Speech at the inauguration of the PUHC academic year Rome (October 7, 2013)
Reverend Eminences, Excellencies, Professors, Collaborators, Students, Ladies and Gentlemen:
As we approach the conclusion of the Year of Faith on November 24, we begin the 2013–2014 academic year. As with every new university term, it presents us with projects filled with hope, and also inevitably with possible moments of tiredness.
Before looking towards the future, I would like to recall with gratitude the path we have traveled in the past year, marked by so many important moments, in order to increase everyone’s eagerness—professors, students, and administrative personnel—for the work of the coming months.
In this regard, I would like first to refer to Pope Francis’ encyclical, Lumen fidei, not only as an important event from this Year of Faith, but above all because its pages contain valuable guidelines for those, like you, who are involved in the study of theology and the other sacred disciplines, or who work in the school of communication, contributing to a better knowledge of the Church.
Clearly the study of theology cannot be carried out apart from the faith, and faith entails the desire to get to know better the truth that is revealed and believed. The Pope writes: “Theology is more than simply an effort of human reason to analyze and understand, along the lines of the experimental sciences. God cannot be reduced to an object. He is a subject who makes himself known and perceived in an interpersonal relationship. Right faith orients reason to open itself to the light which comes from God, so that reason, guided by love of the truth, can come to a deeper knowledge of God.”
When speaking of God and whatever refers to him, the object of your study is properly speaking a subject, God himself, who wants to be known as a Person and who seeks to establish a dialogue with us, and to involve each of us in that dialogue, in that communion which is his own Life. Theology, and in general the ecclesiastical studies, cannot be separated from the life of prayer, from our personal relationship with God. These studies need to be inserted into our personal life of faith, from which they receive impetus and support.
“The humility to be ‘touched’ by God,” continues the Holy Father, “forms part of theology, admitting its own limitations before the mystery, while striving to investigate, with the discipline proper to reason, the inexhaustible riches of this mystery.” Asking God and his saints for the virtue of humility should always be present both in the work of all Christians and in the activity of every professor, researcher and student of theology. Humility of the intellect has to be for each of us, as St. Josemaría said, “an axiom.” We need humility in order never to forget that we are always facing a God who, although making himself visible in Christ, will always be a great and unfathomable mystery, who asks us to accept the gift of faith with the humility of our reason.
Humility is also needed, as the encyclical insists, in order not to forget that theology “shares in the ecclesial form of faith; its light is the light of the believing subject which is the Church.” Therefore theology should realize that it is at the service of the faith of Christians, and must “work humbly to protect and deepen the faith of everyone, especially ordinary believers.” In addition, the science of theology also requires filial adhesion to the magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him, which guarantees contact with the original source of the faith and “the certainty of attaining to the word of Christ in all its integrity.” I will add here a reflection from St. Josemaría in Furrow: “Faith is the humility of the mind which renounces its own judgment and surrenders to the verdict and authority of the Church.”
I would like to insist on another aspect of your work that shows the importance of the virtue of humility. Many of you, new students, have arrived with the experience of working for several years in a variety of professions, or in pastoral responsibilities in priestly ministry in your diocese. The effort required by your new studies—a constant, hidden and silent effort—and the absence of direct contact with a large number of people, will require of you patience and humility. You will often need to remember that, in the not very distant future, all your effort here will be placed at the pastoral service of souls and of the Church; this will require of you a faith capable of transforming your daily study into prayer, into acts of love for God, into love for his Church and souls.
Pope Francis’ words in the last Mass he celebrated in Copacabana, during the recent World Youth Day, come to mind here. You surely remember those three words from his homily that awakened in all of us a deeper apostolic zeal, the desire to commit ourselves more fully to the new evangelization: “What is our Lord saying to us? Three words: go, without fear, to serve.” The words are addressed to each one of us, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. You, too, from your place of study, the library, the classroom or your office, are invited to launch out without fear, to serve. If you strive to enter into a living and personal dialogue with God, in your study and your work, even when you have to be submerged in your books, you will go everywhere with him, without fear of putting your talent, your time and your life at the service of souls. And thus you will carry out, as St. Josemaría said, a “very direct apostolate.”
I mentioned earlier an event that took place during this Year of Faith: the World Youth Day. This event has been another opportunity to “rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith.” But I would also like to refer here to other recent events in this Year of Faith, which weren’t planned but which surely have deeply affected us. I am thinking, first of all, of the unexpected and moving announcement by Benedict XVI renouncing his Pontificate. After a first moment of amazement and—why not?—shock, with the help of faith we understood the great courage and generosity this gesture required. I think I am expressing the desire of all of us if I take advantage of this occasion to once again state our gratitude to the Pope Emeritus for his pontificate and, in a special way, for his rich magisterium. Among his teachings he reminded us that the Church is truly “a living body, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, truly living by God’s power. She is in the world but not of the world: she is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit.”
Another proof of the Church’s supernatural life and nature was the subsequent election of Pope Francis, on March 13. The Church is truly a living body animated by the Holy Spirit; he knows and sees what we men do not see, and suggests at every moment what is most suitable for the Church. Although I have already had the opportunity to express to our Holy Father Francis my personal affection and to assure him of my prayers as well as yours (since I represent in some way the students, professors and employees of this University), I would like to ask you to be even more generous in your prayer and your affection for him. Let us pray that the Holy Father, docile to the motions of the Holy Spirit, may continue guarding and guiding the Church entrusted to him as supreme pastor, with the daring, generosity and strength that, in these first months of his pontificate, have won over the hearts of all the faithful.
Finally, I would like to mention another event that, for me and for this University, holds great significance: the approval on the part of His Holiness Pope Francis of the decrees opening the path for the canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II, and for the beatification of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo.
The birth of this university is closely linked both to John Paul II and to Alvaro del Portillo, my predecessor as Prelate of Opus Dei and as first Chancellor of this University so desired by St. Josemaría. In the documents recounting the history of the University of the Holy Cross, from its birth as the Roman Academic Center to its constitution as a Pontifical University, the signature of His Holiness John Paul II is always present. The Pope not only welcomed the request of Venerable Alvaro del Portillo; he promoted and closely followed the birth of this institution. In God’s Providence, the Holy Father’s decision to canonize and beatify these two faithful servants of God and the Church, united in life by a deep spiritual affinity, came on the same date. Nor is it by chance that this ceremony is being held in an auditorium dedicated to John Paul II and, for those who didn’t find room here and are following the ceremony by internal television, in the smaller auditorium dedicated to Alvaro del Portillo. Besides our joy on looking forward to attending, with God’s grace, the two ceremonies of canonization and beatification next year, the certainty of having these two sure intercessors in heaven fills us with great peace and serenity.
To their intercession and to the intercession of St. Josemaría Escrivá and our Blessed Mother Mary, I entrust this new academic year, which I now declare opened.