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The Most Rev. Thomas Daly:
Humility as the Guardian of All Virtues

Posted: September 24, 2018

Audio

Matriculation Remarks
By the Most Rev. Thomas A. Daly
Bishop of Spokane, Washington
Convocation Day, August 20, 2018
Thomas Aquinas College

 

Thank you, Dr. McLean. I welcome this opportunity to offer very brief comments on this occasion.

To begin with, I am familiar with Thomas Aquinas College and its fidelity to the Church, which is ideal with institutions of learning in both the secondary school and the university. It is always for me a great blessing that we have a college in our midst that we can trust will teach not only what the Church believes but what the Church challenges us, in fidelity to Christ, to live each day.

As Dr. McLean said, I have known Fr. Buckley since my own days as a student at USF (his nephew Jim and I were friends), and Fr. Buckley still is a model of priestly ministry these many years. He served as the Sunday supply priest in my home parish of St. Brendan’s in San Francisco. In addition, perhaps not known to the tutors and the administration, I was taught by Dr. Dillon’s brother-in-law, Mr. Bill Corkery. So, my experience of the College, though I have never visited before, is knowledgeable, again because of your great reputation.

In preparation for my visit, I went back and read the various publications that I receive in my office as the Bishop. (I suppose they are sent to alumni and benefactors and to the Bishops of the United States.) And with Thomas Aquinas College’s emphasis on a single integrated curriculum which, as is described in the materials, employs the liberal arts and sciences, students are guided in the pursuit of truth and wisdom.

One aspect of Thomas Aquinas College is something I am intrigued by. It is called the St. Vincent de Paul Lecture and Concert Series. I read that this is the result of the generosity of benefactors, who themselves must have had a great devotion to the work of this saint. The explanation in the material and on the website for the College speaks of the charity both to the materially poor and the spiritually poor that characterized Vincent’s ministry. The poorest of the poor, the ones that St. Theresa of Calcutta would often speak of, are those who do not know the truth.

I believe it is providential that this program has as its patron this great saint of the 17th century, who has something to say to each one of us today. So often when we hear of St. Vincent de Paul, we relate to his work in the society which does great acts of charity in cities and in towns and parishes. It is said his example of charity was so great that during the French Revolution, the statues of Vincent were not destroyed or vandalized.

 Now in Vincent’s life, certainly he is known for his work of charity: “The Great Organizer,” who with Louise de Marillac, the widow, founded the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. He was also a great reformer of the clergy; that is less known. In fact, he was one of the first to begin to institute the reforms of the Council of Trent, which developed the seminary system, as we know it today. But he wasn’t satisfied with just the training of young priests. He saw that those already ordained, often illiterate in the Faith, needed to be formed. So, he instituted what was called the Tuesday Conferences, where he gathered those already ordained and instructed them as to what the Church believed and taught. Those weekly days of recollection helped in the education of those priests as they pursued paths of holiness.

At the time of Vincent, there was a phrase very popular: “If you want to be an enemy of the Church, be one of Her priests.” Now sadly, so much of the recent press has determined that that there are some clerics to which this description really aptly applies.

With the thousands of letters that Vincent wrote to Louise and to his confreres, we have an insight into the pressing needs of the Church at that time. This is all well and good, but for you, especially the freshmen beginning your education here at Thomas Aquinas College, he offers to you and to all of us a spirituality that was heavily influenced by our Cardinal Berulle, a spirituality that is often called the “French School.” It is characterized in some of the great saints: John Eudes, Francis de Sales, and even the non-saint Jacques Olier, the founder of the Sulpicians.

There is one aspect that I hope permeates your life in these four years, and it has to do with humility. Now if you look through the publications and all the materials of this great school, obviously you’re not going to read that being humble is something that Thomas Aquinas is proud of. In fact, when I first visited Gonzaga, I was told by one of the Jesuits that at Gonzaga University in Spokane, it’s been known that “the Jesuits take great pride in their humility.”

Now Vincent called attention to humility in the sentiments of Mary: “My soul magnifies the Lord; He who is mighty has done great things for me.” And he calls to the attention, in his writings, the words of St. Paul: “What have you that you have not received, and if you have received, why do you boast as though you have not received it?”

That is the important side of humility in studies: rendering glory to God. You are a select group of individuals, chosen because you have what it takes academically to pursue this rich course at Thomas Aquinas. With an academic program, again, one as rigorous as Thomas Aquinas College’s, and with a long line of successful alumni — and certainly there is a gift to the Church in those who have felt the call to religious life and priesthood — Thomas Aquinas College is essential to the health of our Church in the United States and beyond.

One of the challenges I faced when I was the auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of San Jose was the Silicon Valley. What had been a rural part of Northern California — farming at its roots, especially in apricots and pears and cherries — had been transformed, first in the 1960s in aerospace, and by the time of the 1980s and 1990s.… We know the story of the Silicon Valley.

The problem with technology, as opposed to farming, is that the lessons of Scripture are lost. In a farming community, you are very dependent upon God for the weather: the rain. You are growing something which is providing for a need, namely food, and it requires tremendous patience as you wait for those crops to grow.

In the Silicon Valley, with the emphasis on technology, you are providing essentially for a want: that is, something faster. And the difficulty is that patience is not appreciated, and the individuals see themselves as the creator, and not part of creation.

“Humility is the guardian of all virtues,” Vincent said, and you look throughout the Gospels, and you see that St. Vincent de Paul was right. What is Jesus’ life but a series of acts of humility and humiliation?

Humility looks to reality, to truth, and to God alone. Humility creates a climate of peace, joy, and simplicity. As we look to Christ, our Savior, Who says, “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart,” those words, I believe, are essential to this community. The reality is that with a track record of such success, you can become the target of the Devil and evil. And suddenly all of this good could be lost. But the Church desperately needs you young people to become — God willing — parents raising your children in the Faith, and also, if called to priesthood and religious life, to be part of a new call to holiness, that this church, our church, your church, needs desperately at this time.

I mention this not because I have found anybody that I have met from Thomas Aquinas who was proud — and I had a great dinner last night with Dr. McLean, the dean, and Fr. Buckley — but I mention it just because no one is beyond temptation. In Psalm 37, those beautiful words should guide you also: “I stumbled but I did not fall, for you held me by the hand.” Those are the words that guide you. This is the education that forms you. And it is your family and, above all, our God, who loves you.

So in this well-respected and successful place of learning, so essential to the life of the Church, I encourage you to ask for the intercession of Saint Vincent de Paul, and in his life, and in his example, and in his commitment to Christ, you will find that with humility you can become excellent and not elite; with humility you can be grateful, not entitled; and with humility you will be wise, and not arrogant.

God bless all of you. My prayers are with you as you begin your studies.

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