifice on Calvary – ,  and to the rich treasury of devotions and prayers in the Church. By so living you will remain in the company of Christ in His holy Church and become ever more one in heart with His Most Sacred Heart.

In a particular way, the seed of Christ’s life planted in your souls at Baptism is meant to flower in the gift of your entire being to Him through your vocation in life, whether it be to the conjugal life of marriage, to the dedicated single life, to the consecrated life, or to the priesthood. The daily conversion to Christ which leads, in adulthood, to the knowledge and embrace of your vocation with a faithful, generous, and pure heart is indeed the principal fruit of a truly Catholic education. Commencement for you raises the question: What shall we do? At the present time in your Christian growth, it raises the question: What is God’s plan for me? To which vocation is he calling me?

A Catholic education fortifies us to know God’s plan and to do God’s will by recognizing the darkness and sin around us and in our lives and by embracing Christ Who dispels the darkness and conquers sin in the world and in our lives by His dwelling with us in the Church. Saint Peter did not mince words with those to whom he preached. He told them: “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”[10] Catholic education, whether it be in the arts or sciences or skills, is steeped in wonder at the good order of God’s creation and at the call to be with Christ, God the Son Incarnate, “fellow workers in the truth.”[11] The true development of reason is only possible within the context of the faith, of the study of God and of His plan for us and the world, as He has revealed Himself and His plan to us in Christ. Catholic education leads us to intimate communion with Christ, inspiring us to know the truth and to live the truth in love, above all in our vocation in life.

Saint Paul, yet today an heroic teacher of the faith, employing an analogy with child birth, wrote to the Christians at Galatia: “My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you.”[12] In his Second Letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul reminds us that our daily conversion to Christ, with the suffering it necessarily entails, is, in fact, a manifestation of Christ alive in us: “For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”[13] Remember the words of the Letter to the Hebrews, regarding our communion with the saints in the Church: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”[14] Catholic education forms us to keep our eyes fixed on Our Lord and to view everything in our daily life in the perspective of its fulfillment in the life which is to come, eternal life. Our Lord Himself has taught us in plain words: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”[15]

Pope Pius XI, in his Encyclical Letter Divini Illius Magistri, “On Christian Education” (“De Christiana iuventutis educatione”), quoting the words of Saint Paul to which I have just referred, described a Catholic education with these words:

The proper and immediate end of Christian education is to cooperate with divine grace in forming the true and perfect Christian, that is, to form Christ Himself in those regenerated by baptism, according to the emphatic expression of the Apostle: “My little children, of whom I am in labor again, until Christ be formed in you [Gal 4, 19].” For the true Christian must live a supernatural life in Christ: “Christ who is your life [Col 3, 4],” and display it in all his actions: “That the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh [2 Cor 4, 11].”
Hence the true Christian, product of Christian education, is the supernatural man who thinks, judges and acts constantly and consistently in accordance with right reason illumined by the supernatural light of the example and teaching of Christ; …”[16]

The great challenge of Catholic education is to avoid the multiple distractions of false atheistic and materialistic ideologies and to remain focussed on communicating Christ as He comes to us through Apostolic Tradition, the living Tradition of the Church.

We live in very troubled and troubling, sometimes seemingly apocalyptic, times. We understand all too well the timeliness of Saint Peter’s exhortation on Pentecost: “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”[17] The rebellion before God, the revolution against His Truth and Love handed down to us in the Church, has reached an unimaginable level. It is a rebellion not only against the faith but also reason. We witness in the world the denial of our very nature as God has created us. What is more, the rebellion and revolution is sustained by some from within the Church, even by some who are called and ordained to shepherd the flock. We witness the devastating results for the Church in Germany. The current sessions of the Synod of Bishops threaten to extend the same devastation to the universal Church.

Devout Catholics are rightly disheartened and discouraged, and justifiably angry at the profound suffering inflicted upon the Mystical Body of Christ by the apostasy, the abandonment of Christ to embrace the ways of a world in rebellion before God. Your question at Commencement, “Brethren, what shall we do?,” is the question of what are we to do in the contemporary situation of the Church and of the world which, in certain respects, are unprecedented in the history of the Church?

Certainly, the answer is not to leave Christ Who is alive for us in the Church but to remain faithfully with Him in the Church, to be His faithful “fellow workers in the truth,”[18] teaching His saving Word and bringing His saving grace to the world with ever greater fidelity and generosity, even in the face of indifference, ridicule, persecution, and death. God the Father confides to each of us the care of some portion of the Kingdom of His Divine Son Incarnate. We should only be concerned to be faithful, generous, and pure followers, disciples, of Christ the King.

