Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Master the art of friendship
A message to the graduates

Saturday, June 11, 2016

I invited the graduates to see that just as God works in nature in ways that are hidden and incremental, so they should be aware that God has been at work in them, as they acquired new skills, developed innate talents and expanded their knowledge about the world we live in.

The text from the Gospel of John sharpened that point as Jesus speaks of another impact of God’s grace, namely developing our capacity for friendships. I noted that I have often found it curious that in the last days of his life, while Jesus could have talked about a lot of things to his disciples, he chose to talk about his friendship with them. In doing so, he was really saying that while he said and did many things during his days with them, the most important thing the disciples should always hold on to was the friendships he made with them.

As the graduates looked back on their years at Loyola, I urged them to treasure their growth in this area, trusting that they now leave their college years not only smarter but more humane.

There are a lot of great things about friendships, but I mentioned just three. This is what I told the graduates:

First, friendships, because they make demands on us, give us a sense of discovery about our lives, discovery that we have some very deep resources within us, resources of generosity, goodness and love. In moments when we think we have come to our limit, we discover a capacity to love and sacrifice, and come face to face with the divine spark deep within us to love, to forgive, to start again beyond the limits we otherwise place on ourselves.

Friendships teach us that we can forgive. We can start over. We can show mercy and we never run out of the capacity to do so. When it comes to these qualities, life is not a zero-sum game of limited resources.

Second, your friendships have given you a front row seat to see the transformative power of love. You have seen your friends change, become better because of your commitment, loyalty and faithfulness in tough times, in moments in which you had to forgive them or comfort them, or urge them not to give up either on you, their studies, their families or even their lives.

I have always been intrigued and delighted by those time-lapsed films that show a flower bloom or seed sprout all at once. So, too, today, as you reflect on the growth over the span of these years that your friendship has prompted and made possible in someone else, let that leave you with the hope that human love and friendships have the power to change things in life for the better.

Finally, friendships help to put into perspective our human weakness, frailty and vulnerabilities. The world is not indulgent when it comes to human failure. “You’re a loser” can be the most damning criticism of someone. Friendships remind us that we are more than our failings and our sinfulness — especially when those friendships let us begin again, assure us that we are still lovable and of value when our failings could otherwise convince us that we are no good.

The world today needs what you have learned here at Loyola. It needs your intellectual knowledge, the skills you have developed and the innate talents you have honed. But it also needs the inexhaustible internal resources you have discovered through your friendships, your hope that loving relationships can change people and the wisdom that each one of us is more than our failings.

The world needs your mastery of the art of friendship, especially in these days when our political discourse is so toxic, when dialogue and politeness are considered a sign of weakness, and relationships are at best transactional exercises in mutual back-scratching. Long ago, Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics insisted that friendships are needed for the growth of civilization but especially for democracies, for friendships remind citizens that “because they are equal, they have so much in common.”

Today, we are losing a sense that we have so much in common. That is why your experience, your mastery of the art of friendship should not be looked upon as an accidental byproduct, an unintentional add-on to the otherwise first-rate education you have received at Loyola.

Remember, this university was founded by people whose primary claim was that they were friends, companions of each other and companions of Jesus. It was founded by people who were inspired by Ignatius Loyola, a man who first discovered how Jesus had befriended him and then founded the Jesuits by making friends.

That is the lesson I hope you leave here with today. A life committed to building friendships in the society can change the world.

Remember what you learned here, how friendships have put you in touch with deep resources of God’s power at work in you, how they have given you hope as you have seen first-hand the changes mercy, forgiveness and love have made in others and how your friendships have taught you that each human being is more than their frailty and weakness. Remember all of that as you leave here a graduate of a school named Loyola.

I close with a word of congratulations to all of this year’s graduates. You make us proud.