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Monday, September 9, 2013

0297: Reflections on the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI



Entry 0297: Reflections on the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate 




On eight occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 04 September 2005, 10 September 2006, 09 September 2007, 07 September 2008, 06 September 2009, 05 September 2010, 04 September 2011, and 09 September 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections before the recitation of the Angelus and five homilies delivered on these occasions.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 4 September 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Year of the Eucharist is now reaching its end. It will close this coming month of October with the celebration in the Vatican of the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops whose theme will be: “The Eucharist: source and summit of the life and mission of the Church”.

It was our beloved Pope John Paul II who desired this special year dedicated to the Mystery of the Eucharist in order to reawaken in the Christian people faith, wonder and love for this great Sacrament, which constitutes the true treasure of the Church. How deep was the devotion with which he celebrated Holy Mass, the centre of every one of his days! And how much time he used to spend in silent, adoring prayer before the Tabernacle!

In his last months, illness brought him ever more closely to resemble the suffering Christ. It is a striking thought that at the moment of his death he must have found himself uniting the offering of his own life with that of Christ’s in the Mass being celebrated at his bedside. His earthly existence ended during the Octave of Easter in the very heart of this Year of the Eucharist, in which the passage from his great Pontificate to my own occurred.

From the very beginning of this service which the Lord has asked of me, I therefore joyfully reaffirm the centrality of the Sacrament of the Real Presence of Christ in the Church’s life and in every Christian’s life.

With a view to the Synodal Assembly in October, the Bishops who will be its members are examining the working document that has been specially prepared for it. However, I ask the entire Ecclesial Community to feel involved in this phase of immediate preparation and to take part in it with prayer and reflection, making the most of every opportunity, event and meeting.

At the recent World Youth Day there were also many references to the Mystery of the Eucharist. I am thinking back, for example, to the evocative Vigil at Marienfeld on Saturday evening, 20 August, which culminated in Eucharistic adoration: a courageous choice that brought the eyes and hearts of the young people to converge on Jesus, present in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

I also remember that during those memorable days there was perpetual adoration, day and night, in certain churches in Cologne, Bonn and Düsseldorf, with the participation of numerous young people who were thus able to discover together the beauty of contemplative prayer!

I am confident that with the commitment of Pastors and faithful, there will be an increasingly assiduous and fervent participation in the Eucharist in every community. Today in particular, I would like to urge people to sanctify with joy the “Lord’s Day”, Sunday, a holy day for Christians.

In this context, I would like to recall St Gregory the Great, whose liturgical Memorial we celebrated yesterday. That great Pope made a historically effective contribution to promoting various aspects of the liturgy and in particular, the proper celebration of the Eucharist. May his intercession, together with that of Mary Most Holy, help us every Sunday to live to the full the joy of Easter and of the encounter with the Risen Lord.


APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO MÜNCHEN, ALTÖTTING AND REGENSBURG

(SEPTEMBER 9-14, 2006)

ANGELUS

Outdoor site of the Neue Messe, Munich, Sunday, 10 September 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Before concluding our Eucharistic celebration with the solemn blessing, let us recollect ourselves by praying the Angelus. In reflecting on the readings of the Mass, we have realized how necessary it is – both for the lives of individuals and for the serene and peaceful coexistence of all people – to see God as the centre of all there is and the centre of our personal lives. The supreme example of this attitude is Mary, Mother of the Lord. Throughout her earthly life, she was the Woman who listened, the Virgin whose heart was open towards God and towards others. The faithful have understood this since the earliest centuries of Christianity, and therefore in all their needs and trials they have confidently turned to her, imploring her help and her intercession with God.

As a witness to this, here in our Bavarian homeland there are hundreds of churches and shrines dedicated to Mary. They are places to which countless pilgrims come flocking throughout the year, to entrust themselves to her maternal love and concern. Here in Munich, in the heart of the city, rises the Mariensäule, before which, exactly 390 years ago, Bavaria was solemnly entrusted to the protection of the Mother of God, and before which yesterday I implored once more the blessing of the Patrona Bavariae upon this city and upon this land.

And how can we not think in a special way of the shrine of Altötting, where I shall go tomorrow on pilgrimage? There I will have the joy of solemnly inaugurating the new Adoration Chapel which, precisely in that place, is an eloquent sign of Mary’s role: she is and remains the handmaid of the Lord who does not put herself at the centre, but wants to lead us towards God, to teach us a way of life in which God is acknowledge as the centre of all there is and the centre of our personal lives. To her let us now address our Angelus prayer.


APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO MÜNCHEN, ALTÖTTING AND REGENSBURG

(SEPTEMBER 9-14, 2006)

HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER

Outdoor site of the Neue Messe, Munich, Sunday, 10 September 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

First, I would like once more to offer all of you an affectionate greeting. I am happy, as I told you, to be with you once again and to celebrate Holy Mass with you. I am also happy to revisit familiar places which had a decisive influence on my life, shaping my thoughts and feelings: places where I learned how to believe and how to live. This is a time to say thanks to all those - living and deceased - who guided and accompanied me along the way. I thank God for this beautiful country and for all the persons who have made it truly my homeland.

We have just listened to the three biblical readings which the Church’s liturgy has chosen for this Sunday. All three develop a double theme which is ultimately one, bringing out - as circumstances dictate - one or another of its aspects. All three readings speak of God as the center of all reality and the center of our personal life. “Here is your God!”, exclaims the prophet Isaiah in the first reading (35:4). In their own way, the Letter of James and the Gospel passage say the very same thing. They want to lead us to God, to set us on the right road in life. But to speak of “God” is also to speak of society: of our shared responsibility for the triumph of justice and love in the world. This is powerfully expressed in the second reading, in which James, a close relative of Jesus, speaks to us. He is addressing a community beginning to be marked by pride, since it included affluent and distinguished persons, and consequently the risk of indifference to the rights of the poor. James’s words give us a glimpse of Jesus, of that God who became man. Though he was of Davidic, and thus royal, stock, he became a simple man in the midst of simple men and women. He did not sit on a throne, but died in the ultimate poverty of the Cross. Love of neighbour, which is primarily a commitment to justice, is the touchstone for faith and love of God. James calls it “the royal law” (see 2:8), echoing the words which Jesus used so often: the reign of God, God’s kingship. This does not refer to just any kingdom, coming at any time; it means that God must even now become the force that shapes our lives and actions. This is what we ask for when we pray: “Thy Kingdom come”. We are not asking for something off in the distance, something that, deep down, we may not even want to experience. Rather, we pray that God’s will may here and now determine our own will, and that in this way God can reign in the world. We pray that justice and love may become the decisive forces affecting our world. A prayer like this is naturally addressed first to God, but it also proves unsettling for us. Really, is this what we want? Is this the direction in which we want our lives to move? For James, “the royal law”, the law of God’s kingship, is also “the law of freedom”: if we follow God in all that we think and do, then we draw closer together, we gain freedom and thus true fraternity is born. When Isaiah, in the first reading, talks about God, saying “Behold your God!”, he goes on to talk about salvation for the suffering, and when James speaks of the social order as a necessary expression of our faith, he logically goes on to speak of God, whose children we are.

But now we must turn our attention to the Gospel, which speaks of Jesus’ healing of a man born deaf and mute. Here too we encounter the two aspects of this one theme. Jesus is concerned for the suffering, for those pushed to the margins of society. He heals them and, by enabling them to live and work together, he brings them to equality and fraternity. This obviously has something to say to all of us: Jesus points out to all of us the goal of our activity, how we are to act. Yet the whole story has another aspect, one which the Fathers of the Church constantly brought out, one which particularly speaks to us today. The Fathers were speaking to and about the men and women of their time. But their message also has new meaning for us modern men and women. There is not only a physical deafness which largely cuts people off from social life; there is also a “hardness of hearing” where God is concerned, and this is something from which we particularly suffer in our own time. Put simply, we are no longer able to hear God - there are too many different frequencies filling our ears. What is said about God strikes us as pre-scientific, no longer suited to our age. Along with this hardness of hearing or outright deafness where God is concerned, we naturally lose our ability to speak with him and to him. And so we end up losing a decisive capacity for perception. We risk losing our inner senses. This weakening of our capacity for perception drastically and dangerously curtails the range of our relationship with reality in general. The horizon of our life is disturbingly foreshortened.

