Evangelization and universities

As we finished reading Veritatis splendor we found that the renewal of morality is tied to evangelization. In Redemptor hominis, Pope John Paul II said that the discovery of true freedom in Jesus Christ becomes part of the proclamation of the good news. (§12) Moreover, he said, “We have, in particular, a great sense of responsibility for this truth. By Christ’s institution the Church is its guardian and teacher, having been endowed with a unique assistance of the Holy Spirit in order to guard and teach it in its most exact integrity.”

The renewal of morality and formation of conscience; the discovery and defense of freedom. What a suitable task for a Catholic university. Indeed, the most important task of Catholic higher education is evangelization. Pope John Paul II said as much in Ex corde ecclesiae. I have yet to find a university that acknowledges this truth. Yet here is the passage:

“By its very nature, each Catholic university makes an important contribution to the Church’s work of evangelization. It is a living institutional witness to Christ and his message, so vitally important in cultures marked by secularism, or where Christ and his message are still virtually unknown. Moreover, all the basic academic activities of a Catholic university are connected with and in harmony with the evangelizing mission of the Church: research carried out in the light of the Christian message which puts new human discoveries at the service of individuals and society; education offered in a faith-context that forms men and women capable of rational and critical judgment and conscious of the transcendent dignity of the human person; professional training that incorporates ethical values and a sense of service to individuals and to society; the dialogue with culture that makes the faith better understood, and the theological research that translates the faith into contemporary language. Precisely because it is more and more conscious of its salvific mission in this world, the Church wants to have these centers closely connected with it; it wants to have them present and operative in spreading the authentic message of Christ.”

The passage is not cryptic. And here are the concluding words of Ex corde:

“Beloved brothers and sisters, my encouragement and my trust go with you in your weighty daily task that becomes ever more important, more urgent and necessary on behalf of evangelization for the future of culture and of all cultures. The Church and the world have great need of your witness and of your capable, free, and responsible contribution.”

Pope John Paul II’s  wish is clear. So we may ask, in the words of Philip Neri,  “WELL! when shall we have a mind to begin to do good” Shouldn’t the faculty and administrators at Catholic universities make a resolution to understand this task better and seek to fulfill it?

Perhaps we should begin with Pope Paul VI apostolic exhortation on evangelization, Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975). Begin reading it here. The picture of Pope Paul VI at the head of this blog entry was taken by the author in May 1976 prior to a general audience.

See also my article on universities and evangelization found on the Newman Society website..

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