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“Don’t take the soup.”  

“Don’t take the soup.”  

That was the message of Mr. Phil Lawler to the 2019 graduates of Thomas More College. Mr. Lawler, formerly the editor of Crisis Magazine and the Boston Pilot, current writer for CatholicCulture.org, and Director of programing for Thomas More’s Center for the Restoration of Christian Culture, re-emphasized the point: “Don’t take the soup.”

Recalling his Irish ancestry, Mr. Lawler reminded the graduates of a time when the Catholic Church was suffering under persecution in Ireland.  His own ancestors were among the poor peasants who were, “Tempted by their English overlords: if they would renounce the Faith, they would receive a bowl of nutritious soup.”

For his own ancestors, Mr. Lawler recounted that he was thankful they chose to suffer with hunger, but for them and many thousands of others across Ireland, it became a pattern for those faithful people, “To shake their heads mournfully over someone who had succumbed to that temptation, and say—more in sadness than in anger but certainly in judgement— ‘He took the soup.’”

Mr. Lawler continued with a warning to the graduates.  They were about to leave a College which gave them an incredible education, an education in the Truth.  An education that taught them to value, to live, to learn, and to teach the Truth. But they were entering a world that does not place a high commodity on such an ideal.  “You will find a seemingly infinite range of temptations, luring you away from the principles you have learned here. You will find that you are invited to more fashionable cocktail parties, you are considered for more prestigious positions, you are offered higher salaries—all if you are willing to compromise your principles.”

He encouraged the graduates to pursue their goals and ideals, recognizing that as they grow older, they will learn to pursue those goals and ideals with greater prudence, and that realism will temper them, but they should never abandon their goals and ideals.  “Do not let the passage of time or the onset of comfortable middle-age, find you any less idealistic. Yes, you must learn when to fight your battles, and how to fight your battles.  But do not cherish the illusion that you can avoid your battles.”

Mr. Lawler exhorted the students to defend civilization, noting that civilizations do not die because of murder, they die because of suicide.  He challenged the graduates to become what Pope Benedict XVI described as the “Creative Minority of Christians.” To go out and work to transform society which is suffering from cultural atrophy.

Lawler reminded the graduates of an incident that happened nearly five years ago at Harvard.  A group of Satanists had planned a Black Mass on the Harvard campus. To their shame, the administration at Harvard could find no reason to not allow the sacrilege to go on citing “academic freedom.”  Mr. Lawler recounted, “Nevertheless, here in Merrimack, Dr. Fahey sprang into action. He planned a three-day program of prayers and penance, in which the Thomas More Faculty and student body joined: an all-out campaign of spiritual warfare to stop the atrocity.  On the day of the black mass, TMC students left classes long enough to join in the Divine Mercy chaplet. Later in the day the whole community joined in singing vespers—and then learned that the black mass would not take place after all.”

He told the graduates that just as they experienced this launch of an offensive against the forces of darkness during their time at Thomas More, it was now their turn to launch their own offensive.  It was their time to spread the Good News. “Be confident”, said Lawler, “You have read the end of the Book; you know how this story ends. You should go forth today and every day with what Mark Twain described as “the quiet confidence of a Christian holding four aces.”   “Finally, always remember,” said Lawler, “Don’t take the soup.”

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