Each human person bears the face of Christ and plays a unique role in history, said Catholic scholar Mary Eberstadt, calling a crowd of new college graduates to embrace Pope Francis’ desire for a “new moral movement.” Noting Pope Francis’ call “to see in every individual before us the face of Jesus Christ or God,” she emphasized to the young men and women graduating that they “are more important than you know.” An author and Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., Eberstadt has written numerous books and articles exploring topics including American culture, secularization, and the consequences of the sexual revolution. On May 19, she delivered the commencement address to the 2014 graduates of the Catholic institution Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. Monsignor C. Anthony Ziccardi, Vice President for Mission and Ministry at Seton Hall, told CNA that Eberstadt gave a “thoughtful and inspiring speech to the baccalaureate graduates.” In his introduction to her speech, he told graduates that she would “not fail to inspire us all to dedicate ourselves more fully to the intelligent and moral shaping of our future.” In her address, Eberstadt stressed the important place the graduates hold within their families, as well as their important task as “ambassadors of the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to others.” The 2014 graduates also have an important role to play in the communities they now join after graduation, especially in their call to “see God in every human being,” she said. In addition, they are part of the broader American society, and have the possibility to contribute to diversity of thought, she added, warning that an “insidious new intolerance now snakes its way into classrooms, boardrooms, newsrooms, and other places vital to the exercise of free speech.” “This new intolerance says we must have diversity in all things — except ideas. It says we must all march in ideological lockstep — or feel the snake bite, and be taken by ambulance from the public square.” She encouraged the crowd to bear witness to the idea that “there is no wrong side of history. There is only the wrong side of truth.” Continuing, Eberstadt said that most of all, the newly-minted graduates are more important than they know “because of this happy fact: the most underestimated force on the planet may be the power of example, including your own example.” Centuries from now, she said, their example will inspire those who look up to them as “a coach, a teacher, a neighbor, a friend, a grandfather or grandmother, and much more.” “The ripples of every human action fan out too broadly and in too many directions for our limited mortal eyes to track or map,” Eberstadt mused. She told of a priest she knows who “once prayed on his knees in snow outside an abortion clinic,” inspiring a woman watching to cancel her abortion appointment, instead choosing to give birth to the child. “All because she saw this stranger praying in the snow. That priest, like all of you, mattered more than he knew.” Eberstadt encouraged the graduates to “defend the defenseless — the destitute, the castaways, the throwaways — against the powerful and predatory,” proclaiming “that human beings have human dignity and that yes, human dignity means that some things are beneath human beings,” pointing to slavery, the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria and the selective abortions of girls. Defending human dignity means everything from speaking up on behalf of the unborn to “never, ever using the word ‘illegal’ as a noun to describe a human being,” she said. “In standing up for truths like these, in protesting politely but forcefully on behalf of them, yours are absolutely vital voices in the years ahead.” This recognition of human dignity and empathy for all is necessary for “the new moral movement that Pope Francis seems to be calling for between the lines of his speeches,” Eberstadt said. “As graduates of a university that stands by all these things, as foot soldiers and officers in the making of this moral movement now being born, you can be proud of your work on its behalf for all time to come — just as your family and teachers and well-wishers everywhere will never forget how proud we all are of you today,” she stated.
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