The Gospel tells us that Jesus put his fingers in the ears of the deaf-mute, touched the sick man’s tongue with spittle and said “Ephphatha” - “Be opened”. The Evangelist has preserved for us the original Aramaic word which Jesus spoke, and thus he brings us back to that very moment. What happened then was unique, but it does not belong to a distant past: Jesus continues to do the same thing anew, even today. At our Baptism he touched each of us and said “Ephphatha - “Be opened” -, thus enabling us to hear God’s voice and to be able to talk to him. There is nothing magical about what takes place in the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism opens up a path before us. It makes us part of the community of those who are able to hear and speak; it brings us into fellowship with Jesus himself, who alone has seen God and is thus able to speak of him (see Jn 1:18): through faith, Jesus wants to share with us his seeing God, his hearing the Father and his converse with him. The path upon which we set out at Baptism is meant to be a process of increasing development, by which we grow in the life of communion with God, and acquire a different way of looking at man and creation.

The Gospel invites us to realize that we have a “deficit” in our capacity for perception - initially, we do not notice this deficiency as such, since everything else seems so urgent and logical; since everything seems to proceed normally, even when we no longer have eyes and ears for God and we live without him. But it is true that everything goes on as usual when God no longer is a part of our lives and our world? Before raising any further questions, I would like to share some of my experience in meeting Bishops from throughout the world. The Catholic Church in Germany is outstanding for its social activities, for its readiness to help wherever help is needed. During their visits ad Limina, the Bishops, most recently those of Africa, have always mentioned with gratitude the generosity of German Catholics and ask me to convey that gratitude, and that is what I wish to do now, publically. The Bishops of the Baltic Countries, who came before vacations began, also told me about how German Catholics assisted them greatly in rebuilding their churches, which were badly in need of repair after decades of Communist rule. Every now and then, however, some African Bishop will say to me: “If I come to Germany and present social projects, suddenly every door opens. But if I come with a plan for evangelization, I meet with reservations”. Clearly some people have the idea that social projects should be urgently undertaken, while anything dealing with God or even the Catholic faith is of limited and lesser urgency. Yet the experience of those Bishops is that evangelization itself should be foremost, that the God of Jesus Christ must be known, believed in and loved, and that hearts must be converted if progress is to be made on social issues and reconciliation is to begin, and if - for example - AIDS is to be combated by realistically facing its deeper causes and the sick are to be given the loving care they need. Social issues and the Gospel are inseparable. When we bring people only knowledge, ability, technical competence and tools, we bring them too little. All too quickly the mechanisms of violence take over: the capacity to destroy and to kill becomes dominant, becomes the way to gain power - a power which at some point should bring law, but which will never be able to do so. Reconciliation, and a shared commitment to justice and love, recede into the distance. The criteria by which technology is placed at the service of law and love are then no longer clear: yet it is precisely on these criteria that everything depends: criteria which are not only theories, but which enlighten the heart and thus set reason and action on the right path.

People in Africa and Asia admire, indeed, the scientific and technical prowess of the West, but they are frightened by a form of rationality which totally excludes God from man’s vision, as if this were the highest form of reason, and one to be taught to their cultures too. They do not see the real threat to their identity in the Christian faith, but in the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom and that holds up utility as the supreme criterion for the future of scientific research. Dear friends, this cynicism is not the kind of tolerance and cultural openness that the world’s peoples are looking for and that all of us want! The tolerance which we urgently need includes the fear of God - respect for what others hold sacred. This respect for what others hold sacred demands that we ourselves learn once more the fear of God. But this sense of respect can be reborn in the Western world only if faith in God is reborn, if God become once more present to us and in us.

We impose our faith on no one. Such proselytism is contrary to Christianity. Faith can develop only in freedom. But we do appeal to the freedom of men and women to open their hearts to God, to seek him, to hear his voice. As we gather here, let us here ask the Lord with all our hearts to speak anew his “Ephphatha”, to heal our hardness of hearing for God’s presence, activity and word, and to give us sight and hearing. Let us ask his help in rediscovering prayer, to which he invites us in the liturgy and whose essential formula he has taught us in the Our Father.

The world needs God. We need God. But what God do we need? In the first reading, the prophet tells a people suffering oppression that: “He will come with vengeance” (Is 35:4). We can easily suppose how the people imagined that vengeance. But the prophet himself goes on to reveal what it really is: the healing goodness of God. And the definitive explanation of the prophet’s word is to be found in the one who died for us on the Cross: in Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, who here looks at us so closely. His “vengeance” is the Cross: a “No” to violence and a “love to the end”. This is the God we need. We do not fail to show respect for other religions and cultures, we do not fail to show profound respect for their faith, when we proclaim clearly and uncompromisingly the God who has countered violence with his own suffering; who in the face of the power of evil exalts his mercy, in order that evil may be limited and overcome. To him we now lift up our prayer, that he may remain with us and help us to be credible witnesses to himself. Amen!


