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

Dear brothers and sisters:

In the first reading, St. Paul speaks of the action of the Paraclete, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, and reminds us that to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor 12:7). These divinely inspired words bring to our memory a joyous event we took part in just ten days ago. I am referring to the recent beatification of Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, the first Chancellor of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Indeed, anyone who had, as I did, the gift of having known and lived close to him, can testify that God granted him great human and spiritual gifts, and we are witnesses to how Bishop Del Portillo put those gifts at the service of the Church, of Opus Dei, and of all souls. The Pontifical University of the Holy Cross is one of so many fruitful results of his faithful dedication to the mission he had received, which St. Josemaría had already prepared the ground for and which was brought to maturity thanks to the constant effort of Blessed Álvaro del Portillo.

Therefore, in this Holy Mass for the inauguration of a new academic year, we direct ourselves to the Holy Spirit, grateful for the way he intervened in the life of Don Álvaro, a zealous pastor of the Church, and we invoke his help so that we may all safeguard and increase the legacy he passed on to us. This university began its activities thirty years ago, in 1984, as the Roman Academic Center. In the homily at the Mass of inauguration for the second academic year, celebrated on October 15, 1985, Blessed Álvaro del Portillo invited those present to look with faith and hope to the future of the new academic center, which was then taking its first steps: “Like the mustard seed Jesus spoke of in the Gospel, it will turn into a tree rich in fruit, if you all strive to cooperate with grace and to do your work in a competent way, with a Christian spirit and with . . . spiritus diaconiae, with a spirit of service.” [1]

His words stemmed from a deeply supernatural outlook, and three decades later we can see that they have become a joyful reality. But Bishop Del Portillo’s exhortation continues being relevant today for each and every one of you: for the professors, the students, and the technical and administrative personnel. Each of you needs to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit towards holiness, and strive to carry out your personal obligations better and improve your preparation, and exercise all the Christian virtues in your work and aspire to serve others through your profession. We cannot allow ourselves to think that all this is too difficult for us, since our Lord gives us his grace, and we are also helped by the loving example and intercession of the new blessed.

The Gospel of the Mass reminds us that Jesus wishes to make use of us to spread the Church’s evangelizing action. The risen Christ tells his disciples, still downcast and hesitant after the Master’s passion and death: As the Father has sent me, I also send you (Jn 20:21). We too, each one of us, have received this apostolic call. In a certain sense, the fact of working in a university makes this responsibility even more acute. As Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium “the good always tends to communicate itself. Every authentic experience of truth and of beauty seeks its expansion by itself . . . by communicating it, the good becomes rooted and develops.” [2] In the university halls, by your study and teaching, you experience, both teachers and students, the truth and beauty that come from God. Therefore you cannot shirk the urgent need to assimilate these and communicate them to others, to the whole world.

We are called to proclaim the greatness of the Gospel, especially its light on marriage and the family. During these days the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is taking place, dedicated to the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization. Let us invoke with faith the inspiration of the Holy Spirit so that the work of the Synod will help to orient the role of the Church’s leadership in the modern world, being faithful to Christ’s teachings. At the same time, we want to commit ourselves personally to help bring it about that the truth about marriage and family life, in the light of the plan of God who created the human person as man and woman, may shine forth and be understood ever more fully.

Let us entrust this commitment to the intercession of St. John Paul II, whose canonization a few months ago brought us great joy. As one who worked so diligently in furthering the apostolate of the family as a priest and a bishop, he will help us to proclaim effectively the beauty of God’s creative plan for the union between man and woman.
I would also like to invoke the protection of St. Josemaría Escrivá, who on the 6th of October twelve years ago, in 2002, was counted among the saints. May St. Josemaría, who prepared the beginnings of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, intercede for each of us so that each, in our own sphere and thanks to our own work, will be a sower of light, joy and peace.

I would like to finish by making my own the invocation of Pope Francis to our Lady in this special moment of the Church’s evangelizing mission: Mother of ours, “obtain for us now a new ardor born of the resurrection, that we may bring to all the Gospel of life which triumphs over death. Give us a holy courage to seek new paths, that the gift of unfading beauty may reach every man and woman.” [3] Amen.

[1] Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, Homily, October 15, 1985.

[2] Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, no. 9.

[3] Ibid.

Romana, No. 59, July-December 2014, p. 293-295.

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