By Michael J. Graham, S.J.
One of the articles in the magazine that you now hold in your hand concerns what it means to be a Jesuit, Catholic university these days. Recently, and quite by accident, I received a timely and unexpected slant on what that identity means, and why it remains so vitally important today.
While in Washington for a meeting, I ventured out to the suburbs to watch the Super Bowl with my youngest brother. Heading home afterward, I happened to drive by the Quaker Meeting House, where a large, spotlit sign got me to thinking: “Live So As To Make War Less Likely,” it said.
Obviously, there’s a special resonance to those words nowadays. As I write this letter, talk of war surrounds us. It has for weeks. It will be, in part, the subject of President Bush’s State of the Union address later tonight. And who knows? Perhaps by the time you read these words, war will be more than just talk, and fearsome news and frightful pictures may have become part of our daily reality.
May God prevent that from happening.
Live so as to make war less likely. Overwhelming advice for overwhelming times? I think not. To live so as to make war less likely is, in essence, to live so as to make peace more probable. And as the bumper stickers say—paraphrasing, in point of fact, Pope Paul VI—if you want peace, work for justice. For Paul VI taught that peace is more than the mere absence of war.
And here is a privileged place for any Jesuit, Catholic university in general, and for this Jesuit, Catholic University in particular, to play a role today. Xavier’s mission, as you know, is to serve society by forming students intellectually, morally and spiritually, with rigor and compassion, toward lives of solidarity and service.
That mission is realized best when our alumni—that is, when you and many like you—bend your best efforts to place your God-given gifts and the talents which, God willing, Xavier has helped you develop, at the service of your communities: locally, regionally, nationally, globally. And especially for those who are counted least—poorest, weakest, most vulnerable—within those communities.
The prospect of peace is nothing less than the evangelical dream of God’s kingdom, where justice shall flow like water down the holy mountain.
But for you and me, that summons to the kingdom, that call to be peacemakers, comes as an invitation to roll up our sleeves and plunge our hands into the dirt of the human condition—alongside a Redeemer who became what we are that we might in turn become what He is.
May all the talk swirling around our heads these days remind us of that work of His which is never finished, and goes ever on.