The aims of a truly Catholic University

Author Image

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