St. Augustine Academy Commencement – Student Speech
May 23, 2015
Mr. Van Hecke, Mr. Zepeda, Faculty and Board of St. Augustine’s, my classmates, my parents, and everyone who is here to celebrate this day with us, Thank you.
As most of you know, Mr. Van Hecke begins each school year by giving us students a quote or a saying to focus on and remember as we work our way through the year. One that stood out most to me was the year that he reminded us always to have AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE. It stood out to me, maybe because it rhymed so conveniently, but I think more so because of everyone that I learned about, everyone that I saw, the most joyful, the happiest people, were those who had an attitude of gratitude. The saints present such good examples of people who live their lives in constant praise and thanksgiving to God and look at where they ended up! Looking back at the nine years I have spent at Saint Augustine Academy, I cannot help but have an attitude of gratitude. I have been given so much and I have been so blessed here. I could ask my fellow graduating seniors if they know what they are most grateful for, I would probably get many different answers. I know I have many things I could put on the list of things I am grateful for: amazing teachers, the close community, that boxy white blouse and plaid skirt that became my best friend and close companion, my class, Ayleen’s giant burritos that she brought for lunch, because, you know, Ayleen, you could never finish them by yourself. Except you probably could have. The list goes on.
Every year, each senior must write and defend a senior thesis. One thing that I liked about that was that we had to choose one subject to research and reflect on for the whole year.
This year, I wrote my senior thesis on how the beauty that surrounds you can make you happier and more virtuous. Thinking about beauty for a whole year definitely makes one begin to notice how much one is surrounded by beauty. The experience I got at St Augustine’s was undoubtedly beautiful. I am not talking about just physical beauty, though. The education, the people, especially my teachers and classmates, and the faith at St, Augustine’s; these things are beautiful.
First, the education I received was not just excellent, it taught me to recognize beauty and goodness in everything. Just an example of this is every day in calculus class this year we prayed the holy spirit prayer and then added “[give us thy wisdom so that we may understand what is true, desire what is good, and love what is beautiful, as today we explore the wonders of thy creation that are written in the language of mathematics]”
This isn’t just how we were taught to approach each math class, it was how we learned to approach every area of life. We read the classics, studied beautiful poetry, we learned history, not as a long list of facts and dates, but as a beautiful story, with characters weaving in and out of it, each with an important role to play, as it really was. We saw the beauty of Creation in math and science. We studied the beauty of the Bible and salvation history, coming to know truly, the beauty of God’s love for us. We learned, I think, in whole, that we are beautiful creatures and learning and growing in knowledge only makes us more beautiful. Most importantly we learned not only by the word, but also by the example of our teachers and peers, Christian Charity. We were taught how to treat people with love and respect, recognizing the dignity of each person as an adopted son or daughter of God.
Everything at St. Augustine’s is done in a spirit of community and faith. We have weekly mass and confession. We pray the Rosary together and together we attend the local Walks for life as well as travel to San Francisco to stand as witnesses for Life. The pursuit of knowledge is accompanied by a development of faith. It is a community of faith which, because of its small size, truly allows for the exercise of charity.
I remember being a 4th and 5th grader and inviting the older classes to come and spend a period of the day with us. I was always so excited to see their faces as they walked through the door and saw whatever it was that we had planned for them. You cannot imagine how happy I was this year when my class received an invitation from Miss Borchard’s classroom to come play games and spend time with them to celebrate Christmas. There is a unity within the school, between the older students and the younger students and between the teachers and students. Not only is the whole student body unified but the manner of the teachers towards the students is one of support and encouragement and the teachers provide to us models of hard work, sacrifice, and witness to God. It is a great blessing to have had the beautiful example of consecrated life as witnessed by Sister Francis Mary as well as the example of cheerful self-sacrifice as witnessed by Miss Louis. Dear Sister Francis Mary and Miss Louis, your presence at St. Augustine’s was treasured and you will be missed.
I was reading Pope Saint John Paul II’s Letter to Artists, and one sentence stood out to me as something St. Augustine Academy has always recognized. John Paul says “Not all are called to be artists in the specific sense of the term. Yet, as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life: in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece.”
St. Augustine Academy teaches us students to make the most of our lives by making our souls as beautiful as possible. And by doing this we make the world around us more beautiful. By spreading Beauty throughout the world, whether it is showing people the Beauty of Truth, the Beauty of Life, the beauty of the created world, or the Beauty of the Catholic Faith, we are spreading the Beauty of the Infinite, Almighty Creator.
Not until we ourselves are as beautiful as possible can we spread that beauty. So, to my classmates, I remind you that before we can work on perfecting the world, first we must work on perfecting ourselves. And as we leave St. Augustine Academy we should continue what was started here: the crafting of our lives into masterpieces. This is the greatest gift St. Augustine’s has given me.
Thank you, St. Augustine Academy, for being such a beautiful part of my life, and for making me so much of who I am. I am truly grateful.