APOSTOLIC JOURNEY
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO AUSTRIA
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 850th ANNIVERSARY
OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE SHRINE OF MARIAZELL

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Stephansplatz, Vienna, Sunday, 9 September 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

It was a particularly beautiful experience this morning to be abke to celebrate the Lord’s Day with all of you in such a dignified and solemn manner in the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Stephen. The celebration of the Eucharist, carried out with due dignity, helps us to realize the immense grandeur of God’s gift to us in the Holy Mass. In this way, we also draw near to each another and experience the joy of God. So I thank all those who, by their active contribution to the preparation of the liturgy or by their recollected participation in the sacred mysteries, created an atmosphere in which we truly felt God’s presence. Heartfelt thanks and Vergelt’s Gott to all!

In my homily I wished to say something about the meaning of Sunday and about today’s Gospel, and I think that this led us to discover that the love of God, who surrendered himself into our hands for our salvation, gives us the inner freedom to let go of our own own lives, in order to find true life. Mary’s participation in this love gave her the strength to say “yes” unconditionally. In her encounter with the gentle, respectful love of God, who awaits the free cooperation of his creature in order to bring about his saving plan, the Blessed Virgin was able to overcome all hesitation and, in view of this great and unprecedented plan, to entrust herself into his hands. With complete availability, interior openness and freedom, she allowed God to fill her with love, with his Holy Spirit. Mary, the simple woman, could thus receive within herself the Son of God, and give to the world the Saviour who had first given himself to her.

In today’s celebration of the Eucharist, the Son of God has also been given to us. Those who have received Holy Communion, in a special way, carry the Risen Lord within themselves. Just as Mary bore him in her womb – a defenceless little child, totally dependent on the love of his Mother – so Jesus Christ, under the species of bread, has entrusted himself to us, dear brothers and sisters. Let us love this Jesus who gives himself so completely into our hands! Let us love him as Mary loved him! And let us bring him to others, just as Mary brought him to Elizabeth as the source of joyful exultation!  The Virgin gave the Word of God a human body, and thus enabled him to come into the world as a man. Let us give our own bodies to the Lord, and let them become ever more fully instruments of God’s love, temples of the Holy Spirit! Let us bring Sunday, and its immense gift, into the world!

Let us ask Mary to teach us how to become, like her, inwardly free, so that in openness to God we may find true freedom, true life, genuine and lasting joy.


APOSTOLIC JOURNEY
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO AUSTRIA
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 850th ANNIVERSARY
OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE SHRINE OF MARIAZELL

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Sunday, 9 September 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Sine dominico non possumus!” Without the gift of the Lord, without the Lord’s day, we cannot live: That was the answer given in the year 304 by Christians from Abitene in present-day Tunisia, when they were caught celebrating the forbidden Sunday Eucharist and brought before the judge. They were asked why they were celebrating the Christian Sunday Eucharist, even though they knew it was a capital offence. “Sine dominico non possumus”: in the word dominicum/dominico two meanings are inextricably intertwined, and we must once more learn to recognize their unity. First of all there is the gift of the Lord – this gift is the Lord himself: the Risen one, whom the Christians simply need to have close and accessible to them, if they are to be themselves. Yet this accessibility is not merely something spiritual, inward and subjective: the encounter with the Lord is inscribed in time on a specific day. And so it is inscribed in our everyday, corporal and communal existence, in temporality. It gives a focus, an inner order to our time and thus to the whole of our lives. For these Christians, the Sunday Eucharist was not a commandment, but an inner necessity. Without him who sustains our lives, life itself is empty. To do without or to betray this focus would deprive life of its very foundation, would take away its inner dignity and beauty.

Does this attitude of the Christians of that time apply also to us who are Christians today? Yes, it does, we too need a relationship that sustains us, that gives direction and content to our lives. We too need access to the Risen one, who sustains us through and beyond death. We need this encounter which brings us together, which gives us space for freedom, which lets us see beyond the bustle of everyday life to God’s creative love, from which we come and towards which we are travelling.

