The Franciscan University of Steubenville just hosted commencement for its largest graduating class in school history, with 813 students donning their caps and gowns to receive their degrees. And there to deliver the commencement address was Live Action founder and president Lila Rose. While there, Rose was also awarded an honorary doctorate of Christian ethics.
“From the very first chapter of scripture, we are told that we are made in the image and likeness of God,” Father Dave Pivonka said in his introduction of Rose. “That means every human life has value and purpose. Unfortunately, this truth is under attack today, especially for the most vulnerable of our society: unborn children. Now, more than ever, we need courageous men and women to build a culture of life.”
It was for her courageous, lifelong commitment to protecting life that she was awarded her honorary doctorate. Afterward, Rose launched into her commencement address, congratulating the graduates and giving them a mission: to be “dangerously good.”
“You got to go to Catholic Disneyland and you received some of the best Catholic formation that any institution of learning offers in this country,” Rose said. “You, here, are singularly prepared to go out into the world, and to discern truth from lies, and lies from truth.”
This is one of the greatest issues facing our world today, Rose explained: a crisis of truth. And this is where the new graduates can make a difference.
“When I look out at this crowd today, at all of you, I am deeply encouraged,” she said. “Because when I look at you, I see excellence, I see courage, and I see the vision to go out and change the world.” In her own college experience at UCLA — which she chose as a “mission field” — she investigated the abortion industry, and eventually joined the Catholic faith in her junior year.
Rose also spoke about her childhood, growing up at the oldest of eight children, which included one of her favorite books — “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” part of C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” series. In the book, Aslan is described as “not safe,” but good.
“This is my commencement message for you today: do not be safe,” she said. “Be like Aslan. Be like Christ. Be dangerous. Be dangerously good. Our dangerously good Lord ate with sinners, with tax collectors, and prostitutes. He spent the first 30 years of His life in relative obscurity, working humbly alongside His father, Joseph. He was a servant before he was an activist. But when the moment demanded it, our Lord threw over tables, ate meals on the Sabbath, and even went undercover to foil his opposition. In short: Jesus wasn’t safe, but He was good.”
Once we have encountered Jesus and His “dangerous” goodness, Rose said, we are changed forever.
“Our world today needs men and women of conviction who are ‘dangerously good,’” she said. “We are living in a time of great confusion… confusion about the good. Destructive ideologies have subverted our understanding of reality, of identity, and goodness. Most of today’s bad ideologies are just echoes of past bad ideologies; the reality is, there is nothing new under the sun.”
However, Rose explained that today’s unique challenge is living in a once-Christian culture, with people who misunderstand Christianity, and have therefore become jaded and apathetic — which only leads people to cling more tightly to bad ideologies. Those who object to today’s bad ideologies face punishment. “We are a generation in crisis,” she said, “lonely and disconnected.”
Worst of all is the death toll of abortion, which takes 2,500 lives each day in the United States alone. “What do we do in the face of so much evil? Do we hide away? Do we deny the problem? Do we try to fit in? Do we just get busy with stuff? Do we stay at Catholic Disneyland forever? What is the ‘dangerously good’ answer?” she asked. “My answer to you is in three parts. First, vision, then courage, then love.”
“Vision is key to being dangerously good,” she continued. “But what good is vision unless it shapes your actions? And for action, you need courage. Courage, practically speaking, is persevering for the good, even when it’s hard, lonely, or uncertain. You will find, as you leave Franciscan and go where God sends you, there will be moments where you feel tempted to fit in, to be quiet, to be safe. Hold on to the vision God gives you. Fight for it, and take risks for it. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Be daring! Remember, you were not made to be safe. You were made to be great.”
And though, as Rose pointed out, Christians will face persecution, God has promised that grace abounds even in the darkest evil.
“Each and every one of you possess the freedom to share the truth, to practice your faith, to work, to marry, to have children, and to build communities,” Rose said. “Most importantly, we know that, regardless of the shape of our society, no matter how bad it may seem to get, Jesus Christ is king: today, yesterday, forever. We also have the assurance that, despite the failures of any of us here, of any of us inside the Church, or anyone outside the Church, the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church.”
Finally, Rose encouraged the graduates to infuse their courageous vision with love and a radical generosity for others.
So very honored and humbled today to give the commencement speech for the @FranciscanU Class of 2023 and to receive an honorary doctorate. Inspired by the graduates – Congratulations to the largest graduating class in Steubenville history! pic.twitter.com/9jlRDvubfY
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) May 13, 2023
“The world needs each one of you to be our next generation of community builders, people who get to know their neighbors and apartment mates, who invite others into their homes, who get off their phones and screens, and make connections in real life. People who aren’t afraid to love like a grandma: humbly, persistently, putting love into the little, ordinary things,” she said. “Love, after all, is where our faith came from, and it is how our faith is best transmitted. Love is how we best model Christ to others.”
In conclusion, she encouraged the graduates to build strong families, make friends with many, get involved in their communities, and spread love.
“Be people of prayer. You can’t be dangerously good if you don’t pray. It’s prayer, being silent with God in the midst of the noise of this world, that will open our hearts to hear the quiet promptings of the Holy Spirit. Only with prayer can you sanctify your ordinary life into something extraordinary. As you leave behind the harmony and faithfulness of your beautiful university, your faith and community will look different. They should. Hold on to vision, courage, and love,” she said, concluding, “Franciscan Class of 2023, together, let’s build the kingdom, and share the treasure of our faith. Be dangerously good!”
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