One of the ancient Christian hymns begins with the phrase Veni Creator Spiritus : Come Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love. This evocation of the Spirit, symbolized in fire, provides for us today both a rich source of reflection and an invitation to action. For the first Christians, the coming of the Spirit is recalled in the Acts of the Apostles, when the spirit came in the image of tongues of fire, and the Apostles miraculously spoke to a gathering of peoples from around the world in their own languages. We are reminded of that event today both by the repetition of the color red, and by the collection of flags from many nations from which our students come. And we pray today that our hearts burn with, and our work and study are animated by, the same spirit and zeal of the first Apostles.
But what is that spirit which should animate us and make each of our hearts burn with love? What Spirit should animate this College and its community? As an institution of higher education, we should be on fire with our love for and search for the Truth: a search for the supreme Truth who is God, and for the truth about nature and humankind. In the words of Pope John Paul II, "The present age is in urgent need of this kind of disinterested service, namely of proclaiming the meaning of truth, that fundamental value without which freedom, justice and human dignity are extinguished." (Ex Corde Ecclesiae, p. 2) This love of truth, and the love of learning should be a light which glows in each member of this community, and spreads like fire throughout the institution and beyond. Fire is an urgent thing; it both consumes and grows. It is dangerous and it is cleansing.
As we begin the academic year, in our quiet little campus, we should remind ourselves that, again in the words of Pope John Paul II, "what is at stake (in our educational enterprise) is the very meaning of scientific and technological research, of social life and of culture, but, on an even more profound level, what is at stake is the very meaning of the human person" (Ex Corde Ecclesiae, p.2)
We should be animated by a spirit of respect for each person, as an individual and unique child of God. We should be on fire to explore the "very meaning of the human person", in our academic classes, in our social and athletic activities, and in the service we freely offer to our neighbors and those in need.
Our activities have an effect far beyond the boundaries of this campus, and we should act and live with an urgency which displays that consciousness.
And so as we officially begin this academic year, the 146th in our history, I encourage each of you to rediscover that fire of the Spirit which is in you, to re-kindle the love of learning, to re-dedicate yourself to the search for Truth, and to assist and serve your fellow students, staff and faculty in achieving the goals of our mission.
And have a great year!