Of course, if we listen to today’s Gospel, if we listen to what the Lord is saying to us, it frightens us: “Whoever of you does not renounce all that he has and all links with his family cannot be my disciple.” We would like to object: What are you saying, Lord? Isn’t the family just what the world needs? Doesn’t it need the love of father and mother, the love between parents and children, between husband and wife? Don’t we need love for life, the joy of life? And don’t we also need people who invest in the good things of this world and build up the earth we have received, so that everyone can share in its gifts? Isn’t the development of the earth and its goods another charge laid upon us? If we listen to the Lord more closely, and above all if we listen to him in the context of everything he is saying to us, then we understand that Jesus does not demand the same from everyone. Each person has a specific task, to each is assigned a particular way of discipleship. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is speaking directly of the specific vocation of the Twelve, a vocation not shared by the many who accompanied Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem. The Twelve must first of all overcome the scandal of the Cross, and then they must be prepared truly to leave everything behind; they must be prepared to assume the seemingly absurd task of travelling to the ends of the earth and, with their minimal education, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a world filled with claims to erudition and with real or apparent education – and naturally also to the poor and the simple. They must themselves be prepared to suffer martyrdom in the course of their journey into the vast world, and thus to bear witness to the Gospel of the Crucified and Risen Lord. If Jesus’s words on this journey to Jerusalem, on which a great crowd accompanies him, are addressed in the first instance to the Twelve, his call naturally extends beyond the historical moment into all subsequent centuries. He calls people of all times to count exclusively on him, to leave everything else behind, so as to be totally available for him, and hence totally available for others: to create oases of selfless love in a world where so often only power and wealth seem to count for anything. Let us thank the Lord for giving us men and women in every century who have left all else behind for his sake, and have thus become radiant signs of his love. We need only think of people like Benedict and Scholastica, Francis and Clare of Assisi, Elizabeth of Hungary and Hedwig of Silesia, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, and in our own day, Mother Teresa and Padre Pio. With their whole lives, these people have become a living interpretation of Jesus’s teaching, which through their lives becomes close and intelligible to us. Let us ask the Lord to grant to people in our own day the courage to leave everything behind and so to be available to everyone.

Yet if we now turn once more to the Gospel, we realize that the Lord is not speaking merely of a few individuals and their specific task; the essence of what he says applies to everyone. The heart of the matter he expresses elsewhere in these words: “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Lk 9:24f.). Whoever wants to keep his life just for himself will lose it. Only by giving ourselves do we receive our life. In other words: only the one who loves discovers life. And love always demands going out of oneself, it always demands leaving oneself. Anyone who looks just to himself, who wants the other only for himself, will lose both himself and the other. Without this profound losing of oneself, there is no life. The restless craving for life, so widespread among people today, leads to the barrenness of a lost life. “Whoever loses his life for my sake … “, says the Lord: a radical letting-go of our self is only possible if in the process we end up, not by falling into the void, but into the hands of Love eternal. Only the love of God, who loses himself for us and gives himself to us, makes it possible for us also to become free, to let go, and so truly to find life. This is the heart of what the Lord wants to say to us in the seemingly hard words of this Sunday’s Gospel. With his teaching he gives us the certainty that we can build on his love, the love of the incarnate God. Recognition of this is the wisdom of which today’s reading speaks to us. Once again, we find that all the world’s learning profits us nothing unless we learn to live, unless we discover what truly matters in life.

Sine dominico non possumus!” Without the Lord and without the day that belongs to him, life does not flourish. Sunday has been transformed in our Western societies into the week-end, into leisure time. Leisure time is something good and necessary, especially amid the mad rush of the modern world; each of us knows this. Yet if leisure time lacks an inner focus, an overall sense of direction, then ultimately it becomes wasted time that neither strengthens nor builds us up. Leisure time requires a focus – the encounter with him who is our origin and goal. My great predecessor in the see of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Faulhaber, once put it like this: Give the soul its Sunday, give Sunday its soul.

Because Sunday is ultimately about encountering the risen Christ in word and sacrament, its span extends through the whole of reality. The early Christians celebrated the first day of the week as the Lord’s day, because it was the day of the resurrection. Yet very soon, the Church also came to realize that the first day of the week is the day of the dawning of creation, the day on which God said: “Let there be light” (Gen 1:3). Therefore Sunday is also the Church’s weekly feast of creation – the feast of thanksgiving and joy over God’s creation. At a time when creation seems to be endangered in so many ways through human activity, we should consciously advert to this dimension of Sunday too. Then, for the early Church, the first day increasingly assimilated the traditional meaning of the seventh day, the Sabbath. We participate in God’s rest, which embraces all of humanity. Thus we sense on this day something of the freedom and equality of all God’s creatures.

