A Blessed Valedictory

It is with great pleasure that I turn to you, the members of the Montfort Academy Class of 2015, as you bid farewell to your Alma Mater and begin the next stage of your educational journey. Congratulations on successfully completing your course of studies. Your hard work and diligence have brought you the blessings of academic achievement and Christian development. You have completed a serious course of studies in a Catholic school that has brought you closer to Christ, the true teacher of all wisdom and knowledge.

You come to this ceremony with a deep appreciation of the great benefits you have received at Montfort. That knowledge should make you both humble and grateful. Humility and gratitude are the hallmarks of a dedicated learner and a true Christian.

The purpose of Catholic education is to open the minds and the hearts of the students to the truth of God’s creation and His revelation. What a blessing this is! Ignorance and unbelief cause unredeemed man to wander in sorrow through this world. He suspects there must be an explanation for what he experiences, but is not sure where to find reliable answers to questions. His life is dominated by fear of what surrounds him. He is lost and unhappy.

The Good Lord sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to teach us the truth. Christ dispels our ignorance, casts out our fears and calls us to faith in Him. The result of this is the joy of knowing God and his purposes for us.

You have come to know the truth about God and His creation during your years here. Those lessons have taught you that humility is needed in order to recognize the truth. The proud man considers himself to be the measure of all things: he will decide what is right and wrong, he will decide what is important and worthwhile, he will decide what is beautiful and worth cherishing. This arrogance is a deadly temptation that blinds us to the true value of things. God created and put us on His earth to discover and make good use of the world He made for us. We must humbly thank Him by praying and studying, developing the intelligence and talents he has given us. We must make our lives into something pleasing to God.

A priest friend once remarked that while we are all instruments in the hand of God, some instruments are more useful than others. One significant reason for this is that some people prepare themselves better for the challenges ahead by diligent study and seeking broad exposure to different fields of knowledge. Your academic formation has taught you many things in a wide range of subjects. Yet that education will only be profitable to you if you leave here realizing that there is a lot more to learn.

Murray speaks


Learning is more than the satisfaction of curiosity. It is the perfection of the intellect in view of living our lives as God wants us to live. Knowledge does not equal virtue; otherwise every genius would be a saint. But every saint strived to know as much as he could about God and his truth. Learning is a sweet duty for those who know that, with God’s grace, they can make themselves into truly useful instruments in God’s hand.

James L. Buckley, former U.S. Senator from New York, wrote in his book Freedom at Risk, “my life has largely been shaped by chance.” What did he mean by that? Mr. Buckley served in the Navy during the Second World War. At war’s end he decided to go to law school and then “pursue the tranquil life of a country lawyer.”

He writes: “But after I had spent four years of practice with a New Haven law firm in preparation for a move to the country, my father lured me to New York City to work for a group of companies engaged in oil exploration outside the United States.”

He worked in this field for 17 years until “in 1968 I was recruited by New York’s Conservative Party to run as a pro forma candidate for election to the United States Senate.” He ended up winning that Senate seat in a three-man race in 1970 and served for one outstanding term. He next served for two years in the State Department during the Reagan administration, before being appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where he served as a judge for 15 years.

Mr. Buckley’s plans to be a country lawyer never came to be. Those plans gave way to a distinguished career in government and the judiciary. His plans turned out differently, and I would say better, especially for our country. As a senator, he was one of the original leaders of the anti-abortion movement in this country. Mr. Buckley was ready for each new opportunity that arose in his life. He continues to write at the age of 93 from his home in Connecticut.

Dear Montfort graduates, you also will develop plans for your future as you go through college and beyond. But be ready for “come what may.” Your plans, like those of that young Navy officer dreaming of a quiet country law practice, may disappear as new opportunities to be of service take you in directions you never expected. Your experience at Montfort has taught you that God is always with you to help you, and that your dedication to study and learning gives you the courage, the confidence, and the knowledge to make good decisions.

Keep working hard in college and beyond. Ask God to give you the good sense and generous spirit to be ready to follow unexpected paths that are of service to our Church and to our country, paths that will let you employ your gifts and talents for the benefit of others. A wonderful life awaits you. Become very useful instruments in the hand of God.

The Rev. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D. is a canon lawyer and the pastor of Holy Family Church in New York City. His new book (with Diane Montagna), Calming the Storm: Navigating the Crises Facing the Catholic Church and Society, is now available.