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At the Mass inaugurating the academic year of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome (October 24, 2002)

The joy and gratitude that we have experienced during these past few days for the canonization of Josemaría Escrivá, founder of Opus Dei, is renewed at today’s Mass. We have taken part in an event that, even visibly, has manifested to us the perennial reality of Pentecost, the sanctifying action that the Holy Spirit alone can carry out.

Therefore it is only logical that we go to the Paraclete to discover what God’s will is for each of us in the academic year that we are about to begin. And we also look to the example of Saint Josemaría, to his great love for the Church, and to the fidelity of his first successor in Opus Dei, Bishop del Portillo, which was the foundation God used to raise up the University of the Holy Cross.

What would Saint Josemaría advise us on a day like today? I think that he would tell us, or better yet that he is telling us, many things, and at the same time just one thing: You have to be a saint, an apostle of Christ in the place where divine providence has placed you. And we have to respond to this call, which God addresses to us unceasingly, with a sense of urgency, making it a reality in our life.

Among the numerous texts illustrating the richness of this message, I will cite here only the first point of The Way, which the Holy Spirit has used to bring about so many conversions, both great and small, in countless people. “Don't let your life be barren. Be useful. Leave a mark. Shine forth with the torch of your faith and your love. With your apostolic life, wipe out the trail of filth and slime left by the corrupt sowers of hatred. And set aflame all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you bear in your heart.” [1]

If we contrast this challenge with the actual level of our Christian life, we will immediately see our own limitations. Nevertheless, we can’t use this to justify a passive or resigned attitude. The secret to making this program a reality is based on true humility, which takes into account both our personal smallness and the goodness and omnipotence of God, who wants to make us holy. For the true source of holiness and apostolic efficacy is “the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart,” the same fire that descended visibly on the apostles gathered together in Jerusalem. [2]

How often Saint Josemaría meditated on and repeated Christ’s words: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” [3] This fire is the intimate warmth of the Sanctifier, which is rarely spread through extraordinary and conspicuous means. Rather it is poured out primarily in the ordinary lives of persons and institutions.

The work that each of you carries out, as professors, students or staff members, is your field of sanctification, the way you personally participate in the mission of Christ and his Church. I advise you to take to heart, as I also try to do, Saint Josemaría’s teaching on unity of life, which is central to his message. This is a high goal: being useful, leaving a mark, shedding light with every corner of our life, striving to make our life as authentic as possible, since it belongs entirely to God our Father.

We know by experience the distance that lies between merely understanding the concept of unity of life and actually putting it into practice. All of us feel the tug of temptations that try to introduce disintegration into our life. At times we may seek to be self-sufficient, which leads us to undervalue certain tasks that we don’t find pleasant, or that we consider unsuited to our abilities or expectations, convinced that our true self-realization is to be found elsewhere. Or, as the other side of the coin, we may perhaps dedicate ourselves with great enthusiasm to activities that fail to lead us towards our Lord, because we are primarily moved by selfishness rather than by love for God.

The concept of unity of life, applicable to all human existence, becomes even more meaningful when it is a question of activities directly linked to supernatural realities. This is the case with sacred studies, which by their very nature are inseparable from divine revelation, from the gift of theological faith and fidelity to the magisterium of the Church. It is essential that those working in this field strive to truly be united to Christ, to pray and mortify themselves. Thus they will be protected from the danger of falling into lukewarmness and compromising the supernatural fruit of all their effort, which depends on a living faith.

Indeed, without a deep and mature faith, which strives to become incarnate in one’s own life, it is impossible to acquire a theological formation worthy of the name or attain valid results in the scientific disciplines related to the divinely revealed deposit of faith. One could perhaps become erudite, or even outstanding in one’s specialty, furthering one’s self-affirmation. But the true substance of theology and of the other sacred disciplines would remain inaccessible.

Moreover, the acquisition of specialized knowledge in these fields, if separated from a life of piety—a deep and lived adhesion to the truth of Christ taught by the Church—could become an instrument for doctrinal and practical deviations. In contrast, a knowledge informed by faith and piety, combined with each one’s human gifts and unflagging work, will produce abundant fruit. In this way, our daily faithfulness will contribute to enriching a university community that, in turn, will encourage many others to strive to acquire a unity of life. Let us try to never lose this apostolic horizon in our own lives.

We entrust our resolution to seek sanctity in university work to our Lady’s maternal protection, especially through the recitation of the Holy Rosary, in accord with the Holy Father’s recent indications. Let us invoke our Lady with the aspiration Sedes Sapientiae, Seat of Wisdom, asking her to lead us to a deep union with the Most Blessed Trinity. Amen.

[1] Saint Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, no. 1.

[2] See Acts 2:3.

[3] Lk 12:49 (see, for example The Way, no. 801).

Romana, No. 35, July-December 2002, pag. 309-311.