“We’re not working among saints.”
“But neither are we working among devils.”
The audience laughed. The message struck a chord.
This was how UA&P’s Vice Grand Chancellor, Fr. Carlos Vicente Estrada, shed light on the University’s role in “the pursuit of wisdom, the synthesis of love of God and knowledge, faith and reason, culture and life” as inspired by the teachings of St. Josemaría Escrivá, founder of Opus Dei. Fr. Estrada, in a get-together with academic and administrative staff last December 5, prompted a crash course on Christian truths to be learned, taught, and applied in the University setting.
Speaking in layman’s terms, Fr. Estrada, who is also the Regional Vicar of Opus Dei, paraphrased the topic simply as “What in the world are we here for?” and launched into a comprehensive explanation of human nature, the role of faith in man’s authentic perfection, and St. Josemaría’s ideas of a university, which Fr. Estrada said are “actually based on human nature and also the faith.” His elucidation of these two factors turned out to be an engaging yet earnest talk on what each of the persons working in UA&P can do to achieve personal holiness and bring about material progress in society.
He began by calling to mind man’s dignity—“a special dignity above and beyond the animals,” as he phrased it, “because we were made in the image and likeness of God”—and moving on to intelligence and will, highlighting the fact that the mind is “directed to the knowledge of the truth.” However, the challenge for man is “to know the nature of things and to choose the good.”
This challenge can be addressed by education and formation in the truth. However, man is perfected not only by knowledge of the truth. One must be able to formulate judgments and carry out actions that arise from choices made in keeping with the truth. Fr. Estrada stressed, “If one does not go after the real good, that choice does not perfect one as a human being because it does not conform to what one is supposed to be.”
He pointed out that when it comes to educating people, one can never disregard the religious part of human nature. “Persons tend toward a Supreme Being,” he remarked. Even atheists do. Thus, a purely pagan form of education does not provide a venue for the complete formation of the person. “Faith gives us also the help to know what our reason sometimes cannot grasp,” he said.
Quoting St. Josemaría and other writers, the Vice Grand Chancellor discussed the essence of the University. After narrating the anecdote of the men who put up the University of Navarra, Fr. Estrada affirmed, “That’s the bottomline of why we’re here — to become holy by putting up a university… We are here not just to teach well. We’re here not just to do a good job. We’re not just out to make this University, eventually, in several years’ time, the best university in the country… Rather, we’re out to seek this [personal holiness] not only for ourselves but also for all of the persons that we’re working with and all of the students we’re teaching or dealing with.”
Clarifying things, however, Fr. Estrada said that there are no perfect persons nor saints in this world. “We are working with persons…persons who are in the process of trying to achieve perfection, some perhaps achieving it, or trying to achieve it, more quickly. Others not too much… But what we’re out to do is precisely this—the search for personal holiness. That’s the one thing necessary. The only thing necessary, in fact.”
Therefore, everyone in the University is encouraged to train other people in their exercise of personal freedom and responsibility. Students, most especially, must be trained to reflect, to think. This does not connote, however, that uniformity must be practiced. On the contrary, it is unity that must be developed.
Fr. Estrada commented, “Whoever you are, use the best that you have of yourself precisely to see how to work together with many other people.” He acknowledged that differences will definitely arise, but he advised, “If you disagree, learn how to disagree charitably.”
The University also needs to train its students to put their talents to good use and to the service of society. Fr. Estrada reminded everyone that faculty and staff are in the University not just to form good professionals but also to form persons with a generous heart for others. It is therefore imperative for all to always give the best of themselves to teach others about life. He made mention of the mentoring program of the University, which, he said, is “a very good opportunity for a mentor to transmit… things also about life that can help the person make proper decisions.”
Fr. Estrada made clear to everyone the need to evangelize culture and society, emphasizing the decisive influence of the University in shaping the mindsets of people, their ways of thinking and behaving. He ended with a call to Unitas, saying that it would be better if the University community would pull together in the same direction.
The talk, peppered by anecdotes of the burial of the kuting, the temptation of the chicharon, the “dogness” of the dog, the robber who does not smoke during Lent, and the need for edyukayshun, drew a crowd of 167. The activity was organized by the Human Resource Management Office.
Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved. University of Asia and the Pacific.