News archive 2011

Cardinal Brady’s address at graduation in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth

Address of Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, at the Theology graduation at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth – 19 November 2011

“What we need are politicians, public servants, scientists, journalists, economists, bankers and others with the integrity and courage to bring their Christian faith with them into the cabinet room, the laboratory or the boardroom” – Cardinal Brady

Summary for media:

- The demand for courses in theology here in Ireland has never been greater … this is a tremendous sign of hope for the future.

- Is it possible that the global nature of our financial crisis and the challenge of climate change are giving rise to a new openness to solidarity and interdependence?  If so, then these are some of the signs that theology is not only relevant but a vital and urgent service to humanity.

-  Your role, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, is to help people discover the very ‘art of living’.

- Sadly there is a kind of deafness or blindness about much of our life today.  Our busy culture does not leave much room for talking about God. Here in Ireland, for the first time in our history, our politics, economics and social structures function in a manner where God is almost unmentioned and irrelevant. It is as if we operate in a world, as someone put it, where God is missing but not missed, or where most aspects of life are conducted as though God did not exist.

- Increasingly this is expressed in a form of secularism which says religion is fine so long as it keeps to its place as a private belief and does not intrude into the public arena or a person’s approach to their civic duties.

- This is often justified in the name of tolerance and freedom. In fact, it could hardly be more intolerant and illiberal. It should be a matter of deep concern to all people of faith that an easy disregard for the religious faith of so many citizens holds increasing sway on this island.

- A Republic that cannot accommodate the religious conviction and sentiment of large numbers of its citizens is no Republic at all. It is a contradiction in terms.

- We need Christians in every arena of life who respectfully present their views as equals and without compromise to the whole truth of who they are.  You cannot compartmentalise faith and life.

- Remember the first principle of Evangelisation is witness. This is our greatest need, people who are living witnesses to that love. This will be your longest and most challenging assignment. But it is the one that will bear most fruit in the end.

Dear Graduates,

On behalf of the Trustees of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, I congratulate each of you today on your tremendous achievement in completing your respective courses. I congratulate your families and friends. I join with you in thanking them for their support, especially their encouragement, to keep going when body and spirit were flagging at the thought of yet another essay, yet another exam.

Aristotle once said that the roots of education are sometimes bitter, but its fruits are always sweet. I hope that you will enjoy the fruits of your hard earned success today and for many years to come, in the company of your family and many good friends!

Talking about Aristotle reminds me of a distinguished past pupil of this University. Thomas P Halton is now Professor Emeritus of Greek and Latin at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.  He published a slim volume recently entitled: Christian Apology or Skit on School Homework.  Having given me homework in Latin – for five years – at Secondary School – he probably thought I would be interested and so, sent me a copy.

So, what exactly is it all about.  It is described as a fascinating romp through the ranks of 17 Greek philosophers who lived before Socrates.  The aim is to present their different theories on the first principle or starting point of the Universe.  Was it water or air and so on?

The purpose of the exercise apparently is to reach the conclusion that since one cannot learn any religious truths from these teachers, because none of them agree with each other about anything, it is logical to turn to our Christian ancestors for that truth.

Professor Halton concludes that showing disarray in the ranks of the philosophers was the necessary clearing ground in apologetics for the presentation of Christian revelations.  I know that there is no such disarray among philosophers of this University and that they clear the ground eminently well for the presentation of Christian revelations.

But, no doubt when you first told some of your friends you were coming to Maynooth to study theology you were met with a few raised eyebrows!

‘We never had you down as the religious type’ they might have said, or ‘why don’t you do something that will help you get on in the real world?’ !!

In a culture that values having and doing over being and meaning, devoting serious study to the deeper questions of life is not an obvious priority. One could be forgiven for thinking that theology and philosophy are something of a niche pastime. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. Your presence here, in such great numbers, is living testimony to that.

The demand for courses in theology here in Ireland has never been greater. We have never had so many lay people qualified at graduate and post-graduate level in theology. We have never had so many trained catechists and parish pastoral workers. There is a constant demand for evening classes in theology, particularly in the Scriptures.

