Bishop Barron to graduates: Your values will lead you to God

June 8, 2021

Bishop Robert Barron, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and founder of Word on Fire Ministries, speaks during the 2021 University of St. Thomas Commencement Ceremony at NRG Stadium in Houston May 8. (Photo by James Ramos/Herald)

HOUSTON — With mortar board caps decorated in festive colors and designs, 730 students took part in the 2021 University of St. Thomas (UST) commencement ceremony at NRG Stadium on May 8.

Family members and friends cheered as their students crossed the stage, each graduate reaching a major milestone moment in academia.

Bishop Robert Barron, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and founder of Word on Fire Ministries, served as the event's commencement speaker. He encouraged the graduates to chase what they loved and valued, especially with the knowledge gained while studying at UST.

“Identify a value that you have learned here at UST, some goodness or truth or beauty that has sung to your soul, and then give yourself to it with reckless abandon,” Bishop Barron said. “Stretch out toward it, and it will give you satisfaction and finally lead you to God.”

Bishop Barron said the world’s literature tells stories of those who built their lives up on ego, power and pleasure, but neglected to develop their soul.

“Perhaps you have met such people: glittering on the outside but atrophied on the inside,” he said. “And perhaps you have encountered the opposite case: those who have very little in the eyes of the world but who are vibrantly alive, spiritually on fire, for they have cultivated their souls.”

Bishop Barron recognized the students’ wide range of passions.

“You and your peers are passionate about issues of social justice. You are eager to fight corruption, discrimination, race prejudice and inequality,” he said. “You advocate for inclusivity, the acceptance of diversity, and care for those on the margins of society.”

These issues should draw the students out of themselves and “towards a spiritual adventure,” he said.

He also challenged them to remember the basis of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition that forms UST: “The answer of the great Catholic intellectual tradition is that [our values] came from the Creator God, who is intelligibility itself and moral goodness itself, from the God who is supremely wise, supremely good, supremely beautiful — and who therefore ought to engage our attention most completely.”

A Catholic university like UST should challenge the students’ faith and reason, but also draw them closer together, he said.

“The purpose of this university is to make you like St. Thomas Aquinas,” he said.

Sharing the story of St. Thomas Aquinas’s writing of the Summa Theologiae, Bishop Barron encouraged the students to seek God in their work and lives after graduation.

“The patron of [UST] spent his life discerning and seeking objective values, and he knew that all of those goods find their source in the supreme value of God. His soul stretched out to great things and finally to the Creator of those great things,” he said. “So put the ship out to the perils and possibilities of the open sea. Be great souls!”

The university also presented three honorary doctorates. Two were given to former UST President Robert Ivany and Marianne Ivany, for their commitment to the university’s success as leaders.
Bishop Barron was also presented with an honorary doctorate for his work in evangelization around the world.

Shayla Dang served as the student speaker. Graduates from fall 2019, spring, summer and fall 2020 were also invited to participate in commencement ceremony, joining graduates from 2021.