The sound of sacred music filled the great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington as the Catholic University of America celebrated the start of the spring semester with its annual mass in honor of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the patron saint of Catholic schools.
Dominican Father Dominic Legge, director of the Thomistic Institute and assistant professor of systemic theology at the Dominican House of Studies, was the main celebrant and preacher.
University President John Garvey welcomed the large congregation and those joining Mass virtually through a live broadcast on EWTN and CatholicTV. He made a point of “sending warm greetings to all the students of Catholic schools who are watching today”.
“May the example of the ‘Doctor Angelica’ be an inspiration to all who are involved in the important work of Catholic education,” Garvey said.
Father Legge noted that on the feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas in 1889, Pope Leo XIII established the Catholic University with his apostolic letter “Magni Nobis Gaudii”.
“Why should a university take Saint-Thomas as a special patron? asked Father Legge. “The most dominant element, which was a major theme of his life and, one might say, of his own mindset and even of his own spirituality: the search for wisdom, the love of wisdom. “
He said he first became a student of St. Thomas while studying at the Catholic University before joining the Dominican Order. “I learned from him that a life of fruitful study opens the mind not only to the created reality around us – this is very important – but also to raise the gaze of our spirit to meet the creator who is the source of it and became man in order to save us,” Father Legge said.
Speaking directly to the students, he told them that Saint Thomas was certainly delighted that “so many of you are gathered here to honor him and ask for his prayers for your studies. And he will surely be happy to intercede for us today, for this university and for all of its students, faculty, staff, friends and benefactors.
As is his tradition when addressing large gatherings of students, Garvey shared his thoughts on a virtue, choosing simplicity on the occasion of this mass. He recommended that students consider the kind of simplicity “that gives you a singularity of purpose.”
Referring to St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, Garvey said, “The whole Summa can be summed up in two Latin words: ‘exitus’ and ‘reditus’. All things come from God and return to God. This is where we find our purpose — what Marie Kondo calls “the life we want”. ”
As an example, he recalled a scene from the movie “Apollo 13” in which the crew must correct its trajectory without having access to its guidance systems. “The only way to do that was to steer the ship while keeping the land in view in a small window. Constantly fixing their attention on their home, they stayed on course. For us, it’s not a distant land that keep our purpose clear and our lives simple. It’s a paradise that’s much closer than we think.
Many attendees also celebrated the return of Aquinas’ Mass in person after last year’s virtual Mass. “I’m so happy to be here in this beautiful basilica with my friends,” said Arlington freshman music student Elena Buono. “I know how important this day is for the university and I wanted to be here in person to be a part of it.”