As graduates from Wyoming Catholic College prepared to throw their hats in the air, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila left them with a simple but poignant command, echoing Jesus and St. John Paul II before him: “Be not afraid.”
“As graduates, you are called into the next chapter of God’s plan for your life,” Archbishop Aquila told WCC’s Class of 2023 during their May 15 commencement. “You should be proud of what you have done here and walk boldly toward the future. Be not afraid. The Lord who led you through these past four years will continue to lead you and strengthen you for what lies ahead.“
As one of the few Catholic colleges in the Rocky Mountain Region, WCC has garnered a good reputation for providing a robust and authentically Catholic education to it students, despite the fact that it’s a relatively smaller college when compared to other schools in the rgion. They invited Archbishop Aquila to deliver this year’s commencement address.
To listen to Archbishop Aquila’s full commencement address, be sure to check out his podcast.
“It is a great joy to be able to be here with you and to address all of you. To look at the gift of Wyoming Catholic College, I am deeply grateful to God for you, the graduates, and for Wyoming Catholic College, for all of the professors, for the staff, and especially for the families who have sent their children to this college,” Archbishop Aquila said. “You had many options in where to pursue higher education and you chose to come here. You chose an institution which would nurture you spiritually, challenge you intellectually and train you physically. You chose a place that would ground you in primary sources and equip you to engage the world with reason, virtue and charity.”
During his address, Archbishop Aquila reassured the graduates that they have been chosen by God to live in these times. He underscored the importance of receiving an education rooted in Jesus Christ and being formed as a disciple in an effort to counter the secular tide of modern society and spread the gospel to all who need to hear it.
“My sisters and brothers, today we are in an apostolic age,” the archbishop said. “The values of society are, for the most part, opposed to the values of the church. While the church proposes freedom in denying yourself to follow Jesus Christ and be his disciple, society proposes hedonism under the guise of freedom. Jesus reminds us if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
“At first, the idea that we are in apostolic times may terrify us,” he continued. “It may make us nervous and want to escape, leaving the world behind. We must remember the constant passage that Jesus used in sacred Scripture and that St. John Paul the Great often proclaimed. Do not be afraid. The devil loves to put us into fear, but Jesus Christ desires to free us from fear. As Saint John reminds us in his letter, Perfect love casts out all fear. Never forget that out of all the ages in the history of the world, God has chosen each and every one of you to live and serve in this apostolic age.”
In order to be effective and on mission in this apostolic age, however, we cannot be consumed by things of this world, the archbishop warned, which includes giving into the prominent ideologies of our time.
“Jesus must be our first love,” he urged. “We must see through the eyes of the Father to have confidence in God’s plan.
He then clarified: “You might ask yourselves, what plan is the Archbishop talking about? Does he think the chaos that we are in in the world today is God’s plan? Absolutely not. The chaos is the world’s plan, not God’s plan. Salvation history in world history demonstrates to us clearly that when you move away from God and the plan of God, there is chaos. Each one of you are called and are a part of the plan of God. And because of your love for the gospel and the truth, you are called to be a leaven in society.”
In a world of competing truths, colleges campuses are places where students should be free to pursue truth — but the reality is there is only one Truth that grounds all other truths, Archbishop Aquila emphasized.
“The truth has the power to move and shape our intellect,” he said. “Once our minds lay hold of it, it is difficult to ignore. In your studies, not only have you come to know and love the truth, but you have come to understand, hopefully, that the truth is a person: Jesus Christ. In fact, in all that you have done here, you have immersed yourselves in a course of study which has deepened your recognition of Jesus Christ as the source and fulfillment of all the transcendental goals. Only he is true, Only he is good. Only he is beautiful. We know whatever else has these traits is because they share in him.”
It is only through and with Jesus that the graduates will find their purpose in life, Archbishop Aquila told them. And it is in that purpose that their — and everyone else’s — invaluable place in God’s plan will be found.
“Your lives, my dearest graduates, are of the utmost importance to the plan of God,” he concluded. “Do not cower from this responsibility, but rejoice that he has found you worthy to labor with him for the salvation of the world. I am filled with great hope in what Jesus has and continues to do in you. May he guide you and help you to grow in wisdom and charity, strengthening you all the days of your lives, until that day when you will look upon him face to face in eternity.”