Let us recall the words of Saint Paul in his Letter to the Colossians: “[Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together… For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”[19] Following Christ means loving God and serving His plan for the salvation of the world. If we deny Christ at work in the Church, nothing else in life any longer makes sense. Trusting Christ’s Word and His promises, we do not lose heart but, rather, are confident that He will win in us the victory over sin and death.

Christ is the King of Heaven and of Earth, pouring out His life for us, as He declared to Pontius Pilate who questioned Him about His Kingship:

My kingship is not of this world; … You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.[20]

God the Father has come to reign lovingly over His children through God the Son Incarnate, Christ the King. Through the Redemptive Incarnation of His only-begotten Son, God the Father speaks to us the truth which purifies us of the lies of our sins and frees to us to worship Him “in spirit and truth.”[21] In the words of Saint Paul, “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”[22]

In Christ is realized the right order of all things, the union of heaven and earth, as God the Father intended from the beginning. Christ conquers the disorder introduced into the world by the sin of man, by the rebellion of our First Parents against the will of God for us and for the world. It is the obedience of God the Son Incarnate which reestablishes, restores, the original communion of man with God and, therefore, peace in the world. His obedience unites once again all things, “things in heaven and things on earth.”[23]

The exceptional Catholic education which you, dear graduates, have received has led you to the truth to which your reason is naturally attracted and which your faith identifies in all its wonderful richness. The all-beautiful and lasting fruit of your education is a life lived in Christ. Christ indeed continues to be at work in us through the teaching of the truth and the manifestation of its beauty in the Sacred Liturgy and of its goodness in a virtuous life. May Commencement leave you “cut to the heart,” asking Our Lord: “What shall we do?” May the Virgin Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, lead you at Commencement to turn, with her, to Christ, and to heed her maternal counsel: “Do whatever he tells you.”[24]

Thank you for your kind attention. May God bless you and your families.

Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE

[1] Acts 2, 37.

[2] Acts 2, 5.

[3] Acts 2, 37.

[4] Acts 2, 22-24. 32-33. 36.

[5] Acts 2, 36.

[6] Acts 2, 38-40.

[7] Acts 2, 41.

[8] Acts 2, 42.

[9] Acts 2, 37.

[10] Acts 2, 40.

[11] 3 Jn 8.

[12] Gal 4, 19.

[13] 2 Cor 4, 11.

[14] Heb 12, 1-2.

[15] Lk 14, 27.

[16] “Eo proprie ac proxime intendit christiana educatio, ut, divina cum gratia conspirando, germanum atque perfectum christianum efficiat hominem: ut Christum scilicet ipsum exprimat atque effingat in illis qui sint Baptismate renati, ad illud Apostoli vividum: «Filioli mei, quos iterum parturio, donec formetur Christus in vobis». Vitam enim supernaturalem germanus christianus vivere debet in Christo: «Christus, vita vestra», eandemque in omnibus rebus gerendis manifestare «ut et vita Iesu manifestetur in carne nostra mortali».

Quae cum ita sint, summam ipsam humanorum actuum, quod attinet ad efficentiam sensuum et spiritus, ad intellectum et ad mores, ad singulos et ad societatem domesticam atque civilem, christiana educatio totam complectitur, non autem ut vel minime exenuet, verum ut secundum Iesu Christi exempla et doctrinam extollat, regat, perficiat.

Itaque verus christianus, christiana educatione conformatus, alius non est ac supernaturalis homo, qui sentit, iudicat, constanter sibique congruenter operatur, ad rectam rationem, exemplis doctrinaque Iesu Christi supernaturaliter collustratam: …,” Pius PP. XI, Litterae Encyclicae Divini Illius Magistri, “De Christiana iuventutis educatione,” 31 Decembris 1929, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 22 (1930), 83. English translation: Five Great Encyclicals, ed. Gerald G. Treacy (New York: The Paulist Press, 1939), pp. 64-65.

[17] Acts 2, 40.

[18] 3 Jn 8.

[19] Col 1, 17. 19-20.

[20] Jn 18, 36-37.

[21] Jn 4, 23-24.

[22] Eph 4, 15.

[23] Eph 1, 10.                                                                                        

[24] Jn 2, 5.