At the Inauguration of the Academic Year, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome (October 7, 2014)

Your Eminence, Excellency,
professors, collaborators, students,
ladies and gentlemen:

We are participating in the inauguration of this academic year, which Providence has made to coincide with the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It is also the day following the anniversary of the canonization of St. Josemaría and a few days after the beatification of Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, which took place as you know on September 27. This is a very significant coincidence, since the new blessed was the first Grand Chancellor of our University. It was he, in fact, who urged its creation and supported its development, prompted by the great affection for the university that St. Josemaría had transmitted to him as part of his passionate love for the world.

Let us give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for having given us Don Álvaro, whom we thank for his efforts to begin that Roman Academic Center which, after growing little by little, became the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. It stemmed from his longstanding filial fidelity to the founder of Opus Dei, who for many years had wanted to implement this project.

Following his guidelines, Blessed Álvaro del Portillo decided that the moment had come for the creation of this ecclesiastical university in Rome, dreaming of its service to the particular churches and to all souls.

Being close to God enlarges the human heart, “making it capable of taking in everybody and everything in its longing to lay the universe at the feet of Jesus.” [1] The more one’s identification with Christ grows through the working of grace, the more he or she will look at the world with the eyes of God, the origin and goal of all creation, trying to see each person and object just as God sees us.

In 1992 Blessed Álvaro, recalling the teachings of St. Josemaría, said: “The light of Revelation, fully accepted through faith, does not eliminate or lessen the legitimate autonomy of each of the sciences. On the contrary, it confers on them something they cannot accomplish by themselves: the capacity to contribute effectively, in the deepest sense, to human fulfillment. The truth is the goal of each person working in the university; the research carried out there has to be marked by the desire to know the truth of reality ever more deeply and to love the truth as an ideal to which one commits one’s whole life. Therefore those working in the university cannot allow themselves to be influenced by environments averse to accepting the specific and serious demands that, at times, the truth requires in order for us to be consistent with it.” [2]

Indeed, the faith gives a new light to a person’s vision of the world that enables us to know and love it more deeply. Thus not only is the faith not opposed to the universality of reason, as some reductionist conceptions assert, but rather it grounds reason and strengthens it. Faith in God and the fidelity of Blessed Álvaro to the charism received from St. Josemaría are manifested also in the founding of this university.

In 1991, in an academic ceremony similar to the one today, our first Grand Chancellor, Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, spoke about the connection between the words omnes traham ad meipsum from the Gospel of St. John (Jn 12-32)—words that had such great resonance in the interior life of the founder of Opus Dei—and the motto Regnare Christum volumus! that Bishop del Portillo chose for his episcopal coat of arms. In the incarnate Word, the entire cosmos is drawn towards the unity that stems from the Trinity, and the desire that he reign thus becomes an expression of our passionate love for the world.

The university, in virtue of that attraction, should direct all its efforts to revitalizing the world like a leaven. Study becomes true praise for the Creator in the measure that it brings to light the unity and truth of reality and is placed at the service of Christ in his desire to lead everyone and everything to the Father.

Thus, for example, the study of the history of the Church, as well as of mankind’s efforts to seek the truth about God, becomes a spur for going deeper into all the gifts we have received, in order to rediscover the importance of one’s own charism and communicate it with renewed vigor.

Moreover, being open to all the fields of human knowledge and the multiform cultural realities of yesterday and today is a prerequisite for “savoring” one’s own charism and appreciating the greatness of the gift received. The verb “to savor” derives from the Latin verb sapere, from which also comes the word sapientia or “wisdom.” Every Christian, guided by the Holy Spirit, can savor, and help others to savor, our true Christian identity.

As Pope Francis frequently says: “Time is superior to space.” [3] Our incarnate God is present in time, and is always acting through his ordinary providence, through the outpouring of charisms and through his constant assistance for the Church. Thus he transcends the specific spaces in which Christians find themselves and urges them to go out into the world.

This “going forth” of the Church is also manifested in the places where priests, religious, and the laity are being formed, before returning to their respective dioceses. A Church “going forth” needs the help of a university “going forth,” which does not close itself up in an ivory tower, but rather develops its thought in the service of the life of all mankind. The teaching of the various subjects needs to be grounded in the faith, in the unity of Christian life. Thus the university will be able to always work in the service of the universal Church.

As Blessed Álvaro del Portillo said succinctly: “The universality of the university is most directly manifested in its concern to cultivate all the sciences, since it is interested in all truth.” [4]

The spirit that inspires the university and the work of those who teach and study there, should lead to “close and fruitful relations with the world of culture, within the framework of the university ideal of the unity of all knowledge and the harmony between faith and culture.” [5]

This vision, grounded in the faith, needs to be reflected in the daily lives of those who work in the university. Thus it is a matter of priority to dedicate energy to good relations between those on the teaching staff, called to collaborate and to share experiences not only from their research, but also from their pastoral life, so that life may enrich thought. With the greatest respect, of course, for freedom of research—within the guidelines of the Church’s magisterium—and following the explicit will of St. Josemaría, who never wanted Opus Dei to have a “school” of thought of its own.

The same spirit of openness and collaboration should also be present in relations with the nonteaching staff and with the students. What will most effectively inspire them is love for their work, seen day by day in the recognition of each person’s contribution. In such an environment, true servants of others will be formed, since, once more citing Blessed Álvaro, “we can never separate the supernatural from the human in man.” [6] As Lumen Gentium teaches, whose fiftieth anniversary we will celebrate on this coming November 16, “all men are called to this union with Christ, who is the light of the world, from whom we go forth, through whom we live, and toward whom our whole life strains.” [7]

While we accompany the Synod on the Family with our prayer, and we pray more intensely for peace in many parts of the world, let us entrust to our Lady of the Rosary these intentions as well as the new academic year 2014–2015, which I declare inaugurated.

[1] St. Josemaría, The Way, no. 764.

[2] Blessed Álvaro del Portillo, “La universidad en el pensamiento y en la acción apostólica de Mons. Josemaría Escrivá,” in Rendere amabile la verità, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995, p. 618.

[3] Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, November 24, 2013, no. 222; see also the Encyclical Lumen Fidei, June 29, 2013, no. 57

[4] Blessed Álvaro del Portillo, “The University in the Thought and Apostolic Action of Msgr. Josemaría Escrivá,” in Rendere amabile la verità, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995, p. 616.

[5] Blessed Álvaro del Portillo, “Discourse at the inauguration of the academic year 1986-1987 of the Roman Academic Center of the Holy Cross,” in Rendere amabile la verità, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995, p. 592.

[6] Blessed Álvaro del Portillo, “The University in the Thought and Apostolic Action of Msgr. Josemaría Escrivá,” in Rendere amabile la verità, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995, p. 619.

[7] Vatican II, Dogmatic const. Lumen Gentium, no. 3.

Romana, No. 59, July-December 2014, p. 335-338.