In this Sunday’s Opening Prayer we call to mind firstly that through his Son God has redeemed us and made us his beloved children. Then we ask him to look down with loving-kindness upon all who believe in Christ and to give us true freedom and eternal life. We ask God to look down with loving-kindness. We ourselves need this look of loving-kindness not only on Sunday but beyond, reaching into our everyday lives. As we ask, we know that this loving gaze has already been granted to us. What is more, we know that God has adopted us as his children, he has truly welcomed us into communion with himself. To be someone’s child means, as the early Church knew, to be a free person, not a slave but a member of the family. And it means being an heir. If we belong to God, who is the power above all powers, then we are fearless and free. And then we are heirs. The inheritance he has bequeathed to us is himself, his love. Yes, Lord, may this inheritance enter deep within our souls so that we come to know the joy of being redeemed. Amen.


PASTORAL VISIT TO CAGLIARI - SARDINIA

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Esplanade in front of the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria, Sunday, 7 September 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the end of this solemn Eucharistic celebration I would like to express again my greetings and my gratitude. Above all I would like to acknowledge and thank for their welcome and their presence Hon. Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister; Hon. Dr Giovanni Letta, Undersecretary, and all of the civil and military authorities present here. And finally let us cast yet another glance toward the “Sweet Queen of the Sardinian people”, venerated on this hill of Bonaria. Over the course of centuries, how many renowned personages have come to render her homage! How many of my Predecessors have wished to honour her with particular affection! Bl. Pius IX decreed her coronation; St Pius X, about 100 years ago, proclaimed her Patroness of All of Sardinia; Pius XI attributed the title of Minor Basilica to the new church; Pius XII, 50 years ago, made himself spiritually present with a special Message transmitted directly by Vatican Radio and Bl. John XXIII, who in 1960 sent a Letter for the reopening of the Shrine to her cult after its restoration. The first Pope to return to the Island after 1,650 years was the Servant of God Paul VI, who visited the Shrine on 24 April 1970. And before the holy effigy of the Blessed Mother, the beloved John Paul II paused in prayer on 20 October 1985. In the footsteps of the Popes who have preceded me, I too have chosen the Shrine of Bonaria to round off a Pastoral Visit that aspires to embrace the whole of Sardinia.

Today we have renewed the entrustment of the city of Cagliari, of Sardinia and all its inhabitants to Mary. May the holy Virgin continue to watch over each and every one, so that the patrimony of Gospel values may be transmitted integrally to the new generations and so that Christ may reign in the families, in the communities and in the various spheres of society. May the Blessed Mother particularly protect those who, at this moment, are most in need of her maternal intervention: children and youth, elderly and families, the sick and all the suffering.

Aware of the important role that Mary has in the existence of every one of us, as devoted children we celebrate her birth today. This event constitutes a fundamental step for the Family of Nazareth, crib of our redemption - an event that regards each one of us, because every gift that God has granted to her, the Mother, he has granted thinking also of each one of us, her children. Therefore, with immense gratitude, let us ask Mary, Mother of the Word Incarnate and our Mother, to protect every earthly mother: those who, together with their husband, raise their children in a harmonious family context, and those who, for many reasons, find themselves alone to face a very difficult duty. May they carry out with dedication and loyalty their daily service within the family, the Church and society. May the Blessed Mother be for all a support, comfort and hope!

Under Mary’s gaze I would like to recall the dear peoples of Haiti, so sorely tried in the past days by the passage of three hurricanes. I pray for the victims, unfortunately numerous, and for the homeless. I am close to the entire nation and I hope that the help needed reaches them as soon as possible. I entrust all to the maternal protection of Our Lady of Bonaria.


PASTORAL VISIT TO CAGLIARI - SARDINIA

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Esplanade in front of the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria, Sunday, 7 September 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The most beautiful sight that a people can offer is without any doubt is that of its own faith. At this moment I feel tangibly a moving manifestation of the faith that enlivens you and I would like immediately to express to you my admiration of this. I gladly accepted the invitation to come to your most beautiful Island on the occasion of the centenary of the proclamation of Our Lady of Bonaria as your principal Patroness. Today, together with the panorama of the wonderful nature that surrounds us, you offer me a view of your fervent devotion to the Most Holy Virgin. Thank you for this beautiful witness!

