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The mantra was Magis
The 2006 valedictory address

By Timothy O’Brien ’06
Timothy O'Brien '06

Well, we made it.

The final papers and exams have been written, and that thesis that would never end has, well, ended. There is much to celebrate today—and as anyone who has been within 100 miles of Holy Cross in the last two weeks will tell you, celebrate we have! Today we mark our class’s myriad academic and personal achievements, the closing of an unforgettable and formative chapter of our lives, not to mention the end of Career Planning’s hourly e-mail barrage. But worry not—the Development Office is ready to fill the void.

Yet today is not just a celebration of the Class of 2006. It is also our opportunity to express our immeasurable gratitude to those who love us and have supported us during our time at Holy Cross. The accomplishments we celebrate today would be nonexistent without the encouragement and sacrifice of our families, who have made this day possible in more ways than we can fathom.

Likewise, we recognize with deep thanks and respect the members of the faculty, who have never accepted anything but our best. In a special way, we recall and celebrate the life of Professor John Wilson of the English department. Although we mourn his recent passing, Professor Wilson’s dedication to Holy Cross and its students endures in the work of his colleagues—our teachers, mentors and friends—who have dedicated themselves to our intellectual growth. For that, we are forever in your debt.

We also assemble with our friends—our Holy Cross family. The relationships that have been forged on this hillside have enabled us to weather the emotional highs and lows of these four years, while requiring that we be vulnerable to one another, orienting ourselves in a way that focuses on the needs and concerns of other people.

If you speak Ignatian, you know that the Jesuits have a special word for the type of demands that our families, mentors and friends have made on us these past four years: magis.  Magis is a ceaseless drive for “the more”—for self-transcendence—and it is a concept that lies at the heart of a Holy Cross education. To strive for the magis is not necessarily to do more or say more. Rather, our time here has taught us that to seek the magis is to be more—more even than we thought possible—by extending our understanding toward the mystery of being.

In my view, to be more is an act of love, if love is seen, as the writer Iris Murdoch suggests, as the “difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.” As the poet Richard Wilbur puts it, “Love calls us to the things of this world,” calls us to extend ourselves to a world which will always remain daunting and mysterious in its otherness and yet open to our understanding and recognition. Pursuing the magis is thus a continual process of discovery, one that we have begun at Holy Cross.

On an individual level, this has meant discovering ourselves through our studies. For four years, we have waded through great works of literature, pondered profound philosophical questions, and confronted the most urgent scientific, ethical and political issues facing our country and world. But this graduation is not a finish line. The most critical test of our Holy Cross education lies before us now, and will face us for the rest of our lives.
 
That challenge, accepted today, is to think and to question continuously, and to never allow our passion for learning to lapse. At this Commencement, we pledge that we will use our gift of education to be more for God and for ourselves, whether we become stockbrokers, doctors, or teachers, military officers or social workers. Whatever we do and whoever we become, we must use our Holy Cross education to be more.

That seems like a tall order, but we have a head start on it. Magis has also been the constant mantra underlying our involvement in the Worcester community and beyond, which has extended our education beyond the Holy Cross classroom. Whether as student teachers at Burncoat, or as community organizers, we have been conditioned to let our hands and our heads work together. These years have been spent listening to others, and letting their needs transform us. We have done so as SPUD volunteers at the Welfare Solidarity Project and the Nativity School. We have seen the needs of our world in the faces and stories of those encountered on immersion programs to Mexico, Kenya and Jamaica. These experiences have forever changed the lens through which we view the world, and altered how we use our time and talents. Our service has transformed us into people who are moved by what we see and eager to respond to it.  At each turn, our time at Holy Cross has underscored that who we become matters not just to us as individuals but also to others. As this class shows, magis is more than a motto. It is who we have been, who we are and who we will become.

No pressure or anything, right?

1,372 days ago, we 700 students gathered on Hart Lawn as strangers. Today, we graduate as a tight-knit community that has grown together, developing a unique character and an indomitable spirit. This community was forged on our athletic fields, in the CAB and SGA offices, on the rowdy bus rides to and from Senior Ball and, for me, on a rowdy hallway I affectionately refer to as Mulledy One West. It has solidified through late night study groups, service trips to Appalachia and the Gulf Region and over free pub munchies every Friday.
  
We have also drawn closer, as at that first Mass of the Holy Spirit, through the shared experience of faith on this campus. Holy Cross has provided a space for us to mature spiritually and emotionally—no matter what creed we profess. It is a place where we have drawn nearer to each other. At the same time, we have been drawn close by the Mystery we call God, whether at 10 P.M. Mass, while walking down Easy Street on a cold, silent January night, or when sitting on the rocks of Narragansett during a silent retreat.

But our reflective silence is not the whole story. We are the class of 2006, and we are ready—ready to bring our passion and compassion to a world that needs both. We graduate into a “real world” that is plagued by surreal problems such as terrorism and war, poverty and injustice. But we are graduating from a College that knows that we can change our world, and insists that we do so. Today we pick up the challenge posed to the 159 graduating classes preceding us. That challenge is to strive for the magis, to be more in our grandest endeavors and in the routines of everyday life.

So. Congratulations. Be safe, be happy and be bold, my friends. But most importantly, be more. Everyone gathered here today expects it, and our world desperately needs it.

Thank you.

Read more about Commencement 2006 >

 

 

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