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Christopher Leach's Commencement Speech

May 29, 2013:

Student Representative Christopher Leach delivered the following Graduation Speech at CTU's 45th Annual Commencement Ceremony.

Father Don, Sister Barbara, Members of the Faculty and Board of Trustees, and all of our friends and family members gathered here today, on behalf of the graduates I would like to thank you for being here with us. But most of all we want to thank you for having been here along this entire journey. Through the papers, the meltdowns, the all nighters, we have appreciated your love and support and are happy to be celebrating with you today.

I would like to thank the graduates for the honor of having been chosen to give this address. It’s comforting to know when you were asked which of your classmates you wanted assigned one more last minute class presentation, the majority of you thought of me. Truly, I am honored.

Graduates, I want to leave you with a simple message. At the end of the 1st Letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul wrote this:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Don’t worry graduates, this time I’ve done the exegesis for you!

Scholars believe that 1st Thessalonians was written first among all of the texts New Testament Canon, meaning that this exhortation may be the first recorded advice from a formator to an aspiring minister.

The advice is simple: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.

These are simple words with profound meaning, meaning that could easily be missed. One commentary, in fact, called this exhortation too general to be useful.

But I’ve done this analysis with a hermeneutic of graduation, and I disagree!

Our experiences at CTU have taught of many things. We’ve learned that we can’t be true ministers at the margins if we aren’t also joyful... we’ve learned that we can’t be true integrators of mission, liturgy, and contemplation if we aren’t also prayerful... and that we can’t be ministers of peace and reconciliation if we aren’t also thankful. In fact, any good praxis, especially that modeled after Hildegarde of Bingen, is impossible without all three.

We go out into the world to tackle big problems, with little resources, in sometimes desperate circumstances. And the last things the Church needs are more cynical burnouts. What she needs are ministers who are rejoicing, prayerful, and continually giving thanks. We must be those ministers when we go out from this place on our next journey.

Some of us have been called to stone throwing vocations. God is calling us to break open long shut windows and to shatter glass ceilings. To us, this passage asks that we refrain from throwing stones of anger, of pride, and of selfishness. It asks that we throw instead stones of joy, of prayer, and of thanksgiving.

Some of us have been called to “hold the line” and to pass on orthodoxy. To us this passage is a reminder that the primary aim of our tradition, the will of our Father in Christ Jesus is for us to become a community that rejoices, prays, and gives thanks. This will be the metric by which we judge our success.

Some of us will work in places and situations that aren’t traditionally considered “ministry.” I submit to you that our ministry is not the buildings we will work in, the job titles we will have, or even what we spend most of our time doing. Our ministry will be the extent that our joy, our prayers, and our thanksgiving can introduce the world to our Loving Creator and transform it at it’s deepest levels. This will be the ministry of us all!

To the faculty, we thank you for having been so transparent in your joy, prayer, and thanksgiving. While we have learned much from your lectures and assignments, no amount of tuition could have payed for what we’ve learned from your example.

And to everyone gathered here today, we invite you to join in this work with us. We are an excited group ready to take on the world, and I promise that our joy will be even more convincing after we have gotten a few more nights of sleep. We will need your continued love, support, and companionship on the rest of this journey.

On a personal note, Graduates, I cannot thank you enough for the role that each of you have played in my own experience here at CTU. Know that you are in my prayers as you move forward from this place, and that we go forward together rejoicing always, praying continually, giving thanks in all circumstances. Thank you!

Featuring: Christopher Leach