Lawyering as a Sacred Trust

Speech delivered by Associate Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna, Supreme Court of the Philippines, at the Commencement Exercises of Ateneo Law School, April 22, 2007, Meralco Theatre, Lopez Bldg., Ortigas, Pasig City.

The profession of law is a sacred calling. I do not mean simply that it had priestly origins and that for a long time there was only canon law and all lawyers were religious. Rather, I mean that law is a way towards finding God in the world and of restoring Christ in all things.

To start with, the law, as I never tire pointing out, is the most human of all professions. It addresses the human as human, and seeks to minister to his needs as body and soul, matter and spirit, as a rational animal, a sentient being.


From the time you locked horns with the intricacies of persons and family relations, to the time that you delved into obligations and contracts, torts, crimes, penalties, damages, succession and corporation law, tax, labor, remedies and procedures, legal ethics and legal philosophy, international law, the Constitution and governance, you were always face to face with the problems and concerns of human beings in society. The aim was always to seek through law the sway and dominance of justice in the relations of persons and humans among themselves and vis-à-vis the State. In short, you studied law as an instrument of the social order. For you are all engaged, in the words of Dean Pound, in social engineering.

But it does not end there. For as Justice Perfecto also indicated, law covers not only man, woman and child, but everything else, “from the amoeba to the tundras of Russia.” Or in the language of Chief Justice Laurel, law covers everything, from agriculture to music.

As you now take hold of this sacred trust that is the law and ask permission to profess it as a way of life, way I then remind you that you do so as graduates of the Ateneo, carrying as it were, the colors of St. Ignatius, and the blue and white of Our Lady, and to remember always all that these stand for.

The seal of the Ateneo bears the words “Lux in Domino.” You all know what that means. Light in the Lord. That’s what you have to be in the world. Now, I invite your attention, however, to the shield or coat of arms in that seal. It is that of the House of Loyola. It shows a big cauldron held by a chain with two wolves facing each other, eating from the big pot of food. The symbol is that of generosity and abundance, that food and sustenance flowed over in that house, full, pressed and overflowing, so much exuberance that even the wolves had enough to eat.

I would like, though, to relate this symbol to a text I received some weeks back from a friend. An old person once told a grandchild –


A terrible fight is going on inside me. A fight between two wolves. One is evil, it represents hate and anger. The other is good, it represents empathy, love and compassion. This same fight that’s going on inside me, is inside every other person took, even you.

The grandchild then asked: Which wolf will win?

The old person replied: It’s the one you always feed.

That’s it.

It’s the one you always feed.

Go then on your quest along the path of the law.

And don’t forget the ways of the Atenean – be persons for others.

Approach the whole enterprise as a sacramental encounter – the whole of creation is a doorway to God. Use it to get to God, to realize God in this world and to render all things to the One True Being.

Feed the right wolf.

Don’t forget the poor, the helpless, and the deprived.

Yours is a profession for others, teach people their rights, help them fight for it, protect the earth and our environment, use law – be it agrarian reform, minimum wage regulation or progressive taxation – to make life better for others.

For there is so much to be done. The hour is short but the agenda is long. But by all means begin.

God speed then, as I return to the seal of this Alma Mater of ours. I left the most important part for the end – it is the center of the seal – the Sun that shines – XT – IHS – THROUGH XT YOU CAN DO ALL THINGS.


Source: Ateneo Law Website


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