May 17, 2014
Quarterback Philip Rivers: Put Your Faith First
Philip Rivers, quarterback for the San Diego Chargers, addresses graduates during the 125th Annual Commencement Ceremony May 17.
Speaking with a self-described "Alabama twang" before a crowd of thousands at the 125th Annual Commencement Ceremony on May 17, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had two Latin words for The Catholic University of America Class of 2014: “Nunc Coepi,” or “Now I begin.”
"In our prayer, in our habits, in our relationships, in our profession. It is applicable to everything," he said during the ceremony, which was held on the east steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
“Whether you made a bad grade or didn’t do so well on a project. You must begin again. When I have a bad play or a good play, whether I throw a touchdown or an interception, I must begin again. Nunc Coepi. It certainly applies to you graduates who now are beginning the next chapter in your lives. You now begin, but this is ongoing. You begin again, and again and again.”
Though he may be better known for his skills on the football field, Rivers is a practicing Catholic, a husband, and a father of seven. He said he believes one of the things that has helped him succeed has been a clear sense of focus on his priorities.
“It wasn’t too long ago … that I was sitting in your seat,” Rivers said. “I wasn’t certain what the future held, but I was certain of what mattered most to me. I knew as long as I stayed focused on my priorities, I would be ready for life’s ups and downs. What are your priorities? What is the foundation on which you will build your future? Mine are very simple. Faith, family, and football, in that order.”
Rivers, who grew up in Decatur, Alabama, said his passion for football is closely tied with his relationship to his father, who coached a high school team.
“I was the water boy, ball boy, and longed for the time when I would get to be his quarterback,” Rivers said. “Even now, I call him almost daily to analyze the previous game, discuss the next opponent, or just simply talk ball. He and I can and do talk about everything, but there’s something special about talking football with my dad.”
|At left, Cardinal Donald Wuerl stands with honorary doctoral degree recipients Andrea Riccardi, Philip Rivers, and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, with President John Garvey, right.|
Rivers said he loves football because of the camaraderie with his teammates and the constant quest for improvement.
“Football means preparation, hard work, and achievement,” he said. “Football means pursuing excellence and striving to get better. It’s the guts to overcome failures, the resolve to never give up, and the thrill of winning.”
Rivers encouraged the graduates to pursue the things they love.
“What are you passionate about? What fires you up?” he asked. “Life is too short to just go through the motions. Discover your passion, if you haven’t already, and do it to the best of your ability.”
When it comes to his family, Rivers said there is nothing he loves more than coming back from the road and seeing his wife, Tiffany, and their children. One thing he has learned over the years is to protect his family’s best interests with prayer, planning, and hard work.
“As a quarterback, I prepare and plan very meticulously to achieve my football goals. How much more should Tiffany and I prepare and plan to achieve our family goals?” he said. “Class of 2014, what is valuable to you? Avoid regret that comes with chance. Identify what is valuable to you, then prepare and plan to protect it.”
Rivers also spoke about his faith and said it was the most important thing in his life. Though he grew up Catholic, he said he took ownership of his faith while he was in college. Now, he and his wife center their lives on God.
“We strive to raise our children to know, love, and serve God,” he said. “Staying in the state of grace and receiving the sacraments allows us, all of us, to better live out our faith. No matter where one is on his or her faith journey, it is fitting to say Nunc Coepi.”
He advised graduates to be grateful for their blessings and to spend as little time as possible worrying about the future. Paraphrasing from The Imitation of Christ by Thomas á Kempis, he said, “It is foolish and useless to be either grieved or happy about future things which perhaps may never happen. But it is human to be deluded by such imaginations, and the sign of a weak soul to be led on by suggestions of the enemy … Let not your heart be troubled or be afraid. Believe in Me and trust in My mercy.”
Catholic University President John Garvey also addressed the new graduates, speaking about courage. He said one of the best examples of real-life courage was his mother, whose husband died of a heart attack while lying in bed with her. She faced her husband’s death with bravery and strength.
“Mom didn’t start being courageous the day my dad died, or the day she moved away from our family home forever,” he said. “She practiced courage by getting out of bed each morning to build a home and to raise us well. She learned fortitude in the ordinary challenges. When the time came to show us how to be courageous in the hard moments, it came naturally.”
Garvey advised the graduates to live courageously in this next chapter of their lives by putting their faith into action in their personal lives and careers, no matter what career path they take. Sometimes this could mean making prayer a priority when friends think it’s weird. And sometimes courage could mean risking a job to do what’s right, he said.
“The small moments will ready you for bigger challenges — the kind that define your character,” he said.
Garvey also advised graduates to be courageous with their families by making their spouses and children a priority.
“We live in a culture that sees commitments as temporary and children as accessories. Going against that trend and making a commitment for life take guts,” he said. “As a parent, you are required not only to be courageous, but to teach courage … Start preparing for it — and all the other moments that will demand courage in your life — now.”
|School of Nursing graduates cheer at the ceremony.|
During the ceremony, Catholic University awarded honorary degrees to Rivers as well as Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, and Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio.
Andrew Joseph Kueppers, who earned a Bachelor of Science in accounting from the School of Business and Economics, was awarded this year’s President’s Award, the highest honor given to a graduating senior in recognition of service, leadership, and outstanding scholarship.
During his time at CUA, Kueppers was involved in many campus activities, including the Take Note A capella signing group, the University spirit group Custos Utique Antiquitatis, and Orientation. He also served as a Cardinal Ambassador by giving tours to prospective students and their parents and worked in the Office of Campus Activities for nearly three years.
Music was provided for the ceremony by the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music Wind Ensemble, conducted by Michael Smith, associate professor of music. The national anthem was performed by Bachelor of Music recipients Mia Shea Athey and Emily Kathleen Risley.
The University conferred approximately 1,550 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees during the ceremony. The Columbus School of Law will confer approximately 200 degrees at its commencement ceremony on Friday, May 23. That ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. in the Great Upper Church of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
This year’s law school commencement speaker is Jane Golden Belford, who served for 13 years as the chancellor of the Archdiocese of Washington.
Other graduation events held over commencement weekend included an Honors Convocation and a Baccalaureate Mass, both held on May 16 at the Basilica.