President Obama’s Big Speech

One word: WOW! Even some very staunch pro-lifers who disagreed with President Obama’s speaking at Notre Dame had to admit that he made a great speech today. Even engaging the abortion issue directly in it and Catholicism’s influence on his own life. You can see that portion of the speech below as describing it or even quoting it does not capture its power.

Some thoughts: I agree totally with President Obama’s words here about working for common ground with those who disagree with us. I would also say we have but no other choice but to do this as there is a diversity of opinion out there on many issues, not merely abortion. A colleague and I were speaking after mass today and I thought he made a good point about reducing these arguments to mere opinion. That somewhere there is a need for us to identify where we are being led by what we believe is truth. Some will say that all truth is subjective –that things differ in essence based on their context. I would say that we can cite several examples where that is most certain–but also we can cite at least a few where it is far from the truth as well. Therein lies the difficulty in working on issues of life with people who hold differing ideas about truth’s objectivity.

So where does that leave us? I think President Obama’s words about doubt and about certitude ring somewhat true here. While I know that I truly believe in many of my convictions, I also know that I have been humbled by thoughts and ideas where I was clearly mistaken. In the moments where I believe my more rooted convictions have held and led by the teachings of my church where I have found the fullness of truth residing, I’ve also found another principle at work. That principle is humbleness.

Truth doesn’t need ME. Truth will be revealed despite whether I defend it or not. Truth comes to all people, albeit more slowly to some, and often slower to me and God’s mysterious revelations remind us that we are not God. That we do not know everything. As Merton famously said: “The fact that I believe I am doing your will does not mean I actually am doing it.”

However, people of good will can take some comfort in the mystery, in the knowing of our own imperfect knowledge, in the knowing that we are not God by following more of Merton’s famous words.

“I believe that the desire to please you (God), does in fact, please you.”

Today I pray that we all, despite the courage we all have in following our convictions in the desire to please our God, may be able to more graciously listen to one another in humbleness, express ourselves in charity and forgive one another with love.

As the graduates of Notre Dame head into the big bad world, may they know of my prayers for their lives as young adults and beyond. And as the President heads home after inspiring all of us with his words may he find peace and continue to have the desire to please God–and may that lead him to see all human life as sacred. Amen.