I greet you all with deep affection, starting with Archbishop Giuseppe Mani of Cagliari, President of the Sardinian Bishops’ Conference, whom I thank for his courteous words at the beginning of this Holy Mass also on behalf of the other Bishops, to whom I extend my cordial thoughts, and on behalf of the whole ecclesial community which lives in Sardinia. Thank you, above all, for the dedication with which you prepared my Pastoral Visit. And I see that everything was indeed prepared perfectly. I greet the Civil Authorities and in particular the Mayor, who will address to me both his greeting and that of the City. I greet the other Authorities present and express my gratitude to them for the generous collaboration they offered to the organization of my Visit here in Sardinia. Thus I would like to greet the priests, and especially the Community of Mercedarian Fathers, the deacons, the men and women religious, those responsible for the associations and ecclesial movements, the youth and all the faithful, with a cordial remembrance for the elderly centenarians who I was able to greet at the Church entrance, and all those who have joined us in spirit or via the radio and television. In a very special way I greet the sick and the suffering, with a particular thought for the lowliest.

It is the Lord’s Day, but - given this special circumstance - the Liturgy of the Word has proposed to us the Readings for the celebrations dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. These are in particular texts planned for the Feast of the Birth of Mary which for centuries has been fixed on 8 September, the date of the consecration of the basilica built in Jerusalem above the house of St Anne, Mother of Our Lady. They are Readings which effectively always contain the reference to the mystery of her birth. First of all there is the Prophet Micah’s marvellous oracle concerning Bethlehem, in which the birth of the Messiah is announced. The Messiah, the oracle says, was to be a descendant of King David, like him a native of Bethlehem but a figure who would exceed human limitations: his “origin”, it says, are “from ancient times”, lost in the most remote ages, at the frontier of eternity. His greatness would reach “to the ends of the earth”, as would also be his peace (see Mi 5: 1-4a). The coming of the “Lord’s anointed”, who was to mark the beginning of the people’s liberation was described by the Prophet with an enigmatic expression: “until the time when she who is in travail has brought forth” (Mi 5: 3). Thus the Liturgy - which is a privileged school of the faith - teaches us to see in Mary’s birth a direct connection with that of the Messiah, Son of David.

The Gospel, a passage from the Apostle Matthew, proposed to us precisely the account of Jesus’ birth. However, the Evangelist introduces it with a summary of his genealogy, which he sets at the beginning as a prologue. Here too the full evidence of Mary’s role in salvation history stands out: Mary’s being is totally relative to Christ and in particular to his Incarnation. “Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (Mt 1: 16). The lack of continuity in the layout of the genealogy immediately meets the eye; we do not read “begot” but instead: “Mary, of whom Jesus was born who is called Christ”. Precisely in this we perceive the beauty of the plan of God who, respecting the human being, makes him fertile from within, causing the most beautiful fruit of his creative and redeeming work to develop in the humble Virgin of Nazareth. Then the Evangelist brings on stage the figure of Joseph, his inner drama, his robust faith and his exemplary rectitude. Behind Joseph’s thoughts and deliberations is his love for God and his firm determination to obey him. But how is it possible not to feel that Joseph’s distress, hence his prayers and his decision, were motivated at the same time by esteem and love for his betrothed? God’s beauty and that of Mary are inseparable in Joseph’s heart; he knows that there can be no contradiction between them; he seeks the answer in God and finds it in the light of the Word and of the Holy Spirit: “The Virgin shall be with child and give birth to a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel (which means, God with us)” (Mt 1: 23; see Is 7: 14).

Thus, once again, we can contemplate Mary’s place in the saving plan of God, that “purpose” which we find in the Second Reading, taken from the Letter to the Romans. Here the Apostle Paul expresses in two verses, unusually dense with meaning, the synthesis of what human life is from a meta-historical viewpoint: a parabola of salvation that starts from God and returns to him; a parabola entirely motivated and governed by his love. This is a salvific design totally permeated by divine freedom, which nonetheless awaits a fundamental contribution by human freedom: the creature’s corresponds to the Creator’s love. And it is here, in this space of human freedom, that we perceive the presence of the Virgin Mary, without her ever having been explicitly mentioned: she is in fact, in Christ, the first fruits and model of “those who love him [God]” (Rm 8: 28). The predestination of Mary is inscribed in the predestination of Jesus, as likewise is that of every human person. The “here I am” of the Mother faithfully echoes the “here I am” of the Son (see Heb 10: 6), as does the “here I am” of all adoptive children in the Son, that of us all, precisely.