All of this is a tremendous sign of hope for the future. It is a sign that people are still yearning for truth and meaning below the surface of our seemingly contented lives. Is it possible, I ask myself, that more and more people are searching for something deeper than material fulfilment after the collapse of the Celtic Tiger? Is it possible that the global nature of our financial crisis and the challenge of climate change are giving rise to a new openness to solidarity and interdependence? If so, then these are some of the signs that theology is not only relevant but a vital and urgent service to humanity.

And that is my message to each of you graduating today. What you have learned here in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, what you have achieved in graduating in theology, is of immense importance to our society and to the world. Yes, your friends in business studies and law, your friends who graduated in languages and in science all have an enormous contribution to make in putting Ireland back on its feet.

They will, please God help people here and abroad to achieve so many important things through the skills and talents they have acquired.

But you, your unique role is to help people to discover the very meaning of life itself. Yours, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, is to help people discover the very ‘art of living’.

And what is this ‘art of living’? Well it is what Jesus meant when he said, ‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full!’ It is what Jesus meant when he said ‘I have come to bring the good news to the poor’ (Luke 4:18). In other words, ‘I have the response to your questions; I will show you the path of life, the path towards happiness – in fact – I am that path!’

This is why the fundamental proposition of Christianity is always a person – Jesus Christ. The fundamental mission of every Christian is to lead others to an encounter with that person. And this brings me to the need in the Church today for what Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have called the New Evangelisation.

My hope for each of you graduating today is that you will become courageous heralds of this new evangelisation. You have been given a great gift – a privilege and responsibility. The challenge now is to share that gift. Remember that old Latin saying: Bonum est diffusivum sui – What is really good wants to share itself. The particular challenge of the New Evangelisation is to help those convinced they know their faith but have little interest in it, to rediscover its life, its beauty and its hope.

Sadly there is a kind of deafness or blindness about much of our life today.  Our busy culture does not leave much room for talking about God. Here in Ireland, for the first time in our history, our politics, economics and social structures function in a manner where God is almost unmentioned and irrelevant. It is as if we operate in a world, as someone put it, where God is missing but not missed, or where most aspects of life are conducted as though God did not exist.

Increasingly this is expressed in a form of secularism which says religion is fine so long as it keeps to its place as a private belief and does not intrude into the public arena or a person’s approach to their civic duties. This is often justified in the name of tolerance and freedom. In fact, it could hardly be more intolerant and illiberal. It should be a matter of deep concern to all people of faith that an easy disregard for the religious faith of so many citizens holds increasing sway on this island. A Republic that cannot accommodate the religious conviction and sentiment of large numbers of its citizens is no Republic at all. It is a contradiction in terms.

What we need are politicians, public servants, scientists, journalists, economists, bankers and others with the integrity and courage to bring their Christian faith with them into the cabinet room, the laboratory or the boardroom. We need Christians in every arena of life who respectfully present their views as equals and without compromise to the whole truth of who they are.  You cannot compartmentalise faith and life.  A God who is relevant only to some parts of my life and only to some aspects of the world is not God at all. A society which respects the freedom of religion of its citizens as one of the most fundamental freedoms of all, will value and protect this principle.

Echoing the words of the Second Vatican Council, Pope John Paul II speaking in Limerick reminded us that, ‘The great forces which shape the world—politics, the mass media, science, technology, culture, education, industry and work—are precisely the areas where lay people are especially competent to exercise their mission. If these forces are guided by people who are true disciples of Christ, and who are, at the same time, fully competent in the relevant secular knowledge and skill, then indeed will the world be transformed from within by Christ’s redeeming power.’ He then went on to say, ‘there is no such thing as an “ordinary layman”, for all of you have been called to conversion through the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. As God’s holy people you are called to fulfil your role in the evangelization of the world.’

This is an exciting time to be involved in the New Evangelisation. I was reading recently that radio took 38 years to acquire 50m listeners; television took 13 years to do the same; the internet took four years; the Apple iPod took three; while 200m people signed up to Facebook – the social networking site – in less than one year!  New opportunities and new fora of mass communication and dialogue are developing all the time. These are key mission fields of the New Evangelisation. You have the skills and the knowledge to engage them.

