Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the chancellor of the university and the principal celebrant of the Mass, reflected on the mission of the university, to pursue “the time honored exploration of the truth,” with a particular focus on Catholic identity.

“It is in the light of faith that we try to understand the human condition,” he said, adding how that is the reason why they begin the year by invoking the Holy Spirit.

In addition, the Holy Spirit can help them be witnesses of the faith, which is “recognized in actions more than in words,” said the cardinal.

“God places His Spirit within us so we have the ability not only to say our faith but to actually live it,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

The cardinal continued by describing five characteristics of evangelizing disciples, which can be cultivated with the help of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The first, he said, is boldness or courage, like that of the apostles Peter and Paul. He said asking the Holy Spirit for the gifts of fortitude and wisdom could strengthen this quality.

“We can’t be lukewarm,” he said. “We have to be on fire with faith.”

The second important quality, he said, is connectedness to God’s Church.

“How can you and I presume to bear witness to something as glorious as salvation…on our own?” he asked, adding that the “only way to do that with integrity” is by being connected to the Church.

Third, he said evangelizing disciples have a sense of urgency, knowing that “it is our turn” to pass on the gift of the faith, following Pope Francis’s continual call to go out and encounter people.

“[Faith] is not our personal possession. It is a gift we are called to share,” said the cardinal.

Fourth, evangelizing disciples have compassion and mercy, said Cardinal Wuerl.

“The evangelizing disciple is free to extend the merciful hand of God because he or she has already received that mercy,” he explained.

The last characteristic that he reflected on was joy, because “nothing better speaks of the wonder of God’s word; nothing better speaks of the power of God’s Spirit…than the joy in our lives.”

Following the homily, newly appointed faculty members in the School of Philosophy and the School of Theology and Religious Studies were given authorization to teach in the name of the Church through the Conferral of Canonical Mission.

At the conclusion of the Mass, John Garvey, the president of The Catholic University of America, said he wanted to take the opportunity to reflect upon the “values that hold us together,” especially during a time when it seems “contemporary culture has forgotten the meaning of a civil discourse.”

He reflected on the value of a “sense of humor,” which he said was “a first cousin to humility and hope.” Unlike wit, which he called “a weapon,” Garvey said, “humor is disarming.”

Quoting G.K. Chesterton, Garvey said, “humor always involves some confession of human weakness.”

In addition, humor is related to hope, because the genre of comedy is often –as in the plays of Shakespeare – defined as a story where everything will turn out well in the end.

“Hope is accompanied by reason to believe in our desired outcome,” which is found in faith, said Garvey.

With this in mind, Garvey encouraged the students to keep in mind during disagreements that they “may not be the smartest guy in the room,” and that humor and hope “[help] us keep grounded in the controversy of the moment.”

“Whatever differences we might have now, in the end the glory of the Lord will be revealed,” said Garvey.