ARISE, REJOICE, GOD IS CALLING YOU
Text of Francis Cardinal Arinze's Address
Commencement at Georgetown University,
Washington, D.C., May 17, 2003
God be praised for this major
event today in the life of Georgetown University. Near a thousand young people
are graduating. To you, dear young friends, I say: Allow serious religion
to lead you to lasting joy. Happy parents and friends surround their loved
ones. With them I say: Let us thank God for the gift of the family. The Company
of Jesus, the Jesuits, initiated and nourish this University. With them I
rejoice at the patrimony of St. Ignatius and especially that the Catholic
Church is God’s gift to the world. To all I say: Arise, rejoice, God is calling
1. Serious Religion leads to lasting Joy.
My dear graduands, at this turning point in your lives, it is helpful to
keep to essentials. One of them is to locate in what happiness consists.
Everyone wants to be happy. Every human being desires lasting joy.
True happiness does not consist in the accumulation of goods: money, cars,
houses. Nor is it to be found in pleasure seeking: eating, drinking, sex.
And humans do not attain lasting joy by power grabbing, dominating others,
or heaping up public acclaim. These three things, good in themselves when
properly sought, were not able to confer on Solomon, perfect happiness. And
they will not be able to confer it on anyone else! (cf. Eccles1:2-3; IIKing11;1-8;
Mt20:24-28; IJn 2:15-16).
Happiness is attained by achieving the purpose of our earthly existence.
God made me to know him, to love him, to serve him in this world and to be
happy with him for ever in the next. St. Augustine found this out in his
later age after making many mistakes in his youth. He then cried out to God:
"You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests
in you" (St. Aug. Conf. I, 1). My religion guides and helps me towards this.
My Catholic faith puts me in contact with Jesus Christ who is the way, the
truth and the life (cf. Jn14:6). God’s grace helps me to live on earth in
such a way as to attain the purpose of my earthly existence.
My dear graduands, allow your religion to give your life its essential and
major orientation. In our lives. religion is not something marginal, peripheral,
additional, optional. My Catholic faith gives meaning and a sense of direction
to my life. It gives it unity. Without it my life would be like an agglomeration
of scattered mosaics. It is my religion, for example, that inspires my profession,
that teaches me that there is more happiness in giving than in receiving
(cf. Acts20:35), that helps me to appreciate that to reach the height of
my growth potential, I must learn to give of myself to others as I practise
my profession as lawyer, doctor, air hostess, congress member or priest (Vatican
II: Gaudium et Spes, 24).
Allow your religion to give life, joy, generosity and a sense of solidarity
to your professional and social engagements. In a world of religious plurity,
you will of course learn to cooperate with people of other religious convictions.
True religion teaches not exclusion, rivalry, tension, conflict or violence,
but rather openness, esteem, respect and harmony. At the same time you should
keep intact your religious identity, your distinction as a witness of Jesus
2. Thank God for the Gift of the Family.
As I see joy and just pride reflected on the faces of the parents and friends
of these graduands, I think of God’s goodness in giving the gift of the family
It is God himself who willed that a man and a woman should come to establish
a permanent bond in marriage. Marriage gives rise to the family. In this
fundamental cell of society, love grows. There the exercise of sexuality
has its correct locus. There human maturity is nurtured. There new life utters
its first cry and later smiles at the parents. There the child is first introduced
to religion. Is it any wonder that the Second Vatican Council called the
family "the church of the home" (cf. Lumen Gentium, 11)?
In many part of the world, the family is under siege. It is opposed by an
anti-life mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide and
euthanasia. It is scorned and banalized by pornography, desecrated by fornication
and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and
cut in two by divorce.
But the family has friends too. It is nourished and lubricated by mutual
love, strengthened by sacrifice and healed by forgiveness and reconciliation.
The family is blessed with new life, kept united by family prayer and given
a model in the Holy Family of Nazareth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Christian
families are moreover blessed by the Church in the name of Christ and fed
by the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. It was beautiful that at
the beatification of Mr. and Mrs. Luigi and Maria Beltrame-Quattrocchi in
St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City on October 21, 2001, three of their
children were present.
May God bless all the families here present and grant our graduands who will
one day set up their own families his light, guidance, strength, peace and
3. The Patrimony of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
We rejoice with the Jesuit Community that set up and keeps up Georgetown
University. In the patrimony of St. Ignatius of Loyola, love of the Church
is prominent. It is a joy, an honour and a responsibility to belong to the
one, holy catholic and apostolic Church. This Mystical Body of Christ, this
largest of all religious families that ever existed, is the divinely-set
up family for all peoples, languages and cultures. This Church has produced
Saints from every state of life, men and women who, open to God’s grace,
have become signs of hope. But this same Church also has sinners in her fold.
Far from discouraging and rejecting them, the Church offers them hope, wholesome
Gospel teaching, saving sacraments and the invitation to abandon to food
of pigs, make U-turn and return to the refreshing joy of the Father’s house,
like the prodigal son (cf. Lk15:14-24).
This Church has inherited from Christ, the Apostles and her living tradition,
a non-negotiable body of doctrine on faith and morals. The tenets of the
Catholic faith do not change according to the play of market forces, majority
votes or opinion polls. "Jesus Christ is the same today as he was yesterday
and as he will be for ever" (Heb13:8). This is the Church which St. Ignatius
invites all his spiritual children to love and cherish. This is the Church
to which we have the joy to belong.
My dear graduands, parents and the Jesuit Community of Georgetown, arise,
rejoice, because God is calling us. And may God’s light, peace, grace and
blessing descend on you and remain with you always.
Frances Card. ARINZE
May 17, 2003