On October 20, Cuban Culture Day, the graduation ceremony was held for the first ten graduates in Humanities, of the Institute of Ecclesiastical Studies Father Félix Varela, belonging to the Archbishopric of Havana. Because of its importance, we publish the speech of one of the graduates, who reveals in his words the essence of this “still young” option of study (the Laurea).
Good afternoon everyone have:
They say that an image is worth a thousand words – I think some are worth more – but certainly words offer us an amalgam of meanings and expressions involved in communication. Thus, in words, I learned in 2013 of a new study option that for some would be a deepening, for all a start. The day of the entrance exams has arrived. Reading the agenda and not being able to answer several sections, even after finishing a university career, was the first confirmation to be in the right place, it was the first desire for adventure, it was the need to start even without thinking about ending.
The inauguration began, the first, and among so much solemnity I was able to glimpse a common image of a mixture of anxiety in the hope of those who had the voice and those of whom, attentively, we had the listening. Professor Baggio’s inauguralis lectio at the time left me with an implicit question: “What is my truth?” I answered silently, “knowledge.” Five years later I can’t find a categorical answer anymore, I don’t even worry about finding it anymore. And it is not about relativism (one of the first concepts I re-apprehended), but a search, a dialogue, to live intensely that bringing together that bringing together knowledge, certainties that become uncertainties, doubts that become certainties… A “know-to-know” does not underpin nobler and more enduring ideas; it does not come out of the vanity intrinsic to man to live the experience of authentic humility (also, why not, intrinsic to man); we do not discover the precise tools to make our society a fairer and freer Cuba.
There were about sixty-four of us in first class. Heterogeneity has been the most indefinite definition of our group. Each was building his own Laurea, a personal, inner Laurea, that demanded relationship. Many of the students who were unable to follow to this day also took their Laurea. In this way, the dimension of relationality supported differences in a fruitful convergence of students and teachers, in a convergence around the notions of friendship and freedom. Here is the unifying point at which the most diverse perspectives converge.
From the very name of our Institute, colloquially renamed the Varela, the agreement is established between space of freedom and desire for freedom; from the first letter to Elpidio, there is a profound reflection on human freedom that must survive doctrines and ideologies driven by the wicked who destroy hope; since the selection of the name of the ideal recipient of the epistles, Elpidio, the notions of hope and freedom are associated, to those referred to in the nineteenth century and updated by Archbishop Carlos Manuel de Céspedes in memorable conference of November 23, 2013, entitled “Legacy of Father Félix Varela for Cuba today: The Letters to Elpidio” , where we hear the following:
“[Varela always carried] Cuba in his heart and understanding […] thinking not only of his contemporary Elpidios, but also of us, the Elpidians we were born and lived after; diverse in many realities, but all bearers of their torch and responsible for the same fundamental task: Cuba. Because let us not forget: Cuba is the cradle that tucks us in and protects us, but it is, simultaneously, the task that calls us and constantly stimulates our indoblegable nostalgia for futurity of Casa Cuba”.
This update also comes from Professor Father Luciano, whom we agree to recognize as the first to teach us to think philosophically and from the rest of the cloister of the Varela, committed to a civic, patriotic, humanist education. The subjects were the subjects, some more surprising than others, some more open than others, some more controversial than others. It was inescapable then to find a way to socialize such controversies. Images and words associated with the Escal(er)a student newsletter appear. And so participation became a custom, a wealth, a amazement and an obsession. because politics goes beyond an empty discourse, philosophy is more than Marxism, the economy can also be social and supportive, theology is also aimed at non-believers, Cuban history and culture must still be studied in historical documents and not only in easyistic and biased manuals. That is why perhaps today the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the National Anthem has a peculiar connotation that transcends the outlines of the most ideological visions.
This is precisely the result of being in an ideal space of brave people not to think of censorship: courageous teachers, courageous students, courageous programs that did not fear (or fear) express themselves automatically in the confidence that is generated even if it is sporadic and even occasionally the encounter beyond the classrooms. Perhaps that’s why, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the fifteen minutes between class shifts never reach.
