His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols celebrated Mass on the 400th anniversary of Heythrop College on 21 June 2014, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Simon Stock in Kensington.
In his homily, Cardinal Vincent recalled the origins of the College as ‘a simple novitiate established in Louvain in 1607’ and traced its history through successive changes to its present form.
The Cardinal went on to say, ‘Being the inheritors of such a long tradition is indeed a cause for thanksgiving. Yet it is also a source of real challenge. As the College reflects on its role and future it must surely call on this heritage and be shaped by all that is best in it.’
He spoke further about the importance of the ‘relationship between the academic and the spiritual,’ quoting Pope Francis’ reminder that the intellectual endeavour ‘will be all the more fruitful and effective the more fully it is animated by love for Christ and for the Church, the more the relationship between study and prayer is strengthened and made more harmonious.’
Cardinal Vincent went on to say, ‘Here is a real challenge in a world that wants to relegate the spiritual to the entirely private sphere and see the study of even theology as an objective inspection of ideas and theories rather than the faithful exploration of the call of God and the summons of faith.’
The Cardinal also reminded those present of the role the Jesuit community in Liege played as a field hospital tending English soldiers in 1696, which led to formal thanks from the Protestant King William of Orange. ‘This act of kindness by the College reminds us, surely, that study can never be separated from the world around it. The human context, the people of the College community itself and needs of the wider society, should be a real focus of care and concern. This creates the atmosphere of human care, of a deeper compassionate humanity, which puts all study and learning into a truly human dimension.’
Cardinal Vincent then gave thanks for Heythrop College in its many manifestations. ‘We pray for those who guide it today, for those who contribute to its academic work, for those who study in its halls and libraries, for those who support and encourage it, that this College will be true to its great history and make a truly evangelical contribution to our world today.’
The full text of the homily can be found here.