Dolan promotes ‘Law of the Gift’

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At the 123rd annual commencement of Catholic University in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivered an address that focused on selflessness and the vigorous defense of religious, specifically Catholic, values and teachings.

In beginning his address, Cardinal Dolan mentioned that he had or will have given three university commencement addresses in addition to two high school speeches, one at an eighth-grade promotion, and even an address for a preschool class.

"I love doing them," said the charismatic Catholic leader.

"But this one on this beautiful May morning is especially meaningful to me, as I myself am a proud and grateful alumnus of this institution of highest learning," said Cardinal Dolan. "I am deeply grateful, as a Catholic, and as an American, for the iconic value of this, the Catholic University of America."

Quoting from recent remarks by Pope Benedict XVI to several American bishops, Cardinal Dolan said the pope spoke warmly of Catholic education in the United States, and of the need for Catholic colleges and universities to "to reaffirm their distinctive identity in fidelity to their founding ideals and the Church's mission in service to the Gospel."

Cardinal Dolan said the Holy Father also expressed the need for "ecclesial communion and solidarity in the Church's educational apostolate."

"Now I ask you," he said, "Is not a big part of our gladness and pride this happy morning of graduation a grateful recognition that this university does indeed exude such 'ecclesial communion and solidarity?'"

Cardinal Dolan suggested that Jesus Christ, the Church, the university, truth, love, the worlds of pope Benedict and the achievements and hopes of the graduating class "all coalesce in what we call 'the Law of the Gift.'"

The cardinal offered definitions of this "law" including from the Jesus: "Greater love than this no one has, than to give one's life for one's friend," and from St. Francis: "It is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."

"Religion, faith, the Church promote a culture built on the Law of the Gift," said Cardinal Dolan, and he predicted that "a challenge you, class of 2012, will face is the defense of religious freedom as part of both our American and creedal legacy."

Catholic U. President John Garvey had the final words for the new graduates. He told them it is his custom to speak to departing graduates about one of the virtues.

"Today I would like to say a word about patience," he said. He admitted that sometimes patience might not even seem like a virtue. "But it is. And it's not what you think. It is not the disposition to wait for what you want."

That is a skill, not a virtue, he said. "Patience is the disposition to await God's grace," he said, describing the virtue as "the seedbed of humility and justice."

During the commencement ceremony, Catholic U. awarded the President's Medal to Cardinal Dolan. Honorary degrees were conferred upon Father Julian Carrn, leader of the lay ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation; Giuseppe Mazzotta, Sterling Professor of Humanities for Italian at Yale University; Carmen Ana Casal de Unanue, community leader and philanthropist; and Joseph A. Unanue, alumnus and former president and CEO of Goya Foods.

Alyssa Marie Pellegrino, who earned her bachelor's in nursing, was the recipient of the President's Award, the highest honor given to a graduating senior in recognition of service, leadership and outstanding scholarship.

The university conferred approximately 1,500 bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees during the ceremony, and 250 degrees will be distributed by the Columbus School of Law.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970