Provost Reflects on Papal Visit

A Homily That Inspired Young People of Faith

By Andrew Abella, Provost of The Catholic University of America

Catholic University Provost Andrew Abela

What lasting impact might Pope Francis’s visit have on our students and other members of the campus community who worshiped on the University Mall with him on September 23?

The clues are to be found in Francis’s preaching that day. In his homily the first sentence (Rejoice in the Lord always!) and the last sentence (Let’s keep moving forward!) are exhortations. The homily is a call to action. Francis uses the imperative “Go out” no fewer than 11 times. In the final paragraph the word “forward” (go forward, move forward) appears six times.

If ever a homily was meant to inspire young people of faith and stir them to action, this one did. Pope Francis opens by invoking the words of St. Paul and declaring that the great apostle “practically orders us to rejoice.” Much the same can be said of Pope Francis, except that in his homily he cajoles the faithful to rejoice through service to others. His simple, direct, and passionate words are tailor-made to appeal to college students who possess a grounding in the faith and a large reserve of idealism, and who are beginning to ponder their vocations in life.

I have no doubt that Pope Francis’s visit will have a positive influence for years to come because institutionally we are so much inclined and so well equipped to be receptive to it. After all, our students choose to enroll at Catholic University because they seek a place where they can find sustenance for their minds and souls through reason, faith, and service. On September 23, when the Pope was preaching, they were, metaphorically speaking, already eager members of the choir, not latecomers or skeptics lingering in the courtyard. It is worth noting that the service on behalf of others to which Francis so passionately called his listeners was not service for its own sake, devoid of religious content or inspiration; rather it was to proclaim the “good news” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

While our current students are here with us and even after they have graduated and been replaced by newcomers, we know that our faculty will ensure that the Pope’s messages get thoughtful attention in the classroom. We also know that the vibrant faith life that exists outside the classroom through the efforts of our Office of Campus Ministry, nurtured by our friars and lay ministers, will amplify the exhortations that Pope Francis delivered during the canonization Mass.

It would be enough to be able to say with pride that we were blessed to have the Vicar of Christ in our midst for the third time in our University’s history. But it gives me even more joy to know that both Francis’s presence and his Gospel message fit the culture of our campus community so well. They reinforced what we already do and I hope they will inspire us to discover new and better ways to serve God and to serve others.

“If ever a homily was meant to inspire young people of faith and stir them to action, this one did.”
– Andrew Abela, Provost

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