One of my favorite hymns is Come Holy Ghost, especially when it is sung with fervor at the beginning of Mass. The words of the hymn are attributed to Archbishop Rabanus Maurus, a 9th century theologian and Archbishop of Mainz, Germany. The music of the hymn was composed by Jesuit Father Louis Lambillotte in the 19th century. We often sing this hymn at Pentecost and at Confirmation Masses, as well as at the beginning of new academic years.
These past few weeks students have returned back to school throughout our diocese. I have enjoyed celebrating Masses opening the academic year at Holy Cross College, at the University of Saint Francis, at IPFW, and at Saint Louis Academy, New Haven. And, of course, with great joy, I presided at the dedication and blessing of our new Saint Joseph High School in South Bend.
During these opening days of school, I have asked the Holy Spirit to fill our academic communities with His manifold gifts, especially the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. I have reflected on the words of Jesus to the disciples: The Holy Spirit, the Counsellor, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things.
In speaking to our students, I invited them to take some time every day to listen to the Divine Teacher, the Lord Jesus, through prayer. Amidst the noise and activity of daily life, we should not be afraid of silence and stillness. The Holy Spirit will indeed teach us if we listen to Him, if we pray, if we allow the Word of God to shape us and our life’s journey.
I’d like to share with you some excerpts from my homily at the University of Saint Francis last week:
What happens when we make time for God, when we have a spiritual life? We find sustenance for our journey; we discover peace and joy even when experiencing challenges and difficulties. The Holy Spirit gives us strength and fortitude. We learn to live more profoundly and not a merely superficial existence. I invite you to begin this new year with determination to grow not only intellectually, but also spiritually, through daily contact with God. The Word of God shows us the authentic way to live when we listen to that Word and open ourselves to the light of the Holy Spirit. …
God alone can fill the deepest aspirations of our hearts. Saint Augustine learned this after many years living apart from God. In the account of his conversion in his great book, The Confessions, Saint Augustine wrote: O God, you have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You. This is a great truth. God must be the One toward whom we constantly journey if our lives are to have real meaning.
One of the great benefits of studying at a Catholic university is the opportunity to pursue and contemplate truth through faith and reason, and thus the whole truth about creation, nature, the human person, and God. There is the opportunity for spiritual and intellectual growth. In a culture of increasing secularism, where God is often ignored and unknown, you are able to pursue the truth and delve into the deeper questions that deal with the meaning and purpose of life. You are able to study and contemplate the mystery of God. Catholicism does not accept “the secularist ideology that drives a wedge between science and faith or between reason and faith.”
“In an age of a growing mentality of relativism, which holds that everything is equally valid, that truth and absolute points of reference do not exist,” you are able to see the flaws of such a mentality, the falsehood of the relativism that leads to “instability, confusion, and blind conformity to the fads of the moment” (Pope Benedict XVI, August 6, 2012). In an authentically Catholic university, one learns the way to true freedom, one that is not “detached from values, rules and objective norms” (Pope Benedict XVI, March 28, 2010).
Without God in our life, we can so easily become slaves to ourselves, “to our immediate desires, to idols like power, money, unbridled pleasure” and other entrapments that stifle our “inborn vocation to love.”
Pope Benedict XVI said the following to young people: “God gives us the commandments because He wants to teach us true freedom. He wants to build a kingdom of love, justice and peace together with us. When we listen to the commandments and put them into practice, it does not mean that we have become estranged from ourselves, but that we find the way to freedom and authentic love. The commandments do not place limits on happiness, but rather show us how to find it.” These words offer a very counter-cultural perspective today. I invite you to be counter-culture in this climate of relativism, to have faith that God’s commandments indeed lead to life, true freedom and happiness and guarantee our authenticity.
The Holy Spirit will teach you all things. I pray that all our students, at whatever level of their education, will be open to the Spirit of Truth. I have been encouraging all our children and young people to make time for prayer so as to grow in faith through personal contact with God. This is important for all of us since what God wants most of each one of us is that we become holy. The secret of true joy is friendship with Jesus Christ and openness to the power of the Holy Spirit!
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