Today was a lovely day, which began with a votive Mass of the Sacred Heart at the parish church, offered by Abbot Michael (OPraem) of Stift Geras. After Mass was the graduation ceremony. Because the degrees granted are canonical (granted in the name of the Holy See), the Church appoints a representative of Cardinal Schönborn to confer them upon the graduates, this year the Abbot of Stift Geras. John's canonical degree is the Sacrae Theologiae Magister (S.T.M.), and his secular degree (granted by the Republic of Austria) is the Magister theologiae (Mag. theol.).
John was elected class speaker by his fellow graduates.
Sehr verehrte Abt Michael, treuer Freund unserer Hochschule
Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,
Sehr geehrte Ehren Gäste,
Liebe Freunde, Professoren und Kollegen,
Vielen Dank für Ihr Kommen!
My dear fellow graduates, the first graduates of the I.T.I. in Trumau,
It was almost one full year ago that the last vanload of the I.T.I.’s material possessions arrived in Trumau. Looking back, I can remember the piles of furniture in all of the garages, in the Hofrichterhaus, in the empty room which would become our library, and then in the Russian Cinema. I remember the library books all boxed up in a few of the massive containers that lined the roadside. Working men were knocking down walls and doors in some places and building new ones in others. Electricians followed, and then painters. I remember the unpainted fence, and the overgrown gardens which it surrounded. Although, to be sure, much remains to be done, it is undeniable that we have come a long way in one year, and somewhere along the line, Trumau became our home.
Our relocation from Gaming to our new home in Trumau, however, demonstrated for us that it is the people far more than the place that makes the I.T.I. what it is. The I.T.I. is a sign of great hope for the re-Christianization of Europe, not so much because of what the I.T.I. does, or what its graduates have done and will do in their various vocations and professions, but firstly because of what the I.T.I. is. In order to work efficaciously for the re-Catholicization of the larger community, it is first of all necessary to be a Catholic community.
But what does it mean really, to be a Catholic community?
Pope Leo XIII, whose pontificate in many ways stands at the beginning of the age in which we still live, is widely acknowledged as the great teacher of the Church’s social doctrine. He is remembered above all for his encyclical Rerum novarum (1891), on the condition of the working classes, but this is really only one of his at least thirteen social encyclicals, and it is a rather late one at that. In his whole body of teaching, Leo XIII outlines a complete vision of what a Catholic society should be. Now I do not mean to suggest that the I.T.I. is some kind of Utopia (surely not), but there are some rather interesting connections – and perhaps this is not purely coincidental – between Leo XIII’s vision of a good Catholic society and the actual life of the I.T.I. community.
Leo XIII’s first two social encyclicals, issued in the very first year of his reign (1878), looked at the evils of society in general (Inscrutabili), and of socialism in particular (Quod apostolici muneris), but his positive exposition of social doctrine begins only the next year with the encyclical Aeterni Patris (1879), on the restoration of Christian philosophy. Philosophy plays a decisive role at the very foundation of every society. "Since it is in the very nature of man to follow the guide of reason in his actions, if his intellect sins at all his will soon follows" (AP 2). The false opinions of philosophers, when once accepted by common consent, become "a fruitful cause" of the troubles that plague our societies both in public and in private life. "On the other hand, if men be of sound mind and take their stand on true and solid principles," Leo XIII is convinced that, "there will result a vast amount of benefits for the public and private good" (AP 2).
Here at the I.T.I. the perennial philosophy extolled by Leo XIII is both studied and practiced. The years of philosophical inquiry introduce students to philosophy, and to the most important thinkers in the history of philosophy, but far more important than learning "who said what about which" is that development of a sound mind of which Leo XIII speaks. The time spent reading outside of class and the discussions and sometimes also the disagreements in the classroom sharpen the mind, which thus learns to take its stand on true and solid principles. This training bears its greatest fruit in the study of theology, in which professors and students alike drink from the sources of divine revelation, reading the Sacred Scriptures as inspired by God and the Sacred Tradition as reflected in the writings of the Church Fathers, under the tutelage of the great masters of the tradition, among whom none holds a place equal to St. Thomas, the Common Doctor of the Church.
For the gift of being able to study theology truly as a science of faith seeking understanding, thanks are due first of all to our excellent professors, and then also to you my fellow students, and especially my fellow graduates. Thank you for the service you render to each of us and to truth itself.
