by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
Dr. Knight: This is a time of hope in the Church with our spiritually compassionate Pope and other believers who understand his vision. How do you think he has inspired a professor teaching ethics in a secular society?
Father Jordi: Every Pope is a gift of God for each historical moment of the Church. Beyond some controversies, Francis is pushing us to something very demanding: to go out and reach the people where they are. Mission! I think he is going first giving us example… He is a man of prayer and very authentic. Just look at his schedule being an 80-year-old person... Every Wednesday in the General Audience spends more than two hours greeting the people one by one (almost 400 people) even if it rains or if it’s 100ºF out there. Or look at his vacation plan: just staying home… all his energies for God! I had the blessing of greeting him a few months ago in a General Audiences in Saint Peter’s square, and I gave him a big hug, and he repeated three times, pray for me.
For me, he is an inspiration to go to the intellectual peripheries with the people in Academia. I’ve noticed many times that his leadership is very much respected among scholars that are far away from the Church. Many times his exhortation in Laudato Sì has been the starting point for a fruitful dialogue with scholars on the crucial topics that affect human dignity, and the need for universal values.
Dr. Knight: How did you receive your call to be a priest? How has this call changed over time? How has it led you to the professorate?
Father Jordi I always thought of finding a beautiful wife and having a nice family… but I started praying seriously, and this is what happens, hahaha! In the silence of prayer, you can feel his calling and his grace to change your plans! I joined Opus Dei as a numerary member and a few years later, finishing my Degree at the Law School, I saw the calling to be a priest within Opus Dei. I told the Prelate and I stayed in Barcelona working with college students and starting my studies on Philosophy and Theology. After a couple of years I joined the International Seminary of Opus Dei in Rome, I studied the Degree in Moral Theology at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce and I was ordained in 2015. During my stay in Rome, I also started the Ph.D. program and I was asked if I would like to teach and join the Faculty of the School of Church Communications in the Department of Media Ethics and Law, and I said yes… and here I am. When I think about what God has done in my life, it’s just crazy: I’ve never thought about doing so many things! If you say yes every morning, he really takes care of you.
Dr. Knight: How about an easy question: what is your favorite film at this time? Book?
Father Jordi: There are many movies that I’ve enjoyed and made me rest and reflect, but there’s one that particularly stroke me: the Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson. Books? I love Dickens… it would be difficult for me to choose between David Cooperfield or Oliver Twist.
Dr. Knight: do you think the books and articles you’ve written about ethics will be helpful to people who are seeking to be better in this area?
Father Jordi: My vocation to Opus Dei leads me to struggle every day to do my work as best as I can, trying to be united to God finding there the strength to do it lovingly and with a sense of service. This daily struggle takes different nuances every day. I consider it very important because this is how we transform the world: through our work being well done out of love. I consider myself a person with a very normal talent, and I think the world and the Church needs a lot of hard workers and only some genius. Hahaha! I hope to serve the Church with my hard-work, being a priest and a professor.
Dr. Knight: Do you think/feel that the use of social media in our parishes can assist young people to think about knowing/loving/serving God through their ‘cyber-neighbor’ and by example become more ethical individuals?
Father Jordi: The digital environment is shaping the world and also the life of the Church and its members. Every new technology has transformed the society in its period, and it takes time to be internalized. At the School of Church Communications at Santa Croce we try to train students from all around the world, men and women, priests, consecrated and lay people, to be competent in the world of communications knowing their rules and means, and using those skills to communicate the beauty of the work that the Church is doing all over the world. Communications is not a made-up strategy, but a process of communicating who you are in the public sphere. In the Church, we must do better!
Dr. Knight: As a priest and scholar you are able to educate and spiritually form many people through your work. What issues are predominantly on your mind and heart?
Father Jordi: We are living in a moment were propaganda is very much present around us: in our newsfeed, in the models represented in the tv-series, movies, and novels; in some laws approved by the politicians... The pressure of ideological agendas is certainly big. I think it’s crucial to protect some time for the continuous formation and a good selection of readings. We all have a common moral sense engraved in our nature, but we must keep it. In order to navigate complex times and help others in this process, we need good formation. As saint Anselm said, our faith is a reasonable and living one: “Faith seeking understanding”. There are many good initiatives that we could join.
Obviously, it’s also needed to find daily moments of silent prayer, to be alone with God… putting aside the smartphone and everything. Friendship wants time… exclusive and “quality” time!
Dr. Knight: There have been very influential professors/priests throughout the ages including saints. Who influenced you the most?
Father Jordi: In my personal life I feel that Saint John Paul II and Saint Josemaria have played a crucial role in giving my life entirely to Jesus. They taught me how to have my personal relationship with God through their readings… and prayer changed my life.
From an academic perspective, I’m very grateful to my mentor at Santa Croce, professor Norberto González Gaitano, that has guided me in my first years as a scholar. I value that he knew when to challenge me and when to push me, always with a refined respect. At Santa Croce, I’ve found a very singular community of professors and students, where I receive so much!
I’ve also been blessed by the possibility of having several conversations with Alasdair MacIntyre during my year as a Research Fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. He was very generous with his time and encouraged me very much in the last part of my dissertation, through conversations about my research on the moral principles of free speech. He is a prototype of “maestro”; a good and humble “maestro” that enjoys more being in touch with young scholars than with celebrities.
John Durham Peters has been an important inspiration for my research on free speech, and I follow many of his views. I keep asking his advice about other ethical dilemmas related to communication, and he always is available to answer my emails or to meet when I come to the US. I first met him when he was at Iowa University, but now he is teaching at Yale.
Dr. Knight: It seems that this interview would help us understand your leisure activities and purposeful work that would be of interest to our readers such as the help that has been provided to immigrants.
Father Jordi: One of the things that I learned in Rome from Pope Francis is to look the homeless into the eyes, and to ask them their name… The Holy Father always insists: they have the same value as you and me! The poor, the needy and the sick are a treasure for the Church. I try to make it real and present in my schedule. The leadership of the Church in this question is undeniable.
Dr. Knight: What other issues do you have as a priority for our work as a society?
Father Jordi: We should cultivate more the sense of humor and don’t take ourselves too seriously. Life is tough, but sometimes we take it so dramatically! Mother Teresa and Saint Josemaria use to recommend: try to smile more often!
Thank you very much for your time in completing this interview. For our students to see educated men and women striving to improve their relationship with Jesus is important to all disciples to bring us closer to the kingdom.