Graduate Reflections: Staring at the Light in the Abyss

Posted: June 6, 2014

By Patrick Cross (’14)

Note: The following essay is adapted from comments made before the Thomas Aquinas College Board of Governors at its May 16, 2014, meeting.


I would like to start off by thanking you all for having me here today. I do not know if I am more honored or terrified to be here, but I am very honored. If I start trembling in the middle of my speech, it’s because I do that when I am incredibly confident.

My path to Thomas Aquinas College has not been unique. I am from a family of seven. My older sister and brother are both graduates, and my father was a graduate of the first class on the old campus. I am originally from Massachusetts, where I spent the early years of my life being homeschooled, and later on I attended a high school called Trivium School.

My love was and still is in politics and art — an odd duo of interests I admit, with very little commerce between them. However, my parents told me that whichever one of these I chose to pursue in life, Thomas Aquinas College would give me a solid foundation on which to build and from which to draw inspiration. I had and have great faith in my parents, and so I decided to attend Thomas Aquinas College in the fall of 2010.

As to my upbringing, my path to this college, my intellectual capacity, my stature, and indeed my very countenance, I am nothing more than an average Thomas Aquinas student. However, upon reflection it has often occurred to me that the average student at this college has been blessed to a greater degree than perhaps any person in the world, past or present. And to say this, I do not believe, is to be hyperbolic.

As regards our upbringing, we students, for the most part, have been born into families as stable as any. As regards our home, we have been blessed to live in a land which affords us unparalleled peace and opportunity to perfect ourselves and others. As regards our religion, we are the inheritors of the one true Catholic faith. And finally, as regards our learning, we have received an education which induces more essentially to the end of man than perhaps any in the world today. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “we have truly been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven.”

My fellow seniors and I have, admittedly, labored little in the acquisition of these bounties. You, our families, and our friends have been the laborers; we the recipients. Therefore, I would like to thank you for all you have done for us. However, with every blessing there is a duty, and we are reminded of the words of our Savior, that “to whom much is given, much is expected.” Our blessings have been greater than any, and so too must be our duty.

This duty can be intimidating, but it is ours only because you, as instruments of the Lord, have equipped us. Friedrich Nietzsche, perhaps the antithesis of all we do here, once said that when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you. My fellow seniors and I stand before the rest of our lives. In front of us is a culture hostile to all we believe in. We, as it were, stare into the abyss. However, we are not like Mr. Nietzsche. We have faith and for the last four years, with the guidance of this college, we have sought understanding. So as we stare into the abyss before us, we do not see a sinister face staring back. We see a light shining in the darkness, and it is by this light that we shall move forward.

Our skills and our interests will take us far apart from each other. Some will teach, some do business, others pursue the religious life. I, as I said earlier, intend to pursue politics and art, and if I am lucky, combine them in editorial cartooning. However, in the immediate future I will serve as an Admissions counselor for the College, a task I am honored and delighted to take up.

Wherever our paths take us, I want to assure you, the Board of Governors, that we will strive to reward all the work and sacrifice you have so nobly performed for this college, by bringing the light of truth to those we encounter in our life ahead. We are excited by the prospect of bringing truth to others, and we have the assurance not that we shall never meet with hardship and at times fall, but that when we fall, we shall rise, and when we sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to us.

On behalf of my class and the whole student body, I would once again like to thank you, the Board of Governors, for all that you do. May God bless you, and may God bless Thomas Aquinas College.


Mr. Cross is from Leominster, Massachusetts.

Patrick Cross (’14)
Dr. Jean Rioux

“If you come to the College with any spark of faith at all, it’s fanned into flames. That’s certainly what happened to me.”

– Dr. Jean Rioux (’82)

Chair of the Department of Philosophy, Benedictine College

“Thomas Aquinas College knows this — that the life of the mind involves the spiritual life as well — and that is why I have always thought of this institution as a college in the image and likeness of John Paul II.”

– George Weigel

Papal Biographer