At the inauguration of the academic year, the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome (October 8, 2007)

At the inauguration of the

academic year, Pontifical

University of the Holy Cross

Most excellent and honored guests, professors, students and all who work at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross:

With our heart full of thanks to our Lord, we are here once again to start a new academic year, the 24th of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Seeing the basilica of Saint Apollinare and the building where we sit, our gratitude is almost tangible. Over many centuries these buildings have witnessed the tradition of ecclesiastical studies; now, happily, their renovation has restored them to their former splendor.

The remodeling of the library building is also near completion. My thoughts go out to all those who in various ways have made these goals possible: to the numerous benefactors throughout the entire world and their generous support, and to all of you, faculty, administrators and students, who have worked throughout this year with the unavoidable distractions caused by the construction.

All this effort allows our University to better fulfill its mission of service to the Church, through teaching and research in the various sacred disciplines, and in sincere dialogue with contemporary culture and society. As our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us, we live in a society which is suffering a “crisis of culture and identity, which in these decades dramatically places itself before our eyes. The University is one of the best qualified places to attempt to find opportune ways to exit from this situation.”[1]

This opening to the world, to its problems and hopes, characterizes the specific mission of a university, and especially a university dedicated to ecclesiastical studies, which by their nature depend on divine revelation. With great emotion, I recall that Holy Mass which Saint Josemaría Escrivá celebrated on the campus of the University of Navarre exactly forty years ago, on the 8th of October 1967. There the Founder of Opus Dei gave an unforgettable homily, later published with the particularly expressive title of “Passionately Loving the World.” In this homily he outlined, in a penetrating way, the limitless panorama of holiness in the middle of the world, in and through one’s professional work lived as an authentic Christian vocation.

Now I would like to refer to this homily and draw your attention to something that touches the everyday task of each of you, faculty, students, administrative and technical personnel. You dedicate your strength and energies to this academic community, which serves people from all over the world who come to Rome, led by their desire to grow in faith and then communicate it to others with passion and drive.

In a well known quotation from the homily, Saint Josemaría forcefully reminds us that: “there is a something holy, divine, hidden in the most common situations, something which touches each of us which we are called to discover.”[2] That fascinating and pressing invitation directly concerns us, as we are about to begin another academic year. It pertains to the work of all of you, who in different ways participate in the realization of this initiative.

Of course, this invitation is worthwhile for every profession or activity in which a person may be involved, because it is a real path to union with God and with humanity. But it must be heeded in a special way when one’s study, research and teaching involve God Himself and his revelation. That something divine, hidden in the everyday, demands that a soul to be attentive and docile to the actions of the Holy Spirit. It demands a sincere desire to open oneself to the mysteries of God in their entirety and an effort personally to identify oneself with Jesus Christ and with his Word of salvation. This permits us to discover unexpected panoramas and delineates the university’s task in the Church and in society.

Certainly there will be moments in which this search for the divine may become more difficult: in monotonous work that seems repetitive, in the difficulty inherent in the completion of one’s own tasks, in the apparent sterility of the work undertaken. In these moments, the task sustained by the grace of God permits us to experience what Saint Josemaría promised: “I assure you, my sons and daughters, that when a Christian carries out with love the most insignificant everyday action, that action overflows with the transcendence of God. That is why I have told you repeatedly, and hammered away once and again on the idea that the Christian vocation consists of making heroic verse out of the prose of each day.”[3]

I encourage you, professors, to give yourselves passionately to study and research with creative originality, to know how to prepare yourselves to meet the demands of contemporary culture. In a constructive dialogue with your colleagues, you must see that you are the guides and teachers of the next generation, which is being formed in your classroom.

I turn now to you, students, who have come from all over the world and now spend these years in Rome, a privileged place to experience the Church’s Catholicity. May these years be an occasion not only to learn seriously your area of study, but also, through these studies, to open yourself to the horizons of the Church alive in every part of the Earth, and to rededicate yourself to the charity of Christ, which will help you to be of authentic service to all men.

Those of you who have tasks of administration and technology, your valuable work allows the teaching, study and research to be orderly and efficient. By fulfilling your tasks with professionalism and competence, and with your warm and attentive manner, you will make all those who come to these buildings feel as if they were “at home.”

And finally, following the teachings of the gospel, I would like to remind you that the something divine is found above all in charity, which makes us discover the face of Christ in the people around us. They will share the efforts, work and joy that we will encounter in this academic year 2007-2008 which, under the intercession of Holy Mary, we proclaim inaugurated.

[1] Benedict XVI, Address to the Students of the Pontifical Lateran University, October 21, 2006.

[2] Conversations with Josemaría Escrivá, no. 114.

[3] Conversations with Josemaría Escrivá, no. 116.

Romana, n. 45, July-December 2007, p. 280-282.

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