Participation, freedom, search, certainties…, images and words announced the happy encounter with another institution. It is the Center for Advanced Social Research (CISAV) that arrived from Querétaro with original and suggestive proposals that harmoniously complemented (and complement) the Laurea initiative.
Third year was decisive: thesina, exams and the conviction to climb one more rung, well, two, until the fifth year. The investigation became fundamental along with teaching and the freedom to investigate.
September 2015, the front of the building was rapidly changing because of Pope Francis’ visit. New images and words filled every moment, inside, outside and beyond. A speech was heard about social friendship vs discard culture, about dreaming and living. If the Laurea was ever a dream, now it is life, and today the symbolism of this graduation, in which we exchange blue togas for black, becomes not only a prize and commitment, but also gratitude to those who dreamed and make possible “this place in which it is so well”: Cardinal Jaime, whose will and perseverance to found this school as a harmonious space between tradition , memory, present and hope I hope will be rewarded with the thesis and titles and with an infinite thanks, to our rector Father Yosvany who so encourages us to apply what we learned in the Cuban context, to Archbishop Juan, whose personalized gift in the Bible after graduation of high school will surprise us greatly and, of course, our teacher and friend Jorge Suarez, so close and supportive without him and without Leidis many of us would not have been able to graduate today. These words are also a tribute to his memory and that is why let me dedicate these verses of Martí to him:
The moss, the oropéndola, the flowers
Let them sprout from this earth, never cold,
They’re kisses, they’re sighs, they’re loves:
Dead who are still loving.2
The foundational spirit I was referring to is in the library (the best), in computing, in the great corridors and stairs, in the game of lights and shadows that fire us at dusk. Right here I have experienced the agony of not reaching the time to finish reviewing a content before an exam, but I have also had the feeling, studying, sharing and listening to music, of being immensely happy.
The exchange of ideas, opinions, images and words increased for the fifth year, perhaps because it is not known for certain what will happen after the definitive graduation and the imminent end of a period for which we were not consciously prepared, for which we did not want to consciously prepare, shielded in the version of the Laurea as an experiment. While it is true that the idea of the experiment has sometimes functioned as justification for mistakes, because the Laurea is a perfectable work, it is undeniable to feel that pride of being the first, moreover, as Ratzinger said in Introduction to Christianity…: “Only the one who is involved, experiences. Because you only wonder when you participate in the experiment, and only the questioner is answered.”3
So to the question: what good is the title of the Laureate? I prefer to answer with another: what does the title of the Laurea enclose? One of those meanings to me is the deep gratitude to you, my compelles during these five years. Lots of congratulations. And also, to the teachers, to my family: my mom and my best friend, here present.
Service and love will guide our answers and will guide us when mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays cease to be a physical face-to-face obligation. It is the mixture of certainty and uncertainty that emerges when for many of us the Laurea has been the best that has happened to us, because it has filled us with hope, hope in the homeland, wherever we are, hope in people, hope in images and words, hope in the Word.
May the privilege of a space and a time of reflection and freedom reach those who are beginning this adventure with the wonder that gives meaning to the eternal! To be here is not to run or chase but to be.
Thanks a lot. Ω
1 Monsignor Carlos Manuel de Céspedes: “Legacy of Father Félix Varela for Cuba today: the Letters to Elpidio”, lecture given by Archbishop Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, vicar of the Archdiocese of Havana and important Cuban thinker, at the Padre Félix Varela Cultural Center, on November 23, 2013, Lay Space No. 4, Havana, 2013, p. 4.
2 José Martí: “Without loves”, in Complete Poetry, Critical Edition, Havana, Cuban Letters, 1993, t. II, p. 56.
3 Joseph Ratzinger: Introduction to Christianity. Lessons on the Apostolic Creed, Salamanca, Follow Me Editions, 2005, p. 150.