On the Occasion of the Inauguration of the Academic Year at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare, Rome (October 3, 2022)
After the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, after the rushing wind and the tongues of fire, the first thing the Apostles do is both miraculous and simple: they speak. The first consequence of the coming of the Holy Spirit is the word. The Apostles speak. And they speak not according to their own ideas or according to what people want or expect to hear, but according to what the Holy Spirit gives them power to say.
We do not know exactly what they said at that first moment, but we do know that they spoke the truth, because the Holy Spirit, as our Lord said to the Apostles at the Last Supper, is the “Spirit of truth” (Jn16:13). It is He who leads us to the whole truth. It is He who, as we have just read in the Gospel (Jn 14:26), teaches us and reminds us of what Jesus himself said. He is the one who leads us to share the truth with others.
In this Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, we are committed to the work of education, which is at the service of the truth. The university exists to communicate the truth, to transmit the truth to a new generation, to spread the truth to others. This university exists to transmit the truths of divine revelation, which we ourselves have received from previous generations.
It is only natural, therefore, that the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, should guide us in this task. This is one of the reasons why, at the beginning of each academic year, we contemplate these texts from Sacred Scripture and ask, at Holy Mass, that the Holy Spirit may assist us in the year that is beginning: that He may teach us and remind us and lead us to the whole truth.
We know that the mission of the Holy Spirit is a mission of mercy. Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to the Apostles so that they may go throughout the world forgiving sins (Jn 20:22-23). This is one of the forms that divine mercy takes. But in a university mercy also takes another form, because we know that the communication of truth is itself a work of mercy: one of the spiritual works of mercy. Today we live in a world desperately in need of precisely this kind of mercy, the mercy that comes in the form of truth, of the Truth that sets us free. Our world suffers from confusion, doubt and ignorance, a suffering that is often invisible but no less real and painful. The world suffers and the Church suffers with the world.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, let us remember that education, the communication of truth, is a work of liberation, a true work of mercy, a form of charity. Education would not be understood in its authentic meaning if, on the part of the one who offers it or the one who receives it, this link with charity were lost sight of, for the Spirit of truth is also the Spirit of love, of merciful love. The truths about God, about Christ and about the Church that we profess in the Creed, and likewise the truths about the moral life, are instruments of true liberation, of mercy. They free us and others from the dangers of error and darkness. They illuminate our path in the world and in life.
The dedication to truth that characterizes the work in a university is a noble task, a service to the Church and to the world, and it should sanctify us, as our Lord Jesus Christ intended. During the Last Supper, Jesus implores his heavenly Father to “sanctify us in the Truth” (Jn 17:17-19). The university mission therefore is holy and should make us holy. And precisely because in our educational work we dedicate ourselves to communicating the truth, to sharing this truth with others, it also makes us apostles. As apostles, we participate in the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, in the proclamation of the truth that began at Pentecost.
The chapter of the Acts of the Apostles beginning with the feast of Pentecost ends with the disciples devoting “themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
With the help of the Holy Spirit, we want this new year in the life of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross to be marked by the same perseverance. Like the early Christians, we want to persevere in teaching the truth, in supernatural charity lived as friendship and fraternity, and in the Eucharist, which is the center and root of all Christian life.
If we do so, we will experience what the early Christians experienced and we will learn, like them, the most important lesson that can be learned – in the university or anywhere else: we will learn to walk freely as children of God, in the light of truth, in newness of life, sharing this Truth with a world in need of liberation.
Romana, n. 75, July-December 2022, p. 195-196.