Rev. Andrew O’Connor calls for humility, spiritual wealth during Baccalaureate sermon
It’s easy for members of the Class of 2011 to focus on making money as they start preparing for life after graduation, particularly if they have student loans to pay. But as the Rev. Andrew O’Connor reminded them as part of Elon’s Baccalaureate sermon on May 20, there is a greater wealth for them to seek, one that comes from a life of humility and service and that is better understood by looking at one of the sweetest creatures of all: bees.
“Like bees that are not diminished in sharing the sweetness they have won from light, this type of wealth is a kind of knowledge lodged in doing and making, a currency of insight that turns into a way of life,” O’Connor told faculty, students, family and friends who gathered at Alumni Gym for the ceremony. “You will need this wealth more than you will traditional money, believe it or not.”
This currency of bees, as O’Connor called it, is interior and particular to a person, but not private property because it’s meant to be shared by all.
“I feel the currency of bees should encourage you as graduates to think how your particular inspirations can be sacramental, that is to say transformative,” he said.
He pointed them to endeavors like Goods of Conscience, a sustainable clothing line he founded in New York City that provides a living wage to Mayan Indian weavers in Guatemala and underemployed sewers in the Bronx. By creating a system of small workshops in needy parishes in the United States and pairing them with similar parishes in the third world, he said, the parish system effectively becomes part of the globalized world.
“One of the prophetic duties of a liberal education is sifting through the rubble of the old order to find a directive to commence a new order,” O’Connor said. “At some point you will find yourself at the juncture where you will be forced to decide to act upon your genius or your being. The choice toward being requires immolation. It is the better choice.”
He concluded his sermon with a final plea: “I appeal to you to stay humble enough to work with your hands, to show courtesy to the poor and the disfigured and to offer hospitality to the stranger.”
During the ceremony, students also heard from Phoenix football senior linebacker Khirey Walker, who talked about the accomplishments the Class of 2011 has achieved in the classroom and the playing field during the past four years, and the memories and bonds that will forever unite them.
“We have been able to mature and become the men and women that we are today because of the times shared here,” Walker said. “We have all been blessed to be at such an amazing place for four great years, to receive a high quality education, be taught by the absolute best professors, make relationships that will last a lifetime, and most of all, be able to call Elon home.”