Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Receiving the Sword of Loyola

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What follows are Cardinal Cupich’s remarks delivered Nov. 18 at the Stritch Annual Awards Dinner, where he received the Sword of Loyola. They have been edited for space.

About 500 years ago Inigo Lopez de Loyola, having recovered from battle wounds, presented his sword on the altar at the Shrine of Our Lady at the Abbey in Montserrat, giving a unique expression to what it means to undergo a conversion. It was not enough for him to turn away from a life that in his words was “given to the follies of the world … the enjoyment of warlike sport ... and a great and foolish desire to win fame.”

Rather, conversion meant turning toward and embracing a life of service, or as your theme so appropriately puts it: Living a life of service for others. The conversion of this youthful Basque soldier was so authentic that it inspired countless others, allowing him to attract companions as he established the Society of Jesus.

Realizing that we are here tonight because of what he did 495 years ago, let’s consider for a moment what it means to have this same kind of conversion. I want to do so in the context of the First World Day of the Poor, which Pope Francis has invited us to mark this weekend.

The Sword of Loyola award was conceived by Loyola alumnus Norton F. O’Meara in 1964, and is awarded each year at the Annual Awards Dinner held by the Stritch School of Medicine. The first recipient of the award was J. Edgar Hoover (1964). Other recipients have included Cardinal Bernardin (1989) and Gen. Colin Powell (2015). Natalie Battaglia/Loyola University@In his message, “Let Us Love, Not with Words but with Deeds,” the pope reminds us that a conversion that moves us to a life of service begins with knowing how much God first has loved us, for it is in experiencing the love of God’s merciful charity that our hearts are set on fire, moving us to love others in return despite our limitations and sinfulness. Short of that experience of God first loving us, our enthusiasm for service can wane, become episodic and in time perfunctory.
In fact, an important measure that our conversion to a life lived for others is authentic is how we look upon and treat the poor. The poor, Francis tells us, cannot be viewed “simply as the beneficiaries of our occasional volunteer work, or of impromptu acts of generosity that appease our conscience.”

Rather our good works on their behalf, while being an occasion that makes us sensitive to people’s needs and the injustices that are often their cause, ought to lead to a true encounter that changes our lives, that makes sharing a way of life. It means admitting how poor we all are, how vulnerable and humbled we are by our creaturely limitations and sinfulness.

Such encounters with the poor are graced moments that help us overcome the temptation to feel omnipotent and immortal, looking upon money, career and luxury as our goal in life and the condition for our happiness.

Tonight, Loyola University and the Stritch School of Medicine are giving us a great gift, by helping us see the outstretched hand of students in need as an invitation to claim our own poverty, and indeed our humanity, to have a conversion that leads to living a life in service to others.

I would be remiss if I did not single out the extraordinary work this fine institution of higher learning is doing for DACA students. I had a chance last year to visit with some Dreamers attending the medical school. What is being done in providing them loans and scholarships is a strong statement that Loyola understands that we must love not with words but with deeds. And yet the words of Loyola University President Jo Ann Rooney deserve repeating: “It defies understanding,” she wrote on Sept. 5, “that we as a country would squander the wealth of talent, commitment, and grit exhibited by this extraordinary group of people who we know as our colleagues, our classmates and our neighbors. These young individuals are woven into the fabric of our communities and have a basic right to contribute to our society. They are our future doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, business owners and leaders who join us in lifting up the most marginalized in our world. Loyola University Chicago is committed to their success.” And let me add, so is the archbishop of Chicago.

Let me close by recalling another image of a sword used to signify a life of service for others. Centuries before Ignatius, a Roman solder by the name of Martin, battling in Gaul, used his sword to cut in half his cloak, sharing it to cover a poor man’s nakedness. Martin later learned in a dream that in that moment he had encountered Christ, leading him to a conversion by which his sword became a reminder to make sharing a way of life.

St. Martin of Tours became the first non-martyr to be included in the Calendar of Saints, a testament to the power of living a life of service to others. That power of witness is so evident here tonight, and I thank you for giving me this sword as a vivid reminder not only of all you do, but also as an encouragement for me to take up with greater vigor the call to make sharing a way of life. God bless you all.

Above photo: The Sword of Loyola award was conceived by Loyola alumnus Norton F. O’Meara in 1964, and is awarded each year at the Annual Awards Dinner held by the Stritch School of Medicine. The first recipient of the award was J. Edgar Hoover (1964). Other recipients have included Cardinal Bernardin (1989) and Gen. Colin Powell (2015). Natalie Battaglia/Loyola University

Loyola University President Jo Ann Rooney also presented Cardinal Cupich with a processional cross to commemorate his elevation to the College of Cardinals Nov. 19, 2016.

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  • loyola univeristy chicago

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