[Address: ADDU Service Awards, 2013]
As this academic year draws to its end, we come together to pay tribute to men and women who have reached significant milestones in gifting Ateneo the Davao University with the best of their lives: their life time, when it is possible to spend time in life elsewhere, their competence, where competence can be applied to fields other than education, their dedication, where other institutions envy us for the gift of their passion and service. Knowing well that life and life’s energies are but loaned to us, we come together even as Pope Benedict the XVI, feeling the weakness and weariness of age, yet impelled by his love for the Church in truth, has drawn his pontificate to a close, allowing himself and the Church to move on. Considering the historical momentousness of this witness to love in truth, I thought on this occasion, as men and women of academe, we might find inspiration in some of the insights that are part of his lasting legacy to us in the encyclical that bears the name “Love in truth – Caritas in Veritate.”
You already know well of the challenges that are entrusted to us in our vision and mission. We are a Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino University – entrusted by the Philippine Constitution and the Catholic Church with academic freedom for excellent instruction, robust research and vibrant community service. We are into the formation of leaders and the service of society especially in Mindanao in matters of faith, justice, cultural preservation and transformation, inter-religious dialogue and the defense of the environment. We know of this vision and mission, and have experienced: these are not just empty words for pretty posters and hollow handbooks. These are the contentious positions which dump on us all manner of vilification and thrust us into the whirlwinds of controversy. These are the heart and soul of the university as it journeys onward to be truly what it envisions itself to be, and to implement faithfully what it is missioned to accomplish. In this context, three insights of Pope Benedict XVI are relevant.
First, charity in truth. “Charity in truth,” Benedict says, “is the principle behind the authentic development of every human person and of all humanity.” If that is so, charity in truth must be the principle behind the authentic development of our university, which proceeds from the heart of the Church. Charity – not profit, not fame, not enrollment, but love. Love – that cannot be untrue love or unfaithful love, not love that is a lie, or love that is a hopeless abstraction, or love that is mere word, but love in truth. This type of love drives our university and impels its authentic development. “Authentic development” – meaning its own development, not the development of abstract ideological forces or of private interest groups – but our own self-development, driven by our own love in truth. Conversely, truth in love. Truth that is true only through acts of love. Understanding the truth of ourselves, we must express this truth in love. The ADDU vision-mission is a lie, unless it is lived out in love. It is this “extraordinary force” that energizes the authentic development of our University.
That is part of what we pay tribute to today, and why we find ourselves profoundly grateful. For the Ateneo de Davao is not just a “Mission-Vision” statement, nor even just a CHED-recognized private higher educational institution with a permit for business in a free market. It is that whose truth is only true in its people’s loving, and whose people’s loving has found expression in its truth. It is not just a motley collection of academic people and non-academic support staff bound to it by contracts. It is a community of people that fulfills its mission in love – getting up mornings to be on time for work, staying up late to correct exams, taking personal care of students, loving the discovery of truth, loving projects to serve the community, and working at tasks in respect and regard for each other. No one can force this loving in truth, this truth expressed in love. Here, freedom merges with necessity, duty merges with privilege, sacrifice merges with joy. That belongs to the truth of love, when one loves in truth. For this today we salute and honor you.
Second, we are called to “integral human development.” For some integral human development is the integral human development of the individual person, the development of the person not just as a thinker, nor even just as a doer, not just as a teacher, nor even just a as a “worker,” but the development of a good whole healthy human being – one who weeps in response to suffering, works in response to challenge, shares in response to need, loves in response to loving, and understands when one ought to act, and when one ought not.
In Caritas in Veritate, however, Benedict XVI raises integral human development to the social plane. It is “a commitment to foster the interaction of the different levels of human knowledge in order to promote the authentic development of people.” For us at the ADDU, love which expresses itself truthfully in integral human development pushes towards knowledge. “Charity does not exclude knowledge, but rather requires, promotes and animates it from within” (30). Knowledge, on the other hand, cannot remain isolated for itself alone, disjoined from the crying needs of human society. “Knowledge is never purely the work of the intellect,” Benedict XVI teaches. “It can certainly be reduced to calculation and experiment, but if it aspires to be wisdom capable of directing man in the light of his first beginnings and his final ends, it must be “seasoned” with the “salt” of charity. Deeds without knowledge are blind, and knowledge without love is sterile” (ibid.) The salt of charity is the sting of the ravaged township after a storm, its victims laying lifeless on the ground, with its biting question, “Why did this happen? What can be done to prevent this in the future?” It is the sting of the pregnant mother after her sixth child knowing she cannot provide for her seventh. It is the sting of the wounded, the suffering and dying after acts of terrorism performed in God’s name. Integral human development pushes actual humanity to a better humanity through love in truth: “There is always need to push further ahead; this is what is required by charity in truth. …Love is in intelligence, and intelligence is full of love” (30).
Thank you for your commitment to integral human development – on the personal level, but more poignantly, on the social plane. It is through love in truth that we move in wisdom from the pursuit-in-love of justice for individuals, to the pursuit of social justice for all.
Third, and finally: “The human being is made for gift.” This is the part of Caritas in Veritate that most confounds the materialist, and most perplexes those who believe that all human beings are purchasable, if the price is right. “The human being is made for gift, which expresses and makes present his transcendent dimension” (34). We are gifted to ourselves, and the Giver transcends us. Gifted, we give of ourselves to others, and so transcend necessity.
Of that we are most conscious this evening. God has gifted yourselves to yourselves, and you have gifted yourselves to us. Loved beyond deserving, and loving beyond necessity, you bless us with your lives. We live not in a hard and fast matrix of cause-and-effect relations, nor in a chain of forced agreements, but in a continuum of gratuity. The extra time for the student in need, the pained push to complete the research, the impassioned eros to help the needy, the gift of listening to the friend in distress. These have never been contracted, these can never be bought. Yet, without gratuity we have no community. The universitas, we recall, is community.
This evening, as we recall thoughtfully Pope Benedict XVI teaching in Caritas in Veritate, we thank God for women and men who have dared to love in truth and translate truth into love here at the Ateneo de Davao. We thank God for their loving contribution to our quest for integral human development in truth. We thank God for the gift of their presence, the gift of their friendship, the gift of their love, happy over years to have experienced its truth. Let us recall Paul’s words: “In the end, there is faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13).