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Fr. Michael Casey: The “Surpassing Unifying Factor” between Thomas Aquinas College’s Two Campuses

Posted: April 23, 2019

By Rev. Michael Casey
Vocation Director, Archdiocese of Hartford
Open House
Thomas Aquinas College, New England
April 7, 2019


What a joy it is to be here to celebrate this Mass at the Open House for Thomas Aquinas College, New England! My name is Fr. Michael Casey; I’m the vocation director for the Archdiocese of Hartford and a pastor in New Britain, Connecticut, outside of the city of Hartford.

How fitting is it that our second reading today, from St. Paul, directs our vision here at this Open House for Thomas Aquinas College’s New England campus. “Just one thing, forgetting what lies behind, but straining forward to what lies ahead.” We can get very caught, up oftentimes, in remembering the past, remembering what things used to be. We get this as well from the book of the prophet Isaiah, where the Lord says, “Remember not the events of the past,” which is crazy, because Israel was told to always remember the past. But what the Lord is really saying here is, “We can’t dwell on the past.” You see, at this point in the book of the prophet Isaiah, the Israelites are going through a pretty tough time, with Assyria taking over the North and Babylon taking over the Southern Kingdom. It would have been very easy to just say, “Hey, remember when we walked through the Red Sea? That was really nice, wasn’t it?” They didn’t need to become so focused on the past.

And you know what? Maybe not at the beginning of this campus next year, and all the excitement around that, but when November, December, January, February hit, and there are feet of snow, people may be tempted to say, “Remember California? How nice that was?”
I don’t know what the nearest beach is to here, but I don’t think it’s that close.  There are probably a lot of trees and hills, but not beaches!  “Remember when …”— NO!

“Forgetting the past.” The past — we grow on it; we build upon it; it’s part of our heritage. We do remember it with gratitude, with, actually, the virtue of piety, whereby we remember and offer honor up to the sources of our being. So the New England campus will always have proper piety for what has come before it in California. But also this is something new. It’s something that’s the same, but different. And so we have to start out new! And it’s exciting to be part of this, to be part of what is happening out here, part of something new.

“The most important unifying factor is the person of Jesus Christ, Who is honored, worshiped, and adored in California and is honored, worshiped, and adored right here.”

In the midst of all of this, the most important fact is: It is the very same Lord Jesus Christ in California and right here. The tying factor, more than the name, more than the program, more than the course of studies — important as all those are — the most important unifying factor is the person of Jesus Christ, Who is honored, worshiped, and adored in California and is honored, worshiped, and adored right here. That is the surpassing unifying factor of the two different campuses of Thomas Aquinas College.

So how appropriate it is that today, at the beginning of this Open House, we are here for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass — the same sacrifice of Calvary. The one Mass. The one Sacrifice of Christ offered once for all, here, now, at the beginning of this Open House.

Now I don’t what to get myself in trouble … but when we look at St. Paul, he begins by basically recounting his curriculum vitae.  He is of Jewish origin. He is of the tribe of Benjamin, which never abandoned the Lord. He was circumcised on the eighth day. He was a Pharisee. He was a brilliant scholar of the Law. And yet St. Paul says, “I consider anything a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. And, in fact, compared with knowing Christ Jesus, I consider them so much” — our translation is “rubbish,” but in the Greek that Paul wrote it was σκύβαλα, which probably has a bit of a crasser understanding of junk, garbage, the stuff that was left on the side of the road, by the animals, animal droppings, all this stuff that got thrown away. The σκύβαλα! “I consider all these prerequisites” — not junk in themselves but compared to the surpassing good of knowing Christ Jesus. Compared to the surpassing good of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord, I consider everything else that I have been given, that I have accomplished, σκύβαλα. Junk. Rubbish. Trash. All of this. Compared to the surpassing good from knowing Christ Jesus Our Lord.

So here we are at this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, beginning this day of Open House, having the right context, honoring and remembering in a way what has gone before in the history of Thomas Aquinas College, but also setting out on this something that’s new. We are not focusing so much on what’s missing or what’s different, but rather, “What are we doing here and now?” and remembering that one unchanging fact: Jesus Christ is Lord. Those who come to this college will know Him and encounter Him in a particularly beautiful way.

So today, at this time of Open House, we turn to the one unifying fact, the one unifying person, in the whole history of Thomas Aquinas College, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the King of the entire universe. Compared to the surpassing good of knowing Him, we count everything else as loss, that we may gain Christ and be found in Him.

Rev. Michael Casey at the New England Chapel 2019
Patrick Nazeck (’19) -- quote 1

“No one here tells us what to think. We read the great books, look into them deeply, and then discuss them actively in class, which has forced me to take responsibility for my own education.”

– Patrick Nazeck (’19)

Ridgecrest, California

“Thomas Aquinas College is a small college, but its reputation has spread far and wide. Because it lives off the masterpieces of thought and literature emanating from the Christian tradition of the Western world, it provides a first-rate education for a select body of talented undergraduates.”

– Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J (†)