Bishop Foys' Full Commencement Address
St. Vincent Seminary
May 8, 2009
Right Reverend Archabbot Douglas, Monks of St. Vincent Archabbey, my brother priests, deacons, religious, friends of St. Vincent Seminary, family and friends of the graduating class of 2009, friends all, and especially the graduating class of 2009:
Praised Be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!
I begin by offering my sincere gratitude to Archabbot Douglas and to Father Justin Matro for providing me with the opportunity to deliver the commencement address for this, the 163rd graduating class of St. Vincent Seminary. It is a great honor and privilege for which I am most grateful. I also wish to extend my sincere congratulations to the graduating class of 2009, to the 15 priesthood candidates as well as to Mr. Michael Russo and Mrs. Ximena DeBroeck.
Congratulations on this achievement and on the diligence that has brought you to this day.
Luceat Lux Vestra – Let Your Light Shine! Seven years ago I received a call from the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington, D. C., informing me that our then Holy Father, Pope John Paul II had in mind to name me the Bishop of the Diocese of Covington. Having come as a complete surprise to me, after the Nuncio had finished speaking I was speechless. After a few moments the Nuncio said, Monsignor, God will give you the grace you need to carry out this task.
In the time between the announcement of my appointment and of my consecration and installation as Bishop of Covington, among the things I had to do was to have a coat of arms designed and choose a motto for that coat of arms. The motto was to convey the thrust of my service as bishop.
For my motto I chose the words of the Lord from the 5th Chapter, 16th verse of the Gospel of Matthew: Luceat Lux Vestra – Let Your Light Shine! This exhortation of the Lord has always intrigued me and has always seemed to me to be something that every follower of the Lord needs to take to heart. We live in what is sometimes a very dark world, a world where the light of Jesus Christ does not shine, a world not of life and light but of death and darkness. Jesus calls on us, His followers to bring light and life to those who live in darkness and death.
My motto, of course, must be taken in its complete context. Verse 16 of Chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel is in the concluding remarks of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which he outlines what we know as the Beatitudes. For it to make sense we must take into account what comes before and what follows.
Jesus speaks in the beginning of the poor in spirit, of those who mourn, of the meek, of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, of the merciful, of the clean of heart, of the peacemakers, of those who are persecuted for sake of righteousness. These, He says, are blessed, these are happy and to these He promises the kingdom of heaven, that they will be comforted, that they will inherit the earth, that they will be satisfied, that they will be shown mercy, that they will see God and be called children of God!
Jesus goes on to say that His true followers are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Of the light, He says it is not put under a bushel basket but rather on a lampstand there to give light to all in the house. Just so, YOUR light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father!
Our light must shine before others. Our light must shine not for, not on ourselves, but for and on others! Ours is a light that is meant to illumine the path for others. The lamp set upon a lampstand is not there for itself but so that all in the house may see. The gifts, the talents, the graces that the Lord gives us, and gives us in abundance, are not meant to be horded selfishly but to be shared selflessly! We are, after all, the light of the world! Our light is to shine for all!
Jesus goes on to tell us why that light needs to shine before others. He says it shines so that others may see our good deeds and glorify our heavenly Father. Ah, our good deeds are not meant to bring us adulation, to bring us recognition, to bring us fame and fortune but rather to bring others to the Lord! To bring others to the recognition that all good things, all grace, all life, all light, all gifts, all talents have their beginning and their end in the Lord. The attention, then, is not on us or for us but on the Lord. We, as servants of the Lord, as His followers, are to bring others to the Lord by our good deeds, by letting our light shine.
The world in which we live is beset by complex problems that do not always allow for simple solutions. We are beset by moral issues, social issues, economic issues; issues that impact our lives as individuals, as a nation, as a Church.
Unfortunately, oftentimes the solutions to problems with these issues are sought in the dark rather than in the light. As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to reflect His light and to shed that light upon the problems that beset our world. We are called to be beacons in a sea of darkness, a light shining brightly that will guide home safely those who are lost. We are called to use the gifts and talents the Lord has bestowed on us to make a positive impact and have a positive influence on the lives of others. When doubt and despair encircle us the only way out is the light of Christ.
We live in world that would sometimes have us compromise our principles and dilute our truths. This we cannot do if we are to reflect the light of Christ, if we are to lead others to Him by our good deeds.
Compromise is not the answer, is not the solution. We are blessed to have in the Diocese of Covington a diocesan college. The college is named after the great statesman and saint, Thomas More. When I speak to the graduates at commencement every year I remind them of the great integrity of their patron saint. In the play about More’s life, A Man For All Seaons, the Duke of Norfolk is trying to convince Thomas More to sign the Act of Supremacy.
More has serious problems with the Act and in good conscience refuses to sign. Finally Norfolk says: Look, Thomas, I’m not a scholar, and frankly I don’t know whether the marriage was lawful or not – but Thomas, look at these names! You know these men! Can’t you do as I did and come along for fellowship?
To which More replies: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to heaven for doing according to your conscience and I am sent to hell for not doing according to mine, will you come along with me – for fellowship? Thomas More let his light shine, he did not let the dire circumstances of his situation dim the light he knew was of Christ. So too must we, firm in the faith, be a light for others. Our light must shine for all that is good, holy and true!
Father Boniface Wimmer, whose 200th birthday we observe this year, let his light shine. Because he did, we are able to gather here this night to celebrate your light. Boniface was faced with many a trial, with many a challenge, with many a dilemma. But his light, reflecting the light of Christ, was able to overcome the darkness of doubt and despair. He was able to overcome the trials, challenges and dilemmas he faced because his faith was strong, his light was bright.
All of us are called to let our light shine but I wish to speak now to those graduates who will be ordained to the priesthood within the next several weeks. Your light must truly shine, always and for everyone. I believe there has never been a time in the history of our country when we needed good priests, holy priests, learned priests, obedient priests, as we do now. You will bring, through your sacramental ministry, the light of Christ to a darkened world. You will bring healing, comfort, forgiveness and peace to those who are seeking answers to problems and issues that will sometimes seem insoluble. You must hold fast to the truths of our faith, you must never give up or give in. The Church needs you and wants you to bring light to darkness, life to death.
We, all of us, ordained and lay, need to be proud of our Faith, proud of our heritage, proud of our commitment to the truth. We must hold our heads high and profess that faith without compromise, without fear. We must walk in the light and be that light for others!
To all the graduates, my congratulations and best wishes once again. As you graduate, wherever the future may take you, may your light ever shine so that others, seeing your good deeds, will give glory to the Lord!