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

Inaugurating the academic year,

Pontifical University of the Holy Cross,

Basilica of St. Apollinaris

Dear professors, students, and staff:

At the beginning of this new academic year, as we celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit, we invoke the Paraclete to illuminate our hearts and intercede for our protection.

The renovation of this building, which offers us so many new possibilities for our work, is reason to give thanks to God. It also invites us to renovate our lives with a desire to praise the Lord through our work. If you permit me this comparison, we can see in the reinforcement of the walls and foundation together with the renovation of the windows, a symbol of our own work, which we want to fulfill every day with greater love and perfection.

Many people from all over the world send their prayers and generous contributions to support the work we are endeavoring to carry out in our university for the good of the Church. This is great responsibility. It is beyond any merely human power and requires a full and decisive effort.

When I think of the activity of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, I am reminded of an aspiration that Saint Josemaría liked to repeat: Omnes cum Petro ad Iesum per Mariam, “All with Peter to Jesus through Mary.”[1] Today these words can help us, in the presence of God, to consider the need for renewing our academic and spiritual life, which is necessary for fulfilling the mission our Lord has given us.

Omnes Cum Petro

For us, this Omnes cum Petro calls to mind that we are in Rome. We have come to the city which holds the remains of Saint Peter. Here lives his successor, head of the universal Church, the “sweet Christ on earth,” as Saint Catherine of Siena used to call him. In the city of Rome, the first Christians listened to the voices of Peter and Paul. Here they heard the words of God directly from an Apostle who had lived with Jesus for three years. Rome is the city which became the engine of evangelization for the entire empire.

Dear students and professors, your family and friends probably look at you with holy envy—and rightly so—because you are so close to where the Holy Father lives. From various places in this very building, one need only raise his eyes to see the dome of Saint Peter’s. Coming from every continent, you feel in this city the breath and vitality of the universal Church. We manifest the unity of the universal Church when we feel the Holy Father to be a true father, present in our hearts, a father whom we should accompany with filial love, with our prayer, and with our work.

We should manifest our closeness to the Holy Father in concrete acts: praying for him at Holy Mass; offering our small difficulties to God for his intentions; listening to his pastoral teaching; obeying him as sons in everything.

Omnes cum Petro, ad Iesum per Mariam

Ad Iesum... Jesus should be the center of our lives. He is the reason why we work here. Our life on earth is circumscribed by time. We must use this time well, for if it is lived with intensity and supernatural vision, it links us with eternity.

Every year, ineluctably, people dear to us pass away. Through them, our Lord reminds us that we are only passing through this life. Some of them have been in our classrooms as professors, students, employees, benefactors, and relatives. We remember them in our prayer. This prayer helps us raise our eyes to eternity, to Jesus, our Savior. Jesus is the meaning of our lives. He is the object of our study. He is the reason why we work. Without Him, without our desire to place Him constantly in the center of our life, we would be missing what is most fundamental.

Benedict XVI desires that the 2000th anniversary of Saint Paul’s birth be celebrated in a special way in 2008. We will recall his zeal for souls and his love for Jesus, which can be seen in the letter he wrote to the Romans of his time and to all of us who now live in Rome: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, neither present nor what will come, nor power, nor the heights nor depths, nor any other creature can ever separate us from the love of God, in Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).

The task to which we are all dedicated, each in his own way, is to announce Jesus, to know his love, and to make Him known. We know that the work done here will help give sustenance to millions of souls who are starving for eternal truth. Jesus is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist. In the Sacrifice of the Mass, He gives himself to everyone. We should correspond to his love by our desire to make him known and spread his message. He awaits us in the tabernacle, seeking our intimacy, our friendship, and our love.

Omnes cum Petro, ad Iesum per Mariam

Per Mariam...Over the centuries Christians have lived the month of October with special love for Mary, and have sought Jesus through her in the mysteries of the Holy Rosary. Throughout the entire academic year, Holy Mary our Mother will look upon us with love and joy, just as she has throughout our lives, as a mother with her son. When we look affectionately at the picture of Mary which, next to the crucifix, presides over every classroom, she appreciates our love. She directs our gaze to Him who made her blessed to all generations. May she direct us to Jesus, so that He may become the center of our lives and we may find in Him all that we need.


[1] Christ is Passing By, no. 139.

Romana, n. 45, July-December 2007, p. 275-277.

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