True Christian love will transform the world, a leading Catholic journalist told more than 1,600 “future politicians, artists, physicians, architects, lawyers, business men and women,” the newest graduates of The Catholic University of America, during CUA’s 130th annual commencement exercises held on the east steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday, May 18.

“If you really love, you will transform your environment, you will transform America, you will transform the world. The younger generations, those who will come after you, really need your testimony,” said Jesus Colina, founder and editorial director of Aleteia.org, a Catholic online network published in eight languages with a global audience of 40 million people.

“I only have one piece of advice for the new phase of your life that starts today. Do you want to succeed in life? Do you want to find the secret of happiness? Do you want to be the best version of yourselves? Do you want to build a better America? Do you want to transform the world?” he asked CUA’s graduates. “Then remember this: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

(CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

He praised CUA as “one of the most prestigious and influential academic institutions in the entire world,” located in Washington, D.C., which he described as the “capital of the world,” likening it to Rome of 2000 years ago.

“So, if Peter or Paul were alive today, which city would they choose to evangelize? Where would they give their life for Jesus? I think you know the answer. This city would probably be Washington DC,” Colina said.

A native of Spain and based in Rome, Colina founded Aleteia.org, considered to be the largest Catholic online network in the world, in 2013. The site, which curates news and information from more than 1,000 sources, produces and distributes content that offers a Christian view of the world and the “practical issues of life.”

Colina told the graduates that Aleteia’s readership is made up mostly by millennials.

He posed the questions, “What are they looking for? Why are they in contact with us?” He said some are beginning of their professional life, some thinking of getting married, some expecting children.

“They are not searching for information. Nor are they looking for ideologies,” he said. “They are looking for the secret of happiness: they want to discover the secret of success in their lives...They are looking for Christians who are authentically happy. Christians who have experienced the encounter with Jesus Christ, a real Person. This encounter has made them joyful, confident, respectful of others, and often even really smart and funny.”

(CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Colina, who began in journalism in 1991, spoke of his profession, telling the graduates journalists must be faithful to the truth and seek it out always, as well as condemn evil and corruption. However, the Christian journalist must go further.

“You will love your enemy. You will respect your enemy. You will love even the people who are against you, against your political party, or even your football team…. Loving one’s enemies changes everything: if your ‘enemy’ feels that you stand up for the truth and for what is good, and that you respect him, that you even love him, he will be able to listen, to read what you write, to open his mind,” Colina said. “If the enemy feels that you are simply opposing him and nothing more, he will never entertain the idea of listening to you, much less of changing his ways.”

During the ceremony, Colina was joined by three others who have made a contribution to society and the Church in receiving an honorary doctoral degree from CUA. They included: Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, the superior general of the Sisters of Life; Michael Thomasian, the principal of St. Anthony Catholic School in the Brookland neighborhood of the District; and Russell Shaw, long-time Catholic journalist and author.

“I am grateful to Catholic University for this great honor. I accept it on behalf of all past and present Catholic school educators and leaders who have served the Church so faithfully,” said Thomasian, who has been an educator at St. Anthony School since 2000 and was appointed principal in 2011. “Like all religious and lay educators, my vocation has always focused on bringing young people closer to Christ, to make the church their home, and to teach them the importance of service. Catholic schools are essential to the future of our church and country. We must protect and strengthen our Catholic schools at all cost. Our children need Catholic education more now than ever.”

Michael Thomasian, the principal of St. Anthony Catholic School, is awarded an honorary doctoral degree. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

In remarks at the end of the commencement exercises, CUA President John Garvey encouraged graduates to consider the good they can achieve through the virtue of constancy. 

“I want your spouse and children and your friends to be able to say: “He was someone I could depend on; I knew where she stood,” Garvey said. “So be constant. Be true to God, your neighbor, and yourself.”

Before the closing of the ceremony, the university honored Thérèse-Anne Druart, professor of philosophy and University Marshal, with the Shahan Medal for Service. Druart retires this year after serving more than 30 years as a professor and more than 15 years as University Marshal.

Peter Varga, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, and completed a triple minor in neuroscience, philosophy, and theology and religious studies, was honored with this year’s President’s Award, the highest honor given to a graduating senior in recognition of service, leadership, and outstanding scholarship.

In closing, Colina urged the graduates to love their parents, family, friends, future colleagues, business partners, and finally, he said, “Love the man, the woman that God will place in your life to walk alongside you for eternity in the union of marriage. Love him or her with all your soul and body. There will be difficult moments, as we all know, but as Jesus promised: you will ‘receive a hundred times more now in this present age and eternal life in the age to come,’ (Mark 10:30) in spite of persecution. If you do this, you will really understand why Christian life is the secret of happiness.”