Pope Leo XIII’s next social encyclical, written only one year later, is Arcanum divinae sapientiae (1880), on Christian marriage. Here again he is looking at the very foundations of society. Societies are built upon families, and families upon marriage. Another "fruitful cause" of the troubles with which modern societies are afflicted is surely the disintegration of family life. At the I.T.I. marriage and family life are not only studied, but also lived, and lived side by side with those who have embraced celibacy or virginity for the sake of their higher calling. The examples of dedication and sacrifice which we see around us every day strengthens each of us in our own vocations, and strengthens the community as a whole at its very foundations.
Here I hope you will allow me to express my heartfelt gratitude to my beautiful wife, for your love and for your patience; as well as to my beloved children, thank you for letting your Daddy study sometimes, even when the weather is nice and you want to play in the park; and also to my parents and parents-in-law, thank you for your loving support even though it has kept you from seeing your grandchildren as often as you and they would have liked. I have no doubt that my fellow graduates would have much the same thing to say to their own families.
The third topic to which Leo XIII turns in his social magisterium is that of government. Diuturnum illud (1881) and Immortale Dei (1885) address the duties incumbent upon those who govern, while Sapientiae Christianae (1890) speaks in turn of the duties of Christian citizens. Libertas praestantissimum (1888), on the true nature of human liberty, is the centerpiece of these foundational political encyclicals. With respect to these, the I.T.I. is blessed to live under the benevolent rule of our own Msgr. Hogan, and of His Eminence Cardinal Schönborn, our Grand Chancellor. The life of the I.T.I. community depends upon their wisdom in directing its activities with a view not only toward its material well-being, but also and above all toward the fulfillment of its intellectual and spiritual mission. We surely owe them a great debt of gratitude.
Only now do we arrive with Leo XIII at the famous Rerum novarum (1891), his encyclical on economic questions, especially those pertaining to labor and capital. One of our fellow graduates wrote his licentiate thesis on the current economic crisis, but many of us, especially those who were here over the course of last Summer, have first hand experience of labor and capital… especially of labor. The good news is that the student workers never went on strike, although we did resist cleaning out the attic for as long as possible. There are others here, however, who have spent far more than just one Summer laboring for the good of the I.T.I., those who continually support the humble work of teaching and learning that goes on here: administrators and staff who offer so much of your time and labor, and benefactors who generously support us even from a great distance. Without you and without your sacrifices the I.T.I. could not be what is. Thank you.
The capstone of Leo XIII's social magisterium then follows in Laetitiae sanctae (1893), which commends devotion to the Rosary, and then finally also in Annum sacrum (1899), on the crowing act of his pontificate, the consecration of the entire world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In Laetitiae sanctae, Leo XIII identifies three leading causes of the degradation of society. These are the distaste for a simple and laborious life; repugnance to any kind of suffering; and forgetfulness of the future life. In order to counter these negative influences, Leo XIII proposes above all meditation on the mysteries of the Holy Rosary. The joyful mysteries show us the dignity of a quiet life filled with hard work and simple joys; the sorrowful mysteries show us the redemptive power of suffering; and the glorious mysteries remind us of our true end, toward which we must always direct ourselves by God's grace. Life at the I.T.I. is simple, and often laborious; we endure our share of suffering, and try to bear it patiently; and the thought of our true home in heaven is brought home to us every day in our studies, but above all in prayer. The I.T.I. community prays: the Rosary and the Akathist, in our chapel and in our homes; but it is above all through the Holy Sacrament of the Altar that we receive the grace and the charity which bind our community together in union with Christ.
Tomorrow is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to which, toward the end of his long pontificate, Leo XIII dedicated the entire human race, in the hope that one day all men and nations, individuals and societies, would freely accept his divine kingship. Here at the end we are reminded that the only true hope for society lies in its return to God and to Faith.
Tomorrow's Feast of the Sacred Heart is also the final day of this priestly year, this year in which our Holy Father Pope Benedict has asked us to pray especially for our priests, in honor of the Sacred Heart, to pray that they be sanctified and formed in accordance with the Sacred Heart, and that they may be preserved in purity and holiness of life. To you, then, dear reverend fathers, together with the assurance of our continued prayers, we offer our sincere and heartfelt thanks. Thank you for watching over our souls, for offering the divine sacrifice, for nourishing us with the bread of life, for hearing our confessions, for making the I.T.I. a place where theology is contemplative rather than merely academic.
And so, looking back on this, the first year of the I.T.I. in Trumau, I think we can say with more confidence than ever that it is the people who make the I.T.I. what it is, who really make the I.T.I. a Catholic community, with all that that entails. God willing, it shall ever be so, at least for another ninety-eight years. Thank you.
The graduates with their professors
Kyle, John, and Louis all graduated summa cum laude.