At the Mass inaugurating the academic year 2003/04 at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome (October 14, 2003)
1. As we begin the academic year, the votive Mass of the Holy Spirit offers us an opportunity to implore the gifts of the Paraclete, so necessary to carry out our work properly. The professors, in their research and preparation of classes; the non-teaching personal in their administrative tasks; the students in their studies and efforts to master the different subjects… all have many duties to be sanctified. St. Josemaría Escrivá, who inspired this university, taught us that God awaits us in the ordinary circumstances of our lives: while we are studying for an exam, answering a telephone call, or teaching a class. Every honest human activity, carried out with love for God and souls, is capable of transforming our human life into something divine. “Do you really want to be a saint? Carry out the little duty of each moment: do what you ought and put yourself into what you are doing.”
The Mass of the Holy Spirit also invites us to implore the Paraclete’s gifts for the Church and for the Pope. In two days we will celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the election of Pope John Paul II as successor of St. Peter. Since the reason why this university exists and why you have come to Rome is to serve God by serving the Church and the Roman Pontiff, the coinciding of this date with the beginning of the academic year should mean for each of us an occasion for renewing our affection and gratitude to the Holy Father. We should pray especially for the Pope in this Mass so that God will bless him, fill him with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and assist him in his important service to the Church.
In this liturgy, prayers for the Pope will be heard in Italian, English, Ibo, Polish, Chinese, Kikuyu, French, Spanish and other languages. Thus we will manifest the Church’s universality, which can also be seen by looking at the features of your faces, the faces of children of God.
2. The desire to serve the Church and the Pope spurs us to work with decision, joy and scientific rigor. Philosophy, theology, canon law and social communications, the fields of study imparted in this university, help us to understand, safeguard and spread the answers God provides, through the creation and redemption, to mankind’s deepest questions. Therefore your commitment cannot remain enclosed within the walls of a classroom, or the pages of a specialized journal, or the sheets of an examination.
Within a few years, many of you who are now students will return to your native lands with a deep intellectual formation. This will enable you to guide others, reminding them—in a world which is sadly distant from God—that the meaning of life can be found only in a personal relationship with the One who freely grants us eternal happiness. Likewise, professors will feel the joy of having spread the Church’s teaching through your work, your publications and, last but not least, also through your students, who now listen to your words and who within a few years will be scattered all over the globe.
The Holy Spirit will help you to penetrate deeply into the revealed mysteries if we go to him, if we ask for his light to know how to combine scientific rigor, intellectual creativity and intense study, with a solid life of faith. The need to use to the maximum one’s own intellectual capacity should be combined with a continual and growing awe in the face of the mystery of God’s love. The scientific rigor that should characterize intellectual work must be grounded in interior life, because faith and one’s personal relationship with God are the necessary conditions for penetrating most deeply into the revealed mysteries.
Our nearness to God takes on special intensity and meaning in the Eucharistic sacrifice, as Pope John Paul II recalled in his recent encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia: “Our union with Christ, which is a gift and grace for each of us, makes it possible for us, in him, to share in the unity of his body which is the Church. The Eucharist reinforces the incorporation into Christ which took place in Baptism though the gift of the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 12:13, 27).” Therefore the Mass should be a source of inspiration for our work, whether intellectual or administrative, and a fountain of energy for our entire day. Seeing and experiencing the greatness of God’s love for each of us should lead us to strive to grasp more deeply the infinite mysteries of revelation: “What more could Jesus have done for us? Truly, in the Eucharist, he shows us a love which goes ‘to the end’ (cf. Jn 13:1), a love which knows no measure.”
3. Intimacy with Jesus should not be limited to the few minutes when we attend or celebrate the holy Sacrifice of the Altar. On the contrary, our personal relationship with Christ should extend throughout the entire day by visits to the Blessed Sacrament. Pope John Paul II encouraged us: “It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple (cf.Jn 13:25) and to feel the infinite love present in his heart. If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the ‘art of prayer,’(Novo Millennio Ineunte, no. 32), how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How often, dear brother and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support!”
The Eucharist, therefore, should preside over our daily work, until it becomes a reference point for our entire existence. I invite you to ask yourselves, in the silence of your hearts: Am I aware that our Lord, in his sacramental presence, is very close me, in this university and in the place where I live? Do I go frequently to see him, also in the intervals between classes? Do I have the custom of greeting him in the oratory or the chapel every time that I enter or leave a place where He is present?
Mary, our mother, is the best path for finding Christ and for finding Him anew, as St. Josemaría recalled and as the Holy Father has recently written: “Christ is the supreme Teacher, the revealer and the one revealed. It is not just a question of learning what he taught but of ‘learning him.’ In this regard could we have any better teacher than Mary? From the divine standpoint, the Spirit is the interior teacher who leads us to the full truth of Christ (cf. Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:13). But among creatures no one knows Christ better than Mary; no one can introduce us to a profound knowledge of his mystery better than his Mother.”
Our Lady of the Church of St. Apollinaris so often receives our glances of love, also when we go to greet Jesus on entering or leaving the university. Mary, who encourages us to combine our scientific work with a tender love for her Son, will make present to our Lord our projects and resolutions for this academic year. May the one who is Mater Ecclesiae, Mother of the Church, intercede for us, so that our love for the Church and for the Roman Pontiff increases each day. Amen.