Ok, so that was a lot of dense stuff from JPII. Distillation:
By their very nature, Catholic universities are called to interact with society and culture in a way that that is informed by and radiates the gospel of Christ. Since Theology is the discipline most explicitly connected with the gospel, the Theology lectures and students have the task of sharing their knowledge with the rest of the university, shedding Christian light on all the other disciplines.
They also ought to have a prominent place in the Chaplaincy, or the community of active Catholics on campus, visibly living out their faith, particularly participating in the sacraments. This is because one should do theology “on one’s knees”, since without a real and dynamic relationship with God, theology is simply theory, and loses its meaning. Their presence should enrich the Catholic community, by helping fellow-Catholics to deepen their faith.
How, though, do they interact with the rest of the university community, so that knowledge of Christ emanates throughout the entire institution, illuminating all types of knowledge? This is what should be happening. But in practise, in my own experience, much of the Catholic activity happens between Catholics, and beyond the Logos programme, not much dialogue seems to happen with the rest of the uni. (Although, this does seem to be changing, some new initiatives have begun of late. But the level of interaction between actively, intentionally practising Catholics and non-Catholics is still small.)
Pope Benedict XVI says that “First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.” (Address to Catholic educators) First and foremost, the Catholic university is a place to encounter the living God. (Same goes for Catholic schools, but that’s another story.) So every person who comes through our university- are they being given the opportunity to truly encounter Christ? I think it’s a valid question.
Catholic identity demands that “each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith.” (Also from Address to Catholic educators.) Each and every aspect… them’s big demands Papa Ben is making! But Christ demands much of us too, does He not, since He has given us much.
Some more thoughts to come in Part V.