The following are remarks delivered by the President of Christendom College, Dr. Timothy O’Donnell, at the Solemn Vespers led by Cardinal Arinze as part of the dedication of Christendom’s new Christ the King Chapel | April 14, 2023
Good evening, everyone. A letter to read to you from Vatican City, May 19th, 2022.
“Dear Dr. O’Donnell, you kindly informed me about the consecration of the new chapel of Christendom College, which will take place on April 15th, 2023. As I had the privilege to bless the cornerstone for the new chapel, it fills me with joy that this beautiful church is now almost completed and will be consecrated and dedicated to Christ the King in the coming year. It is my wish and my prayer that this chapel may be a visible expression of that truth and love of Christ, continue to animate, to guide, and to distinguish the activities in Christendom College. Invoking God’s abundant blessing upon you, the professors, students, and staff of Christen College. I am paternity yours in Christ, Benedict XVI, Papa Emeritus.”
Welcome to you all and good evening. In the book of Deuteronomy, we hear the following admonition. “However, take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.”
Today, in many ways, given the state of our church and nation which we love so much, we need to be reminded of that passage. If the modern western world could be characterized by any single term, that term would have to be secular. Our society as a whole seems to have lost the supernatural vision of the Christian life, and the result? We no longer know who we are, where we are going, with the result that we are confused about what is right, what is true, what really is good, what truly is beautiful.
It is the great tragedy of this secularization that in many ways, we have dropped our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He has faded from public consciousness. Let us stop for a moment and realize that the central, the most important event in the history of mankind, the birth of God incarnate in Bethlehem, who brought truth and salvation to all men, calling them to the august dignity of becoming sons and daughters of God, receives virtually no acknowledgement in public life, nor in the private lives of millions of people in nominally Christian nations. Decisions of tremendous importance relating to the future of the life of man on this planet are frequently made without the slightest reference to Him who made us. Our society and its modern culture have created an atmosphere of secularity, which all men must breathe, whether secularist or not.
The Chapel of Christ the King is a strong and a lasting Catholic response to this miasma. Our Lord said in the gospels, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” Our forefathers in ages past built magnificent cathedrals in the center of their cities, with spires soaring into God’s heaven, and dedicated them all, Ad Majorem Dei Gloria. Today our society builds magnificent temples to the gods of business and finance. The design of our cities bear witness to the fact that religion no longer occupies a central position in modern culture, or what they call modern progressive values. We are told religion has become a private affair and should never raise its head in the public arena. Even among believing, committed Christians, those who profess faith in our Lord, with St. Peter saying to Him, “You are the Christ, you are the son of the living God.” Even they seldom refer to Him in public life, and if they do, it’s almost with an apology, an apology for using His name. That sacred name, which whenever spoken scripture tells us that every knee should bend in heaven, in the earth, and under the earth as well.
We in the West have chosen either to abandon or ignore Jesus Christ, the central truth of our faith and the most precious gift of our Father in heaven, who so loved the world that He sent His own son in order that the world might be saved through Him. And so what’s happening to us? Easter becomes not the glorious feast of our Lord’s resurrection and victory over our death. It’s replaced by celebrations like Earth Day. Christmas is replaced with an insipid, “Season’s greetings.” Lust dresses itself up and becomes sexual liberation. Indifferentism is now called a healthy pluralism. Sterilization is actually preferred to fertility. I believe one can judge the health of a civilization by the respect that it shows for motherhood. If motherhood is shunned, if motherhood is degraded, that great gift of motherhood, that call to self-sacrificing generosity and love, such a lack of reverence is a sure sign of a civilization in crisis and in decline. Porn will not raise an eyebrow, but more than two children in a family? That’s a scandal.
This noble building speaks of transcendence and God’s grace. God’s grace which is active, still active in our world. It is precisely because of this situation that Christendom College was founded. It is because of this realistic assessment of our present situation that this college must grow and must thrive. It’s important for all of us to read the signs of the times. There is a crisis in modernity which is characterized by sterile so-called unions, planned non-families. As we wage war against what our own government now calls unwanted products of conception. What a bloodless expression. As the blood continues to flow, I believe we’re witnessing the death of our civilization because we’ve turned our back on Him who came to give us life and that we might have life abundantly.
