.- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, encouraged new college graduates to follow in Jesus’ footsteps by living out “the Law of the Gift.”
Carried out through “selfless, sacrificial love and service” for others, this way of living can be seen in the lives of the saints and should be “part of the DNA of any Catholic school,” he explained.
Cardinal Dolan delivered the May 12 commencement address at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
He recalled the words of Pope Benedict XVI, meeting just days earlier with bishops from the United States, about the urgent need for American Catholic colleges to renew their identity and fidelity to Christ.
Catholic universities should be “both Catholic and American,” based in truth, goodness and beauty, the cardinal said.
Their mission must be rooted in both truth and love, he added, striving to educate students in “the Law of the Gift.”
In describing the Law of the Gift, he quoted Blessed Pope John Paul II, who said, “For we are at our best, we are most fully alive and human, when we give away freely and sacrificially our very selves in love for another.”
True education, he said, imparts knowledge of this law and “the importance of faith to sustain it.”
Cardinal Dolan explained that religion promotes “a culture built on the Law of the Gift.”
Allowing for the free flourishing of religion is therefore “an essential ingredient in American wisdom and the genius of the American republic,” he said.
Even critics of religion acknowledge that faith and the Church make “a particularly pointed contribution” to society through their dedication to following and fostering the Law of the Gift, he added.
The contribution of religion to society has been a heavily discussed topic in recent months, as a federal mandate issued by the Obama administration threatens to shut down many religious schools, hospitals and charitable agencies or have them compromise their religious beliefs.
Cardinal Dolan has led efforts to defend religious freedom against the mandate, which will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.
In his address, he called on the class of 2012 to vigorously defend religious freedom “as part of both our American and creedal legacy.”
Cardinal Dolan then touched on how children usually first learn about the Law of the Gift in their family.
In a reference to attempts to redefine marriage and family, he noted that the law “is most poetically exemplified in the lifelong, life-giving, faithful, intimate union of a man and woman in marriage, which then leads to the procreation of new life.”
This union is so critical to the order of the common good, that “its very definition is ingrained into our interior dictionary,” he said.
Cardinal Dolan challenged the new graduates to live out the Law of the Gift in a world that “prefers getting to giving” and “considers every drive, desire or urge as a right.”
University president John Garvey also spoke at the commencement ceremony, discussing the virtue of patience, which he described as “persistence in knocking on God’s door.”
Patience is “not the disposition to wait for what you want,” but rather “the disposition to await God’s grace,” he explained.
Garvey encouraged the graduates to imitate St. Monica’s patient years of praying for the conversion of her son, Augustine, who later became a great saint in the Church.
“Patience is the ground that virtue grows in,” he said.
The university awarded approximately 1,500 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees during the May 12 ceremony.