Relativism Destroys the University
By Paulina Cerdán
The mission of the university surpasses the change of times and fashions.
In 1967, St. Josemaría Escrivá delivered a homily on the campus of the University of Navarra that, fifty-four years later, would continue to inspire the hearts of students from all over the world. “Your daily encounter with Christ takes place where your fellow men, your yearnings, your work, and your affections are.” Spoken under Pamplona’s sky, those words he said have led hundreds of eager young people to travel thousands of miles in order to become ambassadors of the truth, to find that holy “something.” A message that has no temporality, that takes us out of comfort, lukewarmness, and aimlessness, leading us to conduct ourselves boldly.
History reminds us that in times of darkness, it has been those deep personalities that have accurately pointed out the direction we must go. In a world in which it seems that there is no solidity, it is at once strange and hopeful to find a place of a different character, where there is a unity of life, refined and coherent.
Relativism has resulted in the destruction of youth, and with it of all vital culture—which puts the University itself at a crossroads. St. Josemaría understood that universities could not do without this basic spiritual force. “We have to do many great things, but to do great things we need fiery young people with clear heads,” he said on another occasion. And when you walk through the corridors of the University, the Halls of Residence, every corner, it becomes possible to realize that he thought of every detail, even the smallest. St. Josemaría knew what university life is for students, for teachers, and for all those who make it up: an apostolate. This apostolate is light, generosity, perseverance, depth of study, and immense dedication.
His transcendent view led him to envision that the spiritual energy required by the University today must reject ambiguity, conformity, and cowardice. The love for truth comprises life, and remains standing even within a society that would like us to believe otherwise.
There are few universities that have not lost the university vocation, that live it with such passion and authenticity. And in the face of a hedonistic world, the University must not hurt the youth anymore, because tomorrow they will be leading operating rooms, politics, economies, laboratories, classrooms. Its greatness lies in the conviction that love is the source of all knowledge and the inner energy that fuels teaching. It takes a centered heart, which allows us to open to the possibility of understanding the world. We can hardly even call a place a university if its transmission of knowledge is not based on this passionate love for the world. A university student cannot limit himself to the concerns of his academic environment, he cannot lose touch with life.
The University of Navarra opens up those unsuspected perspectives, awakens strength, and contributes to alleviating fear in the face of an uncertain future. It understands that youth can be the architects of a truly good reality, in small and large possibilities, in unity and universality. This means putting talents at the service of others. This is where I have been able to understand that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather knowing that there is something more important than fear. There is not a day in which I do not pass by the shrine at the entrance without realizing that I am where I should be. It is not a coincidence that the stories of so many young people from so many nations are intersecting today, in search of that “something” that the University of Navarra gives, that “something” that makes it different.
Loving the truth freely: this is the heart of college life. Because we young people are not here to destroy, but to build; not to follow the crowd, but to set the tone. To reconcile the concern for the big problems with the care for details, without academic pretensions, but with a faith ahead and joy that can move rigidities. Perhaps that is why today some of us have decided on Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE)—we did not want interdisciplinarity to be simply a decorative motto. After all, we enrich ourselves with our cultures, our circumstances, and roots. Because there is a deep desire for truth, and we know that the world outside needs our potential. We want to bring something back that is truly valuable, steeped in a genuine university spirit.
Is it worth it? Well, I am convinced that being here goes beyond a paper, a book, even the beauty of the campus itself. It is worth surrounding yourself with people that change your landscape, and with this push, involve in things that do a lot of good. Because when a student performs even the most insignificant of daily actions with love, it overflows with the transcendence of God, forging a personal testimony in daily life. That is St. Josemaría’s message, which can be lived whenever there is the will to transform the ordinary into extraordinary.
Paulina Cerdán is a student at the University of Navarra, one of the top universities in Europe (alongside Oxford and Cambridge).
The image overlay depicts the flag of Navarra, an autonomous region of northern Spain, where the University is located.