Married since 2003 and the parents of five children, stand-up
comedian Jim Gaffigan, and his wife, Jeannie, are devout
Catholics and writing partners. They teamed up for their
commencement address, bouncing off each other with wise and
To begin, Jeannie recounted their reaction when they were
first asked to speak at Catholic University's 127th annual
Though the couple was honored, they thought it would be
impossible because of their work and familial obligations.
"This initial response of 'it's impossible' has come up many
times over the course of our relationship," Jeannie said.
They shared that at times, they thought it would be
impossible to get married, to have more children, to write a
book, or - Jim joked - to open a mail-order guacamole
business. With the exception of the guacamole, the couple
said they have accomplished all of their goals because of the
support of God and their loved ones.
"In spite of our self-doubts and our flaws, the impossible
became possible," Jeannie said. "But neither of us could have
accomplished much of anything by ourselves," added Jim, the
author of two books, a grammy nominee for his successful
comedy specials, and the star of a TV Land series, "The Jim
Looking back on their own college graduations, Jeannie
recalled that she was a motivated young actress who thought
she could reach her Hollywood goals completely on her own.
Jim, on the other hand, was adrift for four years until
realizing he wanted to pursue comedy.
When the couple met and began dating, they both changed for
the better. Jeannie realized how difficult, but rewarding it
can be to help those you love fulfill their dreams. "Sharing
your life with someone is not easy because it involves
sacrificing control," she said. "And something beautiful can
Jim, on the other hand, realized there was more to life than
simply seeking fame and worldly accomplishments. He noted
that before he met Jeannie, he lived across the street from a
Catholic church for 15 years that he had never entered.
Because of his wife, he was married in that church, his
children were baptized there, and "once a week I'm reminded
to keep focused on priorities. God, family, then work," Jim
"Beliefs I had doubted, I opened my mind to," he said. "Maybe
marriage wasn't giving up freedom. Maybe faith in something
wasn't naïve. Maybe putting others first wasn't
Speaking from the east portico of the Basilica of the
National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Jim and Jeannie
advised graduates to value their families and place their
trust in God so that impossible things will become possible.
"The love you are given and the love you give will be the
most important force driving you through life," Jeannie said.
"Life is nothing without love."
The couple also told graduates to look beyond worldly success
to what is truly important.
"Remember happiness is not found in accomplishments, income
or the number of Twitter followers you have," Jim said. "True
happiness is found in family. Living for each other,
sacrificing together, and enjoying the blessing of fresh
guacamole delivered promptly to your door."
Catholic University President John Garvey addressed the new
graduates by speaking about an often-neglected virtue that
can bring about a true sense of peace: the virtue of
"Repentance, unlike mercy, is not a divine attribute," Garvey
said. "It's a virtue for sinners and stumblers. Maybe that's
why we're so bad at it."
Repentance is often avoided, Garvey said, because people
don't like to admit when they're at fault. To avoid shame,
people will shift the blame or neglect to apologize at all.
To make a good apology, Garvey suggested a formula: "name the
offense, say you're sorry, ask forgiveness."
Acknowledging that repentance might be "a strange message for
a commencement address," Garvey talked about the importance
of the virtue in his own life.
"I have been married for 40 years and I have five children,
all now grown up," he said. "I have had a lot of
opportunities to apologize. I have learned that repentance is
the duct tape of family life. It can fix anything."
Garvey suggested that graduates should cultivate the virtue
of repentance by making a habit of apologizing and going to
confession. He also suggested that graduates and their
families walk through the Basilica's Holy Door, which was
opened as part of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
"We think of penitents wearing sackcloth and ashes," he said.
"But when you apologize, you open the door for mercy. And
mercy brings peace."
The university conferred approximately 1,750 bachelor's,
master's and doctoral degrees during the ceremony. The
Columbus School of Law will confer more than 125 degrees at
its commencement ceremony May 27.