Inauguration of the Academic Year, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome (October 10, 2011)

My dear professors, students and administrative personnel at the University of the Holy Cross:

I am grateful to God for allowing me to be with you here at this solemn celebration of the Eucharist. As is traditional, the Mass for the inauguration of the academic year is the votive Mass of the Holy Spirit. We direct ourselves, then, to the Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, so that all our activity throughout this academic year may be converted into an act of spiritual worship, offered to God the Father through the mediation of Jesus Christ.

The first reading of the Liturgy of the Word presents to us the scene of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the apostles on the day of Pentecost. “And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”[1] The apostles, who up till that moment had been frightened, set out to proclaim courageously God’s wonders: “Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”[2] Moreover, the Spirit of Truth opened their minds to penetrate more deeply into Christ’s teachings, as our Lord himself had promised: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”[3]

Let us ask the Holy Spirit to make us always docile to his divine inspirations, in order to draw as much fruit as possible from the study of the ecclesiastical sciences, which help us to go more deeply into the content of the word of God. In this regard, Benedict XVI, in his post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, teaches that: “There can be no authentic understanding of Christian revelation apart from the activity of the Paraclete.”[4]

Therefore the saints, that is, those who truly seek our Lord and are docile in the highest degree to the action of the Holy Spirit, are also those who understand most deeply the meaning of Sacred Scripture. As the Pope writes in the same Exhortation: “The most profound interpretation of Scripture comes precisely from those who let themselves be shaped by the word of God through listening, reading, and assiduous meditation.”[5] And the Roman Pontiff continues: “Holiness in the Church constitutes an interpretation of Scripture which cannot be overlooked. The Holy Spirit who inspired the sacred authors is the same Spirit who impels the saints to offer their lives for the Gospel. In striving to learn from their example, we set out on the sure way towards a living and effective hermeneutic of the word of God.”[6]

The saints make the word of God alive and timely, because they incarnate it in their lives and, with their various charisms, give a special emphasis to certain specific aspects of Christian revelation, bringing us light for our own journey here on earth. The Pope says that “every saint is like a ray of light streaming forth from the word of God: we can think of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in his search for truth and in his discernment of spirits; Saint John Bosco in his passion for the education of the young; Saint John Mary Vianney in his awareness of the grandeur of the priesthood as gift and task; Saint Pius of Pietrelcina in his serving as an instrument of divine mercy; Saint Josemaría Escrivá in his preaching of the universal call to holiness.”[7]

The person who inspired this university, St. Josemaría, guided by the Holy Spirit, from as early as the twenties of the last century preached forcefully and very attractively a fundamental Gospel teaching: the universal call to holiness, which had been passed over in silence for many centuries in the history of the Church. Let us consider, for example, this reflection from The Way: “Your duty is to sanctify yourself. Yes, even you. Who thinks that this task is only for priests and religious? To everyone, without exception, our Lord said: ‘Be ye perfect, as my heavenly Father is perfect.’”[8] It is this teaching that has led many people to see in the founder of Opus Dei a precursor of the Second Vatican Council, for he loved Sacred Scripture as the “hinge” on which his daily conversation with the Trinity rested.

Let us ask God, then, as we begin a new academic year, through the intercession of St. Josemaría, that all of us who form part of this university community may learn how to sanctify ourselves through our daily work, a work done with human and supernatural perfection, with the awareness that today, as always, our Lord continues his dialogue with his people and with those to whom he has entrusted his flock.

I would like, finally, to recall another great spiritual teacher, John Paul II, whose recent beatification filled the hearts of the faithful with joy. I want to mention, especially, his total abandonment in our Lady’s hands, as Benedict XVI emphasized in the homily at the Mass of Beatification: “Karol Wojtyla took part in the Second Vatican Council, first as an auxiliary Bishop and then as Archbishop of Krakow. He was fully aware that the Council’s decision to devote the last chapter of its Constitution on the Church to Mary meant that the Mother of the Redeemer is held up as an image and model of holiness for every Christian and for the entire Church. This was the theological vision which Blessed John Paul II discovered as a young man and subsequently maintained and deepened throughout his life. A vision which is expressed in the scriptural image of the crucified Christ with Mary, his Mother, at his side. This icon from the Gospel of John (19:25-27) was taken up in the episcopal and later the papal coat-of-arms of Karol Wojtyla: a golden cross with the letter “M” on the lower right and the motto “Totus Tuus,” drawn from the well-known words of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort in which Karol Wojtyla found a guiding light for his life: “Totus tuus ego sum et omnia mea tua sunt. Accipio te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor tuum, Maria—I belong entirely to you, and all that I have is yours. I take you for my all. O Mary, give me your heart” (Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, no. 266).”[9]

We cannot forget that this Pontiff looked upon the work of our Alma Mater with paternal affection, since he saw it as another crossroads for reflection and dialogue that could help professors and students to penetrate more deeply into the mysteries of God, and to spur all of us to feel the need to be true apostles.

Following in the footsteps then of St. Josemaría and of Blessed John Paul II, we too, with renewed energy, place once again in the hands of holy Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, the work of the academic year that is beginning today.

[1] Acts 2:3-4.

[2] Acts 2:11.

[3] Jn 14:26.

[4] Benedict XVI, Apost. Exhortation Verbum Domini, September 30, 2010, no. 15.

[5] Ibid., no. 48.

[6] Ibid., no. 49.

[7] Ibid. no. 48.

[8] St. Josemaría, The Way, no. 291.

[9] Benedict XVI, Homily at the beatification of John Paul II, May 1, 2011.

Romana, n. 53, July-December 2011, p. 258-260.

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