Weigel recently gave a commencement address to Franciscan University’s class of 2004. His speech contained a number of passages from my favorite C.S. Lewis essay, The Weight of Glory.
In a culture that tempts us to think of people as disposable when they become burdensome, or troubling, or inconvenient, John Paul II is teaching us — not just with words, but by a powerful example — that there are no “disposable” people. Human beings are not problems to be solved — or, in the case of the inconvenient unborn or the burdensome elderly, problems to be dismissed through the technological fixes of abortion or euthanasia.
Every human life is of consequence. Every human life has inherent, built-in, inextinguishable dignity. Every human life has infinite value. That is what John Paul II teaches us when he walks, in pain, in the footsteps of Jesus and St. Paul, in the Holy Land, in Damascus, in Greece. That is the truth he embodies when he returns insults with affection, when he acts on the belief that even those most filled with hate can become, once again, capable of decency.
There are no “ordinary” people: That is the third great lesson to be drawn from the life of John Paul II. You have never met, played, studied, or argued with a “mere mortal,” C.S. Lewis reminds us. Everyone you have met in your life — everyone you will meet in the years ahead — is someone with a dignity beyond measure. Everyone you will ever meet is a someone with an eternal destiny.
To live that truth is to live life at its most bracingly, engagingly, thrillingly, human. To live that truth is to live life as the adventure that God intended it to be from the beginning. To live that truth is to become the kind of person who can be happy living with God forever.
The full text of the address may be found here.