Patrick Tiernan to the Class of 2013: Embrace the Christian Paradox

June 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

The Ignatian Educator continues its commencement series, posting reflections from Ignatian educators around the country on this prompt: What would you say to the class of 2013? In approximately 250 words, give a mini commencement address.

Today’s contribution comes from Patrick Tiernan of Boston College High School in Boston, MA.

Lose Yourself

By Patrick Tiernan

June 10, 2013

There is a great irony embedded in commencement exercises: it’s not about you, the graduate. It’s about the “others” in your life: family, friends, teachers, alumni/ae, and benefactors, among others. Before you misconstrue this as an affront to the accolades you’ve earned over the past four years, remember that it was through the collective efforts of these people that enabled you to achieve in the first place. Celebrate, yes. But be mindful about the trappings of the ego and the seductive allure of materialism which can blind you to the awe and wonder of your natural surrounding and the beautiful souls privileged to know you.

The world will entice you to live in an endless state of desire, but I invite you to indulge in the cultural antidote of gratitude. Being grateful leads to humility, which ultimately helps you to turn inward and discover the love that is at the core of all true relationships. This is difficult to experience at times because we live in an age of “thin thoughts” with tweets and texts. By cheapening language, we risk underestimating the depth of genuine intimacy. Relationships are messy, complicated, and confusing intersections of the heart and head, spiritual investments that demand our whole being. Who we become reflects these relationships and those we allow to enter into our story, our incomplete narrative that in many ways writes itself. So be open to that incomplete feeling of suspense toward the mystery that is your future; it is fraught with angst and bliss but well worth the wait, I promise.

Lose yourself. Fall in love. Fall out of love. Laugh in the rain. Spend an entire afternoon in a museum. Pay it forward daily. Call an old friend for no reason. Apologize when you’re wrong. Don’t rub it in when you’re right. Listen twice as often as you talk. Fast from technology for a week or month. Embrace the characteristics of water: lying low, nurturing those around it, and being incomparably strong while staying still. Let go and trust in the (sometimes very) slow work of God. Take the long view on the untraveled road and you will grow into a servant model for and with others.

Remember the Christian paradox that in order to find yourself you must first lose yourself. This is not a mathematical contradiction, where a variable is nullified by its opposite; it is a tension between two goods that allows for authentic growth and discernment. Only when your life becomes saturated by the gift of another will you come to know what true unconditional love means.

Congratulations on your accomplishments, but know that the real work has yet to come.

Patrick Tiernan

Patrick Tiernan

Patrick Tiernan teaches theology and chairs the religious studies department at Boston College High School in Boston, MA. He can be reached at

For prior entries in The Ignatian Educator commencement series, click here.


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