Catherine Blume

Catherine Blume

Catherine Blume

It’s hard to believe that this day has finally arrived, the day when saying goodbye to UD becomes a reality. We’ve written our last papers, pulled our last all-nighters and suffered through our last finals as undergrads. I don’t know about you, but I had a difficult time accepting that this was the end. I accidentally deleted a 10 page Russian novel paper from my computer the day before it was due, just so that I could rewrite it in what little time remained. I wasn’t going to deny myself one last late night in the library. In all honesty, I don’t think anything has ever stressed me out as much as that paper, the last one of my college career. But as I was writing it for the second time, I came across a quote in Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot” that made me pause and reevaluate the frustrated, despairing, and self-pitying attitude with which I was approaching the assignment. Prince Myshkin, the novel’s hero, wisely states: “One can't understand everything at once, we can't begin with perfection! In order to reach perfection one must begin by being ignorant of a great deal. And if we understand things too quickly, perhaps we shan't understand them thoroughly.”

Perhaps I hadn’t understood everything I needed to understand the first time I wrote my paper. As terrible as it was to write the same paper twice, doing so made me reflect on the value of repetition, and on the value, or rather lack of value, in an education that is never revisited, but that we simply box off as belonging to this specific time in our life. Yes, it’s true that we’ve completed all of our courses. But what would be the point of having read all those books, studied all those philosophers and theologians, memorized all those astronomical equations and constellations, if we didn’t revisit them every once in a while and at least give them the chance to keep teaching us, to keep helping us grow in wisdom?

Although for the past few years our university has diligently fostered in us a desire to pursue wisdom and virtue, when we walk up and receive our diplomas today, we unfortunately will not become perfectly wise and virtuous individuals. Although we are a lot wiser than we were we when we showed up here a few years ago, bright-eyed and fresh-faced, we still have a long way to go and a lifetime to keep getting there. You may never need to explain Plato’s allegory of the cave, or Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God, or Dante’s circles of hell in whatever career you’ve chosen to pursue, but I think Aristotle, Aquinas, and Dante would feel slightly rejected if you left them cooped up on a shelf for the rest of your life. An education that ceases to affect your life once the formal part of it ends would be of little worth. Thankfully, our education at the University of Dallas has been designed in such a way that we couldn’t leave it behind even if we wanted to. Right now, I’m sure the last thing most of us want to do is crack open a book, especially one as heady and difficult to grasp as most of the books that we’ve read at this school, but you may be surprised in the future, when you’ve been removed from the world of intellectualism for a little while, to find that you miss those figures and those ideas that have crowded your brains for the past few years. Don’t forget to revisit what you’ve learned and studied here. If you’re someone who likes getting your money’s worth out of things, then there’s still a lot more to be had from your education at UD.

Besides pursuing and attaining wisdom, a goal which alone could take a lifetime to achieve, we have been taught to pursue virtue, something that also requires great practice and patience. In other words, because we are graduating from the University of Dallas, we are expected to be not only super smart, but super holy, as well. Low expectations, I know. But again, thankfully our education hasn’t just presented these ideals before us and then left us to figure out for ourselves how to achieve them. The best way to teach and to learn virtue is through examples of virtue, which we have seen a lot of at UD. We have seen examples of virtue in all those many books which we have read, and we have seen and have ourselves been examples of intellectual virtue, since without perseverance and love for the truth we would not be here today. More importantly, however, we have seen examples of virtue in our professors, our mentors, our advisors, both spiritual and academic, and our friends—in all of the people that make up the intimate community that is UD. When I first came to UD I didn’t know a single person, but it was because of this virtue which I witnessed in everyone around me that I quickly realized any person I met would be a person worth being friends with. And it is because of this virtue, which has become the standard for our friendships, that we know with confidence that those friendships will last.

As students of the University of Dallas, we have had many examples and guides to help us along our chosen paths. St. John Paul II knew that young people “need guides, and they want them close at hand.”  In his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope, the pope added, “If they turn to authority figures they do so because they see in them a wealth of human warmth and a willingness to walk with them along the paths they are following.” Our professors, in particular, have been such guides and have sacrificed their time to help us along the paths which we are following. They have been examples of the love, devotion, and cheerfulness with which we must live out our vocations. However, since we are no longer those bright-eyed, fresh-faced students that we were at the outset of our college careers, but instead must transition into the role which we have chosen for ourselves, whether that be a teacher, businessman or woman, doctor, husband or wife, priest or religious, actor, musician, what have you, we must ourselves become those guides and examples for others.

In addition, as graduates of the University of Dallas, we have been entrusted with a special mission: to be men and women of faith in the world. In the world in which we live, being a man or woman of faith will often require that we be soldiers of Christ, that is, that we have the courage to always witness to Him, no matter how inconvenient it is. It may require that we get beat up a little more for stating our beliefs than we get beat up for it now and that we be willing to suffer, but it is that suffering which will increase our capacity to love. By our love we will be soldiers of Christ, for there is no better way to witness to Him. We have been armored with knowledge of the truth and with a desire to pursue wisdom and virtue, which our education at UD has given us, and we have learned how to live those truths and virtues in our friendships. Our possession of these blessings leaves us with little room for fear. But if we are ever greatly wounded, our faith has provided us with the hope that no matter how weak we are, no matter how far we fall, when we return to God, especially in the Sacraments, we will be healed.

My grandad once told me, “When you examine your conscience, don’t forget to consider the many times in your daily life when you are ungrateful and you forget to say thank you.” It’s advice that has stuck with me because I do often forget to say thank you. I forget that most of the things in my life are gifts and that they therefore require gratitude. This university is a gift, and it is a privilege to be graduating from it.

Our professors are gifts. The opportunities which we have had to be so closely and personally guided by our professors are privileges that not all university students have. Thank you, professors, for your example and your guidance.

Our family is also a gift. I’m sure I speak for most of you when I say that I would probably not be here today were it not for the support and guidance of my family, especially my parents. It is their example of self-sacrifice and love that has guided me the most.

Finally, our friends are gifts, and I think we can all agree that we have been abundantly blessed in that regard. Thank you for your examples of how to pursue wisdom and virtue, of how to witness to Christ, and of how to love your friends well. I cannot wait to see what wonderful things you do with your lives, and I very much hope that your education at the University of Dallas continues to impact you throughout the rest of your lives.