At the blessing of a statue of Blessed Josemaria Escriva at the University of Navarre, Pamplona (June 30, 2001)

My dear brothers and sisters:

Allow me to begin with a small digression. The figure of my illustrious predecessor has been frequently in my thoughts this morning, accompanied by the realization that if anyone should be here by rights, it is our beloved Don Alvaro. He was a faithful son who followed so closely in our Father’s footsteps.

And then a family scene came to mind. (For in Opus Dei we are a family; we don’t stand on protocol. We live with the unity of the first Christians, not only among ourselves but also with all those we meet.) I remember that someone working in Rome came up with a particular decision on a matter of government, and Blessed Josemaria (the Father at that time, who could be very demanding) pointed out that the suggested solution was not the right one. And he wrote on a slip of paper: So-and-so (I won’t mention his name, since he’s already in heaven), where have you put your head?

And this morning, while I was thinking that Don Alvaro was really the one who should be here, it occurred to me that he was saying from heaven: “Where have you put your head? I’m much better off here with our Father.” We have to be very grateful to Don Alvaro, who placed his strong personality and life at God’s service precisely by serving Blessed Josemaria. We can never repay this man of God enough for what he did for us, because in doing it for our Father, he did it for us.

And now, to return to the business at hand.

It is with great joy that I comply with the request the rector has made in your name to bless this statue of Blessed Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei and founder and first chancellor of this university.

I recall the blessing of the first stone for this university on October 25, 1960. In some ways we can consider this work of sculpture as the cornerstone that completes and crowns the material construction of the university, which should, however, always continue to grow. A new building to house the Center for Biomedical Research is already planned and the definitive site of the university chapel is also being studied. But these new sites will all bear a reference, as do the existing ones, to the person who founded this Alma Mater. These are all good reasons to be grateful to God, through Blessed Josemaria, who was chosen by God also to serve as the foundation for the work at this university, for which he prayed and worked so much and which he so loved.

The exciting task opening up before your eyes makes it is easy to understand why you are dedicating your best efforts to this adventure. The challenges and problems facing humanity at the beginning of this new century are immense. We Catholics, who have experienced God’s love, must give the joyful answer of our faith and hope. “The university,” Blessed Josemaria said at the ceremony granting honorary doctorates in 1972, “does not live with its back turned to any uncertainty, to any concern, to any need of mankind. While studying problems with scientific depth, we must also move hearts, overcome passivity, awaken sleeping powers, and form citizens who are ready to construct a more just society.”[1]

Always be at the vanguard, opening up the way. Don’t forget that each day, by your study, your work, your Christian behavior, your dedication to your students, you are contributing to strengthening the world of tomorrow, the new culture that is being born. But only when a culture makes God its transcendent point of reference does it truly serve the good of all men and women, particularly the most needy. In contrast, when a culture ignores the Creator or sets him aside, man himself is harmed.

Let us never forget that “we are present at the very birth of the upright innovations that take place in the life of society, and we also make our own the progress of each era. Down through the ages our outlook and our activity will always correspond fully to the needs and demands of the moment. We will never cease to identify with the yearnings that attract the minds and hearts of men.”[2]

I ask God that this bronze statue of Blessed Josemaria be for all of you a call and a spur, a living reminder of his life and message, of God’s message, which he passed on to us by his conduct and teaching: the universal call to sanctity in the middle of the world, in professional work and in the fulfillment of the ordinary duties of the Christian.

In order for this university to serve the Church and society with the spirit its founder inculcated, we all have to strive each day for holiness. As Pope John Paul II insisted at the start of the new millennium, “stressing holiness remains more than ever an urgent pastoral task.”[3]

Many of you know what Blessed Josemaria told Professor Ortiz de Landázuri, when that outstanding doctor mentioned to him that the mission he had given them to found the University of Navarre had now been fulfilled. His reply was quick and clear: “I didn’t ask you to found a university, but to become holy by founding a university.”[4]

Savor frequently the joyous truth of our faith: God calls us to live his holy and blessed life, and wants to have us close to him now and forever. We are his beloved children. Seek the root of your joy here and the impetus for your university work and your apostolic zeal. Entrust yourselves to Blessed Josemaria. Ask him to help us persevere in our daily struggle to respond to God’s call, so that our personal desire for sanctity will grow stronger each day. There will always be obstacles: our own weakness and an environment that is morally lax and distant from its Creator. But we are not isolated and without help in this battle. We also count on the power and energy of the Holy Spirit, who gives himself to us in so many ways, especially in the mysterious but real contact with God offered to us through the sacraments. In the sacrament of Penance, we are cleansed of our sins by the Blood of Christ;[5] and in the Eucharist, we are intimately united to our Lord Jesus Christ and given the pledge of our future glorious resurrection.

We have to be immersed in God, convinced that holiness is what is fruitful. Fruit comes from the effort to fulfill God’s will, from the ardent love for God, and consequently for all creatures, that burned so forcefully in Blessed Josemaria’s life.

Today let us give thanks to God for the great gift of the holy life of the founder of Opus Dei and of this university. Let us go to his paternal intercession, asking that he make us more faithful and solicitous in carrying out God’s will in our lives. May Holy Mary, Mother of Fairest Love, who protects through her intercession all the work on this campus, accompany us on our way, now and always.

Romana, n. 33, July-December 2001, p. 168-170.

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