Keeping Catholic Identity in Troubled Times

Keeping Catholic Identity in Troubled Times
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Back in 1978, when the College of Cardinals selected Karol Wojtyla to lead the Catholic Church, he began his pontificate with the message most often repeated in the Scripture – “Be not afraid!” That phrase echoed through Scripture on many occasions and in various forms reassures us of God’s love; it encourages us to let the Lord work in our lives; it inspires us to overcome fear and anxiety by remaining focused on the Lord. It has special significance to me. I wear a ring on my left hand that reminds me of my commitment to the Lord. I have been wearing it since I professed my solemn vows back in 2005. On the inside of the ring, in very small type, is the Latin phrase: “Nolite Timere,” which translates as “Do not be afraid.”

Our desire to serve the Lord faithfully should be our motivation. Our Lord leads and guides us and pours out His graces and mercy upon us as we strive to do His Holy will. Too often people act out of fear, fear of what might happen, fear of letting go, fear of what other people might think of them. Fear should not be our motivator. Today, we are confronted by a secular society with distorted views. Contraception, abortion, same sex unions and euthanasia are legal, but nonetheless, contrary to the teachings of the Church. Franciscan University has always stood alongside the successors of the apostles and will continue to be unwavering in our commitment to the Catholic faith and tradition.

There is no alternative for a Catholic institution focused on following Christ and striving to do His Holy will.

We are a pro-life institution that fosters the dignity of human life. We witness to this with our words and actions, as for example, when we participate in the National Prayer Vigil for Life and March for Life, even if it means being stopped on the Pennsylvania turnpike for 36 hours.

In addition, it is always inspiring to see our administrators and the growing number of faculty members (sacred music, philosophy and education) who have voluntarily offered to make publicly the profession of faith and oath of fidelity to the magisterium in addition to our theologians and pastoral ministers whom the Church asks to do so.

Recently, I spoke to a group of canon lawyers about current issues facing Catholic universities. I pointed to arguments that some people raise to suggest that the law of the Church, particularly as embodied in Saint John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Ex corde Ecclesiae, is either insufficient to address current issues or outdated and ought to be disregarded totally. I, however, believe that there is great wisdom that we can draw from the mind of the great Saint to resolve current issues.

Those of us involved in this great endeavor of Catholic higher education that was “born from the heart of the Church” should always remain focused on the “privileged task ‘to unite existentially by intellectual effort two orders of reality that too frequently tend to be placed in opposition as though they were antithetical: the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth.’" 

A Catholic university should always remain true to its mission as an institution that is both Catholic and a university. Moreover, we must always remain focused on the Lord and remind ourselves of both the mandate and the promise that He gave us: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe always all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20). If we do so, then we have no reason to fear, for the Lord walks before us calling us to follow Him.

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