Modestly, without arrogance or triumphalism, our graduates will be the mustard seeds of cultural transformation…

mustardGraduation is always a bittersweet time, because we have come to know the students so well, from many different sides. It is not a matter of delving into their privacy, but of seeing them in different contexts—classes, outdoor trips, liturgical life—and trying to give their individual energies the best direction. What they present publicly in seminars or essays or public speaking, we can correct and guide, praise and encourage. Of course we are there for private counsel should they need it, but our major task is to help them conform themselves—morally, intellectually, and spiritually—to the great and timeless paradigms of the truths they come to apprehend.

When Fr. Sirico spoke to these graduates on the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady to the children at Fatima—an anniversary charged with meaning—he knew, of course, that the culture the students entered would be largely bewildered by the kinds of persons they have become. Often the comfortable assumptions of “tolerance” make strong convictions seem discourteous. Just this week a friend in Denver spoke of how well-catechized Catholic students often go into college and within a few weeks lose their faith under the pressures they encounter. It would be tragic if our graduates, once removed from the environment of Wyoming Catholic College, similarly capitulated to the prevailing culture, as though their education were a house built on sand.

But that will certainly not happen. Our student speaker this year at commencement, Daniel Spenst, wrote in his senior thesis about the value of having his ideas challenged by a fellow worker on the ranch where he worked in the summers. This intelligent but doubting young interlocutor did not believe that anything could really be said to be “true,” as though to assert something as true were unduly coercive—an imposition on the rights of others to have their own views. But the challenge did two things: it helped Mr. Spenst to form his own ideas much more carefully, and it made him much more generous in meeting the sincerely held opinions of others. As he argues, it is not a matter simply of rejecting others outright or demonizing them, but of listening carefully and making the better argument compelling—the argument that truth exists and that the moral good is not a matter of personal preference.

Certainly, the Church is the rock on which our house is built, but many within the Church itself have adapted themselves to the culture and to teachings inimical to the Church’s stance. In his profound new book, The Power of Silence, Cardinal Robert Sarah criticizes the noisy volubility of many priests and theologians: “Who can think their sheer outpourings to be a spring coming from the divine depths? But they talk, and the media love to listen to them in order to re-echo their ineptitude, particularly if they declare themselves in favor of the new post-humanist ideologies, in the realm of sexuality, the family, and marriage.”

Our graduates will certainly face these “post-humanist ideologies” everywhere they go, but they will be prepared to represent the “perennial philosophy” taught at Wyoming Catholic College. Because of the Humanities sequence that runs through all four years, they will also understand the reasons behind the shifts that have occurred in the history of thought, and they will not be blindsided by contemporary ideologies. They will know in the depths of themselves the core of what is real and true. They have experienced it in the hard challenges of the wilderness; they have known it in the confessional and the Eucharist; and they have tried their souls upon the greatest ideas from the greatest thinkers of the tradition.

I have no doubt that what we do at Wyoming Catholic is part of the most important work being undertaken for the souls of mankind in the contemporary world. As always, we are playing the “long game,” thinking not just of what will make these graduates materially successful, but of what will help them to change the culture in their own time and affect the generations that follow. Modestly, without arrogance or triumphalism, they embody the restoration of the Catholic tradition, and they will be the mustard seeds of cultural transformation.

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