Opening of the new Academic Year

Festive Matriculation ceremony

Text of the Rector's convocation address:

 

 “The Encounter”

If anything, your time here as a student or staff member at the ITI should primary be a time of encounter with Christ and through this your encounter and what this does to you, others encountering Him through you.

Let me illustrate what I mean with this by telling you a powerful story of an extraordinary event that took place not far from here, in Vienna, during the Easter Vigil Mass in the St. Stephan’s Cathedral.

During the Easter Vigil 250 adult catechumens were baptized and reborn in Christ. Over 200 of them were former Muslims.

The converts, prior to their baptism, had been asked to each write down what it was that made them decide to take this courageous step?

How did they encounter Christ?

The answers of the new Christians were revealing in their consistency and truth; comprising of three main tenets that brought them to Christ:

-       The Charity of the Christians they encountered as they came to live in Austria;

-       The community they found those Christians living in and how these communities radiated faith;

-       Many of the converts reported how they saw Jesus in dreams.

So to summarize these three points: Christ became known to them through:

-       Charity

-       Community

-       Revelation

They encountered Christ!

This powerful story tells us something that is key to understanding and living our faith – and thus which is key to studying Theology and the Liberal Arts: Our first and foremost objective is to know God and the universe he created for us out of love.-

However, in order to achieve knowing God and letting him be known, we need to follow the Gospel in practice and live it – only this will bring us closer to God and through us others to him, as the story just related shows so well.

“The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”

So let this new academic year be a year of encounter – first an encounter with Christ through prayer, study and community, the three pillars on which the ITI is built. Then let this encounter shape your lives, so that people encountering you may themselves encounter Christ.

This means in practice: build bridges, as Pope Francis keeps reminding us, not walls of indifference, egoism or gossip - speak with each other, not about each other. We live in a world that is divided, confused and almost permanently on the bricnk of massive crises and conflicts.

Only Christ can save us – but he asks you and me to be a beacon of hope and light to bring others to him – let our campus be such a beacon, by how we live.