At the Mass celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the Campus Biomedico, Rome (October 15, 2003)

Dear professors, students, doctors, nurses and administrative personnel.

1. Today we celebrate the Mass inaugurating the University Campus Biomedico’s tenth year of existence. Ten years are not many years for a human life, and much less so for a university institution. Nevertheless, the first years of life are always very important for defining the character of a person and the identity of an institution.

The first Mass for this occasion was celebrated ten years ago, on this very date, by my predecessor as head of the Prelature of Opus Dei, Bishop Alvaro del Portillo. On that occasion, Don Alvaro encouraged us to “learn how to accept with elegance and a sporting spirit” the difficulties that accompany all beginnings. He also recommended that you work with a spirit of unity and understanding, with optimism. “The key word,” he said, “that should never be forgotten is this one: service. In your work as educators, researchers, students, and in all the other important tasks of administration, maintenance, cleaning, etc., you are called to serve others with joy”[1]

You are a young university community, the youngest sister of many other universities rich in history, with which you have had close links of collaboration. Those of us who have been involved—in some cases, right from the start—in this noble adventure, feel the need to thank God for having called us to help construct the intellectual, material and spiritual foundations of an institution which, with God’s help, will yield much fruit, as it is already doing, down through the centuries.

2. The Eucharistic Sacrifice, which makes present Christ’s immolation on the Cross, is an expression of praise and thanksgiving to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Unite yourselves joyfully to the self-giving that Christ makes of himself upon the altar, offering him your personal sacrifices, your study and work, whatever it might be: teaching or learning, research, health assistance, or looking after the essential services for the university community.

Our gratitude should be expressed not only by words of thanks, but above all by deeds, seeking to make some recompense for the gifts we have received.

These gifts aren’t hard to perceive. It is not so much a matter of the buildings (the polyclinic, the ambulatory facilities, the classrooms and research laboratories) that have sprung up over these years; above all it is the opportunity you have to find better ways to care for the sick, to make progress in the biomedical sciences, to form a future generation of doctors, engineers, nurses, dietitians.

Do you want to construct a great university? Then don’t forget to take extraordinary care of the smallest details. I remind you of some words of St. Josemaría: “Have you seen how that imposing building was built? One brick upon another. Thousands. But, one by one. And bags of cement, one by one. And blocks of stone, each of them insignificant compared with the massive whole. And beams of steel. And men working, the same hours, day after day...—Have you seen how that imposing building was built?... By dint of little things!”[2]

3. St. Josemaría, whom all of you view as the father and patron of your university, was—like all the saints—“a great soul,” a truly magnanimous person. Indeed, he inspired great undertakings throughout the world in service of all men and women (including several universities). And do you know how he managed to do this, and to spread this spirit around him? It was by fulfilling his daily work as perfectly as possible and putting care into little things with love and for love.

Anyone involved in teaching or other educational tasks should especially recall that the essential power of their work consists in knowing how to turn the smallest actions and gestures of each day into vehicles for great things. As St. Josemaría also wrote, “Everything in which we poor men have a part—even holiness—is a fabric of small trifles which, depending upon one's intention, can form a magnificent tapestry of heroism or of degradation, of virtue or of sin. —The great legends of old always relate extraordinary adventures, but never fail to mix them with homely details about the hero. —May you always attach great importance to the little things. This is the way!”[3]

When, at the end of the day, we glance back at the hours that have gone by (everyone makes some sort of self-examination at the end of each day), let us ask in God’s presence: Did I arrive punctually at the classes that I give or attend? Did I make the sick or my companions at work wait for me? Did I attend to everyone, colleagues, students, patients, subordinates, with serenity and respect? Was I careful about order and cleanliness in the places where I study or work? Was I demanding on myself in looking after the instruments I use? Was I understanding and forgiving towards anyone who made a mistake or behaved badly, avoiding, as St. Paul tells us to do in the first reading (cf. Rom 2:102), any hasty judgment or defamation? Do I have the courage and charity needed to correct myself and to correct others out of loyalty? Do I know how to persevere in a task once it has begun?

Taking care of these and many other small things—which at times are not so small—is how we will ensure that the Campus Biomedico University attains the academic achievements on which every university prides itself.

Our thoughts now go to the Holy Father, who will celebrate tomorrow, in union with the whole Church, the twenty-fifth anniversary of his election as the successor of St. Peter. Countless people of all races and religions want to pay him homage for the richness of his teachings, for his tenacity in defending the life and dignity of the human person. All of us want to thank him, above all, for his example of love for God and of Christian fortitude.

At the Campus Biomedico you try to cure the sick, or at least to alleviate their sufferings. You are taught to see in each sick person the image and likeness of God that every man and woman bears. Here we have a great vantage point to understand the marvelous lesson that the Pope has been giving us recently: to help us understand the salvific value of suffering; to teach us to love and serve the sick, seeing in them Christ who suffers and who is our Redeemer. Let us renew, then, our resolution to offer him our affection, our prayers and our work.

Let us ask our Lord, through the intercession of our Lady, who is the greatest human being and at the same time the humble housewife of the home in Nazareth, for the divine and human art of doing great things with a sense of our human littleness, and the smallest and most humble things with a sense of our greatness as God’s sons and daughters. Amen.

[1] Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, Homily at the inauguration of the first academic year, October 15, 1993.

[2] St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, no. 823.

[3] The Way, no. 826.

Romana, n. 37, July-December 2003, p. 41-44.

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