[CUA Office of Public Affairs]

Sept. 1, 2006

 

Archbishop Wuerl Speaks About CUA and the Catholic Mission

 

Hundreds of Catholic University students, faculty and staffed jammed into a standing-room-only Crypt Church in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Thursday, Aug. 31, to celebrate the university’s opening Mass of the academic year and to hear Catholic University’s new chancellor preach.

 

During his homily, Archbishop Donald Wuerl, a CUA alumnus who recently was named to a university professorship, noted that those who study and work at Catholic University share a unique experience.

 

“A Catholic university, this university, offers you a vision of belonging to something much larger than just yourself,” he said. “It is not as isolated individuals that we make our way through life but as members of a community — your first experience of this is as a member of a family.

 

“Just as we are nurtured and grow within the confines of our natural family, so do we develop and mature within the embrace of our spiritual family, the Church.

 

“This university opens its doors and arms to everyone. No student who enters this campus is asked to leave his or her faith at the entrance. But as an institution, the university invites all to recognize that the values which guide this university, and life on its campus, are manifestations of the faith of a larger spiritual family — the Church.”

 

For the complete text of his homily, see below.

 

At the conclusion of the Mass, Archbishop Wuerl offered remarks specifically addressed to Catholic University’s faculty. Later, Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, CUA president, remarked that “All of us were deeply touched when, at the conclusion of the Mass, Archbishop Wuerl spoke so thoughtfully and so personally to the faculty, encouraging them in their role as ‘custodians of the tradition.’ His words clearly meant a great deal to the faculty and to all of us present. He is, indeed, one of us at CUA.”

 

Father O’Connell said that he was gratified by the impressive turnout. “There are few moments during the academic year at The Catholic University of America that make me feel as proud to lead this institution as that moment during the opening Mass of the Holy Spirit when the faculty and whole community stand together to recite the profession of faith.”

 

Following the Mass, the entire CUA community was invited to a picnic on the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center lawn, where students, faculty, staff and administrators had an opportunity to meet the new chancellor.

 

Note: Additional photos of the Mass and picnic will be posted later this afternoon on http://galleries.cua.edu/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homily by Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, S.T.D.

Archbishop of Washington

 

Those who study the development of technology and science tell us that in the past 20 years we have witnessed what is truly a quantum leap in what we know in these areas and how we communicate.  There are those who would assert that in our lifetime we have developed more data, information, technology and the ability to communicate than in all of the period of prior recorded history. Whatever the verification of that assertion, I think we are all aware that we live in a highly scientific-, technological- and information-oriented world. Life at a university is an invitation to learn, absorb and appropriate so much of the information and data available to us. 

 

But there is also more. We need to know as well what to do with all of our scientific and technological information. We need to make judgments about how we use what we know. There is a great distinction between knowledge, information, the accumulation of data and wisdom. 

 

The opening of this academic year brings us to this Shrine so that we can open our hearts in prayer for the blessings of the Spirit, including the gifts of wisdom, understanding and right judgment. 

 

But we also do more. We come here to recognize that this university brings us into a heightened awareness of what faith contributes to the great human enterprise of examining and judging the human condition. 

 

Every year Catholic University opens its academic season with a Mass invoking the Holy Spirit.  This celebration this morning is both a prayer that God will bless all of us, especially the incoming freshmen class, and also a visual recognition or statement about what is particular to a Catholic school.

 

What distinguishes a Catholic university or college from any other institution of higher learning is the faith context that provides its identity. Each of us gathered for this celebration of the Eucharist identifies ourselves in part by our belief in God and our faith in Christ.

 

Catholic University stands in the midst of this community as an integral part of the Catholic Church and its proclamation that Jesus is the answer to the significant questions of human life: 

 

How shall I live? 

What is the purpose of life? 

What are the values that should direct my steps through life?

 

Even those who do not share our faith come to this university because they know that at its heart there is the acceptance of values motivated by our faith — values that present a specific vision or view of human life.

 

As you approach this academic year, whether it is your first, last or intervening year on campus, you take an additional step in the formation of your character and the refining of your vision of life. In short, you will mold your outlook in a way that will direct you well into the future.

 

Another dimension to the Judeo-Christian tradition, of which this university is a living expression, is the realization that we do not face life, the human condition and our response to it alone. It is precisely as a community that the Church receives God’s word, deepens its understanding in that revelation and applies that gift to the circumstances of our day. 

 

A Catholic university, this university, offers you a vision of belonging to something much larger than just yourself. It is not as isolated individuals that we make our way through life but as members of a community — your first experience of this is as a member of a family.

 

Just as we are nurtured and grow within the confines of our natural family, so do we develop and mature within the embrace of our spiritual family, the Church.

 

This university opens its doors and arms to everyone. No student who enters this campus is asked to leave his or her faith at the entrance. But as an institution, the university invites all to recognize that the values which guide this university, and life on its campus, are manifestations of the faith of a larger spiritual family — the Church.

 

This academic learning community, of which you are now a part, is an expression of that communion or community of faith and spiritual conviction.

 

We should not be surprised if life on this campus is different than what we would experience on some other university and college campuses. By definition, The Catholic University of America family is committed to the exploration of human intellectual advancement precisely out of a lived tradition rooted in the word of God — the wisdom of God. Thus as a university family, we are committed to values and the recognition of the place of virtue in our lives as we develop and face the challenge of personal individual choices and decisions.

 

By its very definition, the Church will always be countercultural. The beginnings of the kingdom of God breaking into this world will necessarily be in contrast with the wisdom and values of the world. What the living tradition, on which this university stands, brings to our modern world is the wisdom that helps us answer the questions not only what can I do and how can I do it, but what should I do and what ought I do.

 

At the same time, we are invited into one of the great, if not greatest, human adventures — the changing of the world into a better place that is truly reflective of what the Scriptures call the kingdom of God — a realm of justice, peace, truth, compassion and love. 

 

The Church and her educational institutions have the task of transforming human culture and bringing to fulfillment all of the created goodness that seeks fullness in Christ. The transformation of the temporal order will always be the mission of the Church and its manifold institutional expressions.

 

Two thousand years ago, God sent his own son among us. Jesus became one of us so that he could share our human experience and, at the same time, reveal to us the meaning of life, the importance of the choices we make, and the purpose and goal of our existence. Jesus is the answer to the questions most deep within our heart. How shall I live? What is the purpose of life? What gives meaning to the things I do? What is the goal of my existence? What does God ask of me?

 

The prayer today and the Gospel reading remind us of the place and power of God’s Spirit in our lives. Your faith is an identifying characteristic of yourself, your experience, your life.  Never hesitate to recognize the importance of God’s word, God’s wisdom and your relationship to God as you make your way through life and through these great formative years. 

 

It is my joy to celebrate with the whole Catholic University family this Eucharistic liturgy invoking the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is my way of publicly affirming the Catholic identity of the university and its commitment to be a vibrant, thriving, productive part of that spiritual communion in faith that we call the Church.

 

We pray to the Holy Spirit for the wisdom, understanding, courage, counsel and knowledge to appropriate the revelation of Jesus that he is the way and the truth and the life. We ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and strengthen us as we grapple with all of the values, or lack of values, that are a part of our culture as we come to integrate into our own view of life the timeless intuition “that it is not by bread alone that we live.”

 

May God bless you and all who support this university to help make the Church’s vision of life and your dreams for the future come true.

 

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Revised: 9/1/2006

All contents copyright © 2006.
The Catholic University of America,
Office of Public Affairs.