One would certainly have to feel a bond with the great Saint Augustine, who gazing from his study window in the evening twilight, just before his death, witnessed hoards of vandals sweeping through North Africa, having crossed the pillars of Hercules, plundered Spain, and now surrounding his city and also New Carthage, which were symbols of a once-resurgent Rome now ready to fall to a group of savage, uncivilized barbarians who knew not the tradition of Roman men. It must have appeared to him as if the world was coming to an end in the year 430 AD, and he would’ve been right, in a sense. But who could have foreseen that out of the ashes of burned villas, abandoned vineyards, and desolate cities would rise up a new civilization which one day would far surpass anything found in the glory of ancient Rome?
St. Paul writing to the Romans exhorts all of us, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Through rigorous study of the liberal arts, we seek to immerse ourselves here at Christendom in our Western Christian civilization and thereby free man from slavery. Slavery to ignorance, slavery to air. In this effort, we gratefully acknowledge the central role played by the Roman Catholic Church as mediated through the Magisterium as the source which gives life meaning and direction to all that men do. Following her wisdom and guidance, we seek to ground ourselves in truth. Truth which is the object of the intellect, truth both natural and supernatural, which as the church teaches us, has been expounded most faithfully by our great patron, the angelic and common doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, whose first class relic will be sealed in our altar tomorrow.
Here are the great ideas and the permanent things which have always stirred the hearts of men touching upon what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful: find hearth and home. This education has made our graduates especially qualified and gifted to meet the challenge and the crisis of modernity by consecrating their intellect and their will to Jesus Christ, and entrusting their hearts to them, what is deepest in all of us. We must seek through this educational postulate to restore all things in Christ. This is our motto, but it is also our pledge. We long to make our unique contribution as a college to the renewal of the temporal and the ecclesial order.
Jesus Christ, of course, came not to make life easy, but to make men and women great. The stakes are too high. The need in our church and country is too great for us not to be faithful to our mission. I appeal to all of you here tonight, to our students who are present, to the faculty, friends of the college, our beloved alumni, and in a special way to all of our benefactors who are great friends and part of our Christendom family to support this educational apostolate. Let us join together and renew our commitment in this great and truly noble undertaking.
Christ Jesus has brought all of us here tonight, together this evening, at this college, in this chapel, on this day. Let us renew again in our lives those forgotten virtues which the world tends to mock and ridicule. Let us again renew our loyalty to Jesus Christ and to His Holy Catholic Church. Let us pledge our fidelity to the living magisterium of the Church and to the education in that truth which truly sets us free. Let us have the courage then to redouble our efforts as we move forward in our personal lives, in the lives of our families, our communities, and in this vital educational apostolate to respond to the invitation of Christ.
In this dark hour, many have gleefully predicted the end of the Church, the end of Catholic education, claiming that we are on the wrong side of history. Let us raise our God-given swords of the intellect in our hearts to God’s blue sky, that they may flash in the light of His son. Let us recall that we have inherited the collective wisdom of over 2000 years. The world has always awaited the death of the Church, but death of course could not hold Christ, our head, in the tomb. Nor can it hold his divinized members, you and I, for certainly if we apply the words of the great soldier, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, and pray as if everything depended upon God and act as if everything depended upon us, the divine mercy certainly will not be found wanting in our own time and in our own age.
With charity towards all in the human family, with hearts filled with joy, humility, and with gratitude, with full confidence in Our Lady’s maternal solicitude, let us carry our share of the burden in this great fight for Christ and His church, for our country, and for our world, knowing that the ultimate victory will of course be ours. Let us celebrate the triumph of Christ, our risen Lord, our King, and He is our captain, bearing His glorious five wounds shining like five radiant sons. Let us cry out together that this is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it and as Dr. Carroll would say, Viva Cristo Rey, praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. God bless you all.