Professor Don Giulo Maspero, Vice-Dean of Theology
THE GOD ON HIGH WHO COMES DOWN TO US
Interview with Prof. Don Giulo Maspero, vice-dean of the Theology Faculty.
Professor Maspero, you teach students who come from all over the world. Is this an enriching aspect for the teacher? What are the difficulties that you face? What do you find rewarding about such a unique experience?
Teaching students from all over the world is one of my greatest joys at this university. Certainly, it's also a difficulty, not only because of the linguistic barrier but even more so because of the conceptual one: there are cultures where the way of seeing things is different to ours. But this is exactly where the joy comes from. At this university we teach subjects which go to the heart of man, where what's at stake is the meaning of life. Being able to have access to other ways of seeing the world is very enriching. Joseph Ratzinger once said in answer to the question of how many ways there are to God that there are as many as there are people. In this sense, having students from different backgrounds helps me to be truly open to how God works in history and even to understand better the Scriptures.
Do you have an anecdote that could show just how much professors can learn from their students?
Once, during an exam, an Indian student began explaining that in the Hindu religious tradition there is a God with three faces, and that Krishna recalls the name of Christ and that this deity saves the people. At this point I started worrying that I hadn't managed to communicate the uniqueness of Christianity in the religious panorama, but then the student explained that there is in fact an essential difference, namely, that Krishna saves the people by destroying their enemies, while Christ dies for his enemies. I must admit that I was quite moved.
How can academic formation contribute to the spiritual growth of the students?
I am lucky to have been formed in study of the Fathers of the Church and to have found both my Christian and priestly vocation thanks to Saint Josemaría. This has always shown me just how concrete Theology is, because, as the Founder of Opus Dei would say, he who loves wants to know the beloved, and that's exactly what Theology is. Speaking to the students about God means helping them to let down their conceptual defences – all their idols, as Gregory of Nyssa, a IV century Church Father would say – which prevent them from experiencing the greatness and the simplicity of God.As one French author wrote, we're dying of thirst right next to the fountain. The risk for the Christian is to be unaware of what he has, since God gives Himself to us in Christ as a friend, and since the Most High and absolutely transcendent God makes Himself our neighbour and lives within us.
What, in your opinion, are the new challenges that the University will have to face?
I think the principle challenge is to the show just how an encounter with Christ can be meaningful for everyday life,that is, to be able to communicate the faith in a way that touches our existence, that reaches the desires of man. Some think that the big challenge is interdisciplinarity, but to me it seems that the lack of it is only a a symptom of the crisis of the university-project in a world which no longer believes in truth and is afraid of reality. In our Postmodern context it is essential to show that it is untrue that Christianity poisons desire, but on the contrary, thatThe things we study are for everyone, not for a few experts. What we seek to understand here will help us to live and to love and to be happy, not to write articles and seem intelligent. I think this is the principal challenge for our university, to delve humbly into the depths of the Mystery of God, in order to communicate it to the world, including to those who don't believe but who, like all of us, want to love and are seeking God, though without knowing it.