The Catholic University of America

Aug. 30, 2007

CUA Professes its Faith at Opening Mass

At the altar, from left: Rev. Kurt Pritzl, O.P., Father O'Connell, Archbishop Wuerl, Monsignor Kevin Irwin and Rev. Robert Schlageter, O.F.M. Conv.
Catholic University's president, Very Rev. David. M. O'Connell, C.M., challenged the CUA community to make each day a "Holy Thursday" of loving service during his homily Aug. 30 at the university's opening Mass of the academic year in the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

At the Mass, celebrated by Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, and attended by a standing room only crowd of hundreds of students, faculty and staff, Father O'Connell exhorted the CUA community to "wash one another's feet . . . as an act of courage . . . as an act of conviction," saying that without love, the search for faith and reason is diminished.

"If our pursuit for truth and its dialogue with faith and reason only result in the accumulation of knowledge, even the increase of knowledge, something incredibly important is missing. There has to be more," he said.

Archbishop Wuerl lectures to students enrolled in "Foundation in Catholicism."
"As faculty, we lecture but do we love? Do we see in our classrooms . . . an opportunity for service? Do we recognize in the truth and knowledge we impart a genuine responsibility to fulfill the Lord's commands by our example as well as our words?" Father O'Connell asked the congregants. "As students, we learn but do we love? Do we take the great privilege that we have been given and translate it into a desire to make the world a better place, to care for those less privileged, to make a difference because of the truth?"

Archbishop Wuerl, who is also chancellor of CUA, has spent 29 of his 41 years in the priesthood teaching. He was hailed by Father O'Connell as an "education bishop" for his enduring contributions to Catholic education. Earlier in the day, Archbishop Wuerl offered his first lecture since his appointment as the Cardinal William Baum University Professor of Theology at Catholic University, speaking on "The Bishop as Teacher" to students enrolled in the course "Foundation in Catholicism."

The professorship will provide Archbishop Wuerl with the opportunity to lecture and teach periodically in the discipline of theology, while exercising his primary ministry as the spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of Washington. He will discuss "The Role of Religion in a Pluralistic Society" Tuesday Oct. 23, 2007, as the guest lecturer for The Cardinal John Dearden Lecture sponsored by the School of Theology and Religious Studies.

The CUA community enjoys the university's second annual picnic following Mass at the Basilica.
Following the Mass, the entire CUA community attended a picnic on the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center lawn. This is the second annual picnic hosted by Father O'Connell following the Mass of the Holy Spirit.

Note: Additional photos of the Mass and picnic will be posted on http://galleries.cua.edu/. - M.M.











Homily by Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., CUA president

I want to speak to you today about love - the kind of love that does "nothing out of selfishness or vain glory;" the kind of love that "humbly regards others as more important than yourselves." I want to speak to you today about love - the kind of love that we hear about and witness in the Gospel today; the kind of love that dropped the Lord Jesus Christ to his knees to wash the feet of those who followed him, those he loved most in the world. Those he loved until the end.

Clergy process into the Crypt Church.
This Gospel passage always stops me dead in my tracks. When you think about this text, it is so profound and so moving. This Gospel is used on Holy Thursday, when Christians everywhere recall how the Lord Jesus prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice and most perfect demonstration of love a person could make. First, he gave us the Eucharist, in which, as Pope Benedict reminds us in his first encyclical, he "anticipated his death and resurrection by giving his disciples, in the bread and wine, his very self, his body and blood (DCE, art. 13.)" And, then, he gave up his life for us. As John reminds us elsewhere in his Gospel, "Greater love than this no one has than to lay down one's life for one's friends … you are my friends if you do what I command you. And what I command you is this: Love one another."

The Gospel prelude to all of this - the Eucharist, the Cross and Resurrection, the Great Commandment - is a simple, humble act of love and Jesus invites us to do the same: "as I have done for you, so also you should do."

When Jesus says such things in the Gospels, what do you think he means? Or, a better question: Do you think he means it? What impact does the Gospel really have on your life and mine?

My sisters and brothers in Christ, members of the community that is The Catholic University of America, it may strike you as odd that I chose this theme for my homily at the opening Mass of the new academic year. You may have expected a homily that addresses the pursuit of truth or the dialogue between reason and faith, things more academic than love.

Here in our university community, we grasp the importance of truth and the enduring value of reason. It's what we do for a living - both faculty and students - it is the purpose for our existence as a university. Similarly, here in our Catholic university community, we likewise see the indispensable value added by faith as we search for truth. Both reason and faith, as Pope John Paul reminded us in his encyclical Fides et ratio: "are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth - in a word, to know himself - so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves (cf. Ex 33:18; Ps 27:8-9; 63:2-3; Jn 14:8; 1 Jn 3:2)." That is also what we do for a living; it is also the purpose for the existence of this university.

If, however, our pursuit for truth and its dialogue with faith and reason only result in the accumulation of knowledge, even the increase of knowledge, something incredibly important is missing. There has to be more. There has to be more to the life of a Catholic university than simply the expansion of the mind. Again, Pope Benedict wrote in Deus Caritas Est, "being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction (DCE, art. 1)." Today, I propose that our encounter be with the person of the Lord Jesus on his knees in service of those who surrounded him in that upper room on Holy Thursday. Today, I propose that we expand the circle of those who surround him to include everyone who crosses our path - everyone, regardless of their status or position - everyone here at this Catholic university. Today, I propose that we make every day here a "Holy Thursday" of loving service, and that we make of our campus "the upper room" of today's Gospel. This, I believe, is what the Lord Jesus means when he says, "As I have done for you, so also you should do."

As faculty, we lecture but do we love? Do we see in our classrooms an opportunity to wash the feet of our disciples? An opportunity for service? Do we recognize in the truth and knowledge we impart a genuine responsibility to fulfill the Lord's commands by our example as well as our words?

Students kneel at the Mass of the Holy Spirit.

As students, we learn but do we love? Do we take the great privilege that we have been given and translate it into a desire to make the world a better place, to care for those less privileged, to make a difference because of the truth? Are we willing to wash the feet of those around us today and long into tomorrow?

As administrators and staff, we labor but do we love? Do we respect those who come to us in need, do we build up the community in service to our faculty and students and one another, do we present The Catholic University of America as a place where "reason, faith and service" blend together as loving commitment to the future?

To wash one another's feet is not only an act of love, not simply an act of service. It is an act of courage, a bold statement that we believe that the Lord Jesus meant what he said and did. It is an act of conviction. It is a willingness to stand against the selfishness and narrowness that can, at times, characterize the academy. To wash one another's feet is to be for others - and to do it as a community is to be for others, with others. That is the call of the Gospel today. That is what this Eucharist invites us to consider as we receive the Lord of Love into our hearts. "As I have done for you, so also you should do."

"For in the end three things endure: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (Corinthians 13: 13)."


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