Thomas More graduates exhorted to remain ‘facts’

MERRIMACK – In their commencement addresses on May 14, the Rev. George Rutler, a New York pastor and author of 19 books, and Thomas More College President William Fahey exhorted the Class of 2016 to realism.

Humorous – Fahey commended Rutler’s early work, "Introducing Squash Raquets: A Guide for Beginners" – and sometimes emotional, the speeches offered a sober message animated by supernatural hope.

Combining a trenchant wit with a mild manner and a mid-Atlantic accent, Rutler is known as one of the best English prose stylists this side of the hereafter. Graduates and their guests had the pleasure of hearing his nonrhotic speech twice.

In his homily for the feast of St. Matthias, the apostle who took the place "from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place" (Acts 1:25), Rutler urged graduates not to imitate Judas by "following their own paths." Rutler cautioned that such paths lead only to perdition.

"In going to his own place," Rutler explained, "rather than the place indicated for him by Jesus, Judas chose to be a fiction rather than a fact."

If we are to live, we must be facts rather than fictions, he said.

"There is in fact only one path that leads to life," Rutler said, referring to "the road to Calvary trod by the Way, the Truth and the Life, the road retraced by all the saints."

Rutler’s commencement address also warned students about becoming fictions rather than remaining facts.

"We speak of ‘falling in love’ as though love were a cavity, but love’s a hill, not a hole," Rutler said, making another reference to the Hill of Calvary. "Love is an act of the will, not a feeling."

Graduates ought not pursue the feeling of happiness or the ideology of optimism, but to follow the Virgin Mary’s counsel to "do whatever (Jesus) tells you" (Jn 2:5), Rutler said. Only by following the commandments that conform us to reality can we receive true joy and hope, he said.

In his presidential exhortation, Fahey elicited the biggest laugh of the afternoon when he railed against "the ‘humptydumptyfication’ of the world."

Recalling the exchange between Humpty Dumpty and Alice in Lewis Caroll’s "Through the Looking Glass," Fahey’s neologism means making words mean whatever we want them to mean and backing up our novel definitions with force. Objecting to Humpty’s definition of "glory" as "there’s a nice knock-down argument for you," Alice asks "whether you can make words mean so many different things." Humpty replies that the real question is "which is to be master – that’s all."

Fahey said to imitate Humpty Dumpty’s totalitarian nominalism, however, is also to imitate his great fall – after which he couldn’t be put back together again. Armed with four years’ study of the immutable meanings of things, graduates were enjoined to recognize and combat "humptydumptyfication" in the church and the state, that true glory, "full of grace and truth," might the better shine, he said.