Commencement Exercises -- May 15, 2011
Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. '80
Let me begin by offering my congratulations to the graduating Class of 2011 for all of your accomplishments. To the traditional undergraduates: You have been a great class that has really left a mark and I will miss you. To the other graduates--S.C.E. students and graduate students--I have watched you come here at night, after work, for many years, and I admire your discipline, your dedication, and your perseverance.
It is customary on occasions such as this for a speaker like me to quote a famous author and offer a gloss on the text. The premise is that if Einstein or Plato or Goethe or Ghandi said it, it must be profound. So I poured through recently read books, and even, like our students, Googled themes to find a suitable text. Nothing struck a resonant chord. Then it dawned on me that I had the text that I needed from a completely different source, an author who is not yet famous, but rather a member of the senior class who has asked me to stay anonymous.
On the last day of classes, I returned to Dominic House where I live to find a note slipped under my door. I brought it upstairs, opened it, and read it. It brought tears to my eyes for its beauty. It is the loveliest letter that I have ever received from a student. I will not read all of it, but I want to read the conclusion:
I felt called to write you this little note to let you know that for this student, PC has succeeded. I have encountered Truth here, Truth that I will continue to seek for the rest of my life. The truth that is Jesus Christ… I entered college as an undeclared freshman leaning toward bio, thinking PC would teach me how to make a living. Four years later, I am graduating with a B.A. in Music and the knowledge Providence College has not taught me how to make a living. It has taught me how to make a life. For that I am forever grateful.
This note focuses on three things that I hope and pray are true in some way for all of you: First, I hope that you have learned to love and seek the truth for the rest of your lives. The motto of the College is Veritas, truth, and it is what will set you free and draw you to the God who is truth. Seek the truth always in your lives. Second, I hope that you have learned how to make a life. You will make a living at doing something for the large part of your day--and making a living is part of making a life--but there is more to the meaning of life than making a living. You have learned enough at Providence College to make a meaningful life--that task lies before you: make one. Finally, I hope that you have learned to express gratitude. The great Dominican saint Meister Eckhart once said: If the only prayer you say in your whole life is 'thank you' that would suffice. You should say thank you today to everyone who made this day possible, to your parents and family who supported you, to your friends who shaped you, to the teachers who taught you, to the God whose providence led you to this day. Love of Truth, a meaningful life, and a grateful heart are the gifts that I hope Providence College has given you. Go now and give them to others.