The aims of a truly Catholic University
The following is the text of the homily given by Bishop Rhoades at the University of Saint Francis on August 31, 2016:
It is joy every year to celebrate this opening Mass of the academic year here at the University of Saint Francis. It is good to pray with you this morning and to ask the Lord to bless you and your studies and all your endeavors in this upcoming year.
I imagine most of you attend Saint Francis to prepare yourselves for a chosen field of future employment, to be educated for your future careers.Some of you are probably not sure yet what career path to follow. Perhaps you are taking a variety of courses to see what interests you the most. I hope all of you, though, are pursuing studies with an even higher aim, the aim of an education at a Catholic university. That aim is truth, truth in all its many aspects: the truth about the world and nature, the truth about the human person, and ultimately, the truth about God.
The mission of a Catholic university is not only to impart useful knowledge, not only to teach data, facts, and other information, but to pursue truth and all aspects of truth in their essential connection with the supreme Truth, who is God.
Catholic universities, born from the heart of the Church, have an expansive view of human reason, not one that is limited to certain scientific or mathematical truths or to the material world, but a reason that is open to transcendence, a reason open to the deeper realities of the human experience, like love, a reason that is open to God.
We pursue truth on the wings of both faith and reason. Not faith alone and not reason alone. We firmly uphold the compatibility of faith and reason. Against fideism (faith alone), the Catholic Church defends the power of reason and its ability to attain the truth. Against rationalism (reason alone), the Church believes that faith transforms reason and imbues it with the power to contemplate the highest truths.
Faith enriches the intellectual pursuits of the university. Our faith stirs our reason to move beyond the empirical and to take the risk to seek the true, the good, and the beautiful. Faith broadens the horizons of reason and enables it to be open to a reality beyond itself, and to the eternal and ultimate truth, Creative Reason itself. Ours is a religion of the Logos, the Word, not an impersonal Word, but the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us, the One who brings the ultimate and definitive answer to the question of human meaning. He is the human face of God, namely, Jesus of Nazareth. “The truth of Christ, since it affects every person in search of joy, happiness, and meaning, far exceeds any other truth that reason can discover..”(Pope Benedict XVI).
A Catholic university teaches beauty and recognizes that “the infinite beauty of God shines on the face of Christ” (Pope Benedict XVI). A Catholic university teaches goodness and virtue and recognizes that God’s goodness shines on the face of the One who suffered and died for us, the face that shows us that good triumphs over evil.
A Catholic university is open to mysteries that surpass, but do not contradict, reason. I think that education can be sterile and unfulfilling if it is not open to mystery, not open to pursue the ultimate questions, and the longings of the human heart. I invite you to take advantage of your Catholic education here at the University of Saint Francis to go deeper. I pray that you will have a real passion for the truth and for beauty and for goodness.
I encourage you to consider more deeply your vocation as human beings created in God’s image and likeness. What is that vocation? It’s the vocation to love, to find yourself through the sincere gift of self. I pray that while here at the University of Saint Francis, you will learn to live this vocation and that you will grow in intelligence of the heart as well as the mind!
Learning to live a life of virtue, a good and moral life, is part of the enterprise of Catholic education. A truly Catholic university recognizes that every student has not only a mind, but a soul. An authentic Catholic university seeks to inculcate a spirit of service in its students and obedience to the Lord’s command in today’s Gospel: “love one another as I love you.”
This coming Sunday, Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be canonized a saint. What a great day of celebration that will be for the entire Church. It is very appropriate that Mother Teresa is being canonized during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Pope Francis wrote that he desired that this Jubilee Year “be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God.” That is what Mother Teresa did. She heard God’s call to give up everything to serve Him in the poorest of the poor. She was truly His face of mercy, love, and compassion in the lives of so many suffering people.
In the faces of the saints, we see something of the love and mercy of God. This is because the saints, like Mother Teresa, opened their hearts to the merciful love of God in their lives. Then they carried that mercy and love to others. Mother Teresa carried God’s love to people who were unwanted, unloved, lonely, forgotten, and abandoned. She teaches all of us about our vocation to love. She teaches us, as Pope Francis exhorts us, to “go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God.” This is a lesson that is part of an education at a Catholic university. I pray that your education here at the University of Saint Francis will be an education of the heart as well as the mind, an education in virtue, and an education in love. That’s what we learn at this altar today, at the school of the Eucharist, that “no one has greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Here at this altar, the sacrifice of Christ becomes present for us in mystery, in the sacrament of His Body broken for us and His blood poured out for us. The Eucharist is the sacrament of charity. Here we learn, celebrate, and receive Christ’s gift of Himself to us, the gift of love that strengthened Mother Teresa for her amazing life of loving service of the poor, the gift of love that strengthens us to live good and holy lives. The education we receive here at the Eucharist is the most important lesson you can learn at the University of Saint Francis, because if it’s learned, the reward is more than a diploma, it’s a crown of glory in heaven!