Their popularity confirms the desire of the human person to be part of a community.

This is part of the Good News we offer. This is part of the answer which Jesus gives in the encounter with him – communion with Christ and communion with one another – the theme of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress to be held here in Dublin in June of next year. I hope many of you will register on-line for the theological symposium on this theme and the other events that will be part of this extraordinary and historic event – see www.iec2012.ie

Exciting things are happening in this world, hopeful things! This is an exciting time to be graduating with a qualification in what is not just a subject but a whole way of life.  Graduating in what I hope will help you to bring others to the Way, the Truth and the Life. Our world is hungry for what you have to offer. The New Evangelisation will bear fruit in the civilisation of love and our world yearns for that selflessness, peace and love that God alone can offer. But remember the first principle of Evangelisation is witness. This is our greatest need, people who are living witnesses to that love. This will be your longest and most challenging assignment. But it is the one that will bear most fruit in the end.

The Faculty welcome this year Fr Jeremy Corley who brings a wealth of experience as a Scripture Scholar and Seminary Staff Member from his previous work in Ushaw College.

I was delighted to learn too that the Faculty sponsored a remarkable inter-church conference entitled ‘The Witness of John Calvin and Ignatius Loyola: Living in Union with Christ in Today’s World’, the proceedings of which have been duly published.  It is good to know too that this Conference was very well attended by colleagues from the Presbyterian and other Reform Traditions.

Other noteworthy events were the one-day Symposium “Visiting the Divine” organized by Dr Michael Conway and the Irish Centre for Faith and Culture.  As well as the second interfaith conference entitled “Being a Young Theologian in the World today”.

Despite the difficulties, brought about by the current economic situation, great vibrancy is evident among the undergraduate and post-graduate student body as evidenced by the launch of the Maynooth Theological Journal. This Journal provides a scholarly forum for all our students to share their theological work and research interests.

I am glad to say too that this week’s one-day seminar and honorary conferring ceremony in honour of Dr Martin McNamara, MSC, entitled “Text, Targum and Testament” was a resounding success.

The Faculty and the Pontifical University are of course honoured to host the Theological Symposium which immediately precedes next year’s International Eucharistic Congress. A committee of staff and students are already working diligently to ensure the success and lasting legacy of this event.

National Qualifications Framework

I congratulate the 134 graduates who are graduating today.  With them I rejoice in the fact that as from last month, October 2011, all the academic programmes and awards of this University are aligned with the National Qualifications Framework by the National Qualification Authority of Ireland.

This Authority only approves awards and institutions which are quality assured.  This means you graduates can be confident that your course and the Pontifical University of Maynooth are reviewed on an ongoing basis and that your qualifications are recognised at home and abroad.

Affiliated Programmes

I am immensely pleased to hear that the Faculty of Theology has a growing number of Affiliated-Programmes being delivered here in Maynooth and around the country. In total there are 166 students registered in the Affiliated Programmes. Among the new affiliated programmes launched this year is a Certificate in Theology at St Kieran’s College, Kilkenny; a Certificate in Biblical and Theological Studies in the Dominican Biblical Institute, Limerick; the Diploma in Diaconate Studies, Thurles.

Next year will see the first graduates of the Diploma in Diaconate Studies from Elphin Diocese. These certificates and diplomas enable many who study theology part-time for pastoral, career and personal reasons. The Affiliated-Programmes respond to new developments in education and the Faculty has appointed Fr Michael Shortall as the new Director for Affiliated Programmes.

I want to applaud the willingness of the Faculty to undertake this really important work and to recognise their immense generosity in doing so.  I pay a special tribute to Dr Michael Shorthall who has kindly agreed to act as Director.

Finally, on behalf of the Trustees and of the Faculty – whom I congratulate and thank for their outstanding work, work they undertake with great selflessness and dedication – I wish you well, graduates, once again. As you take the next step on your journey of life, whatever and wherever that might be.  We wish you every blessing and success in the years that lie ahead and know that you will all be great ambassadors for this University.

ENDS

Further information:

Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444

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