Dear friends of Cagliari and Sardinia, thanks to their faith in Christ and through the spiritual motherhood of Mary and of the church, your people too are called to be integrated in the spiritual “genealogy” of the Gospel. Christianity did not arrive in Sardinia with the swords of conquerors or by foreign imposition but germinated from the blood of the martyrs who gave their life here as an act of love for God and for men and women. It is in your mines that the Good News rang out for the first time. It had been brought by Pope Pontianus and the priest Hyppolitus and by many brothers condemned ad metalla [to work the silver, lead and iron mines] for their faith in Christ. Saturnius, Gavin, Protus, and Januarius, Simplicius, Lussorius, Ephysius and Antiochus were witnesses of total dedication to Christ as true God and Lord. The witness of martyrdom conquered a proud spirit such as that of the Sardinians, instinctively recalcitrant to all that came from over the sea. From the martyrs’ example Bishop Lucifer of Cagliari drew the strength to defend orthodoxy against Arianism and, together with Eusebius of Vercelli, also from Cagliari, opposed the condemnation of Athanasius at the Council of Milan in 335, and for this both of them, Lucifer and Eusebius, were sentenced to exile, a very harsh exile. Sardinia has never been a land of heresies; its people have always shown filial fidelity to Christ and to the See of Peter. Yes, dear friends, in the sequence of invasions and dominations, faith in Christ endured in your peoples’ soul as a constitutive element of your Sardinian identity itself.

In the fifth century, after the martyrs, many Bishops arrived from Africa who were obliged to suffer exile for refusing to adhere to the Arian heresy. They brought the riches of their faith with them to the Island. More than 100 Bishops, under the guidance of Fulgentius of Ruspe, founded monasteries and intensified the task of evangelization. Together with Augustine’s glorious relics, they brought the wealth of their liturgical and spiritual tradition, traces of which you still preserve. Thus the faith became ever more deeply rooted in the hearts of the faithful until it became a culture and produced fruits of holiness. Ignatius of Laconi and Nicholas of Gésturi are Saints with whom Sardinia identifies. The martyr Antonia Mesina, the contemplative Gabriella Sagheddu, and the Sister of Charity, Josephine Nicóli, are the expression of a youth that was able to pursue great ideals. This simple and courageous faith continues to thrive in your communities, in your families, where one breathes the Gospel fragrance of the virtues that belong to your land: faithfulness, dignity, discretion, sobriety, the sense of duty.

And then, obviously, there is your love for Our Lady. Indeed, we are here today to commemorate a great act of faith made by your ancestors a century ago when they entrusted their lives to the Mother of Christ, choosing her to be the most important Patroness of the Island. They could not have known then that the 20th century was to be a very difficult century but it was certainly in that consecration to Mary that they subsequently found the strength to face the difficulties that arose, especially with the two World Wars. It could only be like this. Your Island, dear friends of Sardinia, could have no other protectress than Our Lady. She is the Mother, Daughter and Wife par excellence: “Sa Mama, Fiza, Isposa de su Segnore”, as you like to sing. She is the Mother who loves, protects, advises, consoles and gives life so that life may be born and endure. She is the Daughter who honours her family, is ever attentive to the needs of her brothers and sisters and is prompt in making her home beautiful and welcoming; she is the Wife capable of faithful, patient love, of sacrifice and of hope. In Sardinia at least 350 churches and shrines are dedicated to Mary. A people of mothers is reflected in that humble girl from Nazareth who with her “yes” enabled the Word to become flesh.

I well know that Mary is in your hearts. A hundred years later, let us thank her today for her protection and renew our trust in her, recognizing her as the “Star of the New Evangelization” at whose school we may learn how to bring Christ the Saviour to the men and women of our time.

May Mary help you to bring Christ to families, little domestic churches and cells of society, which today more than ever are in need of both spiritual and social trust and support. May she help you to find appropriate pastoral strategies to ensure that Christ is encountered by young people who by their nature bring new dynamism but often fall prey to the widespread nihilism, thirsting for truth and ideals precisely when they seem to deny them. May she render you capable of evangelizing the world of work, the economy and politics which need a new generation of committed lay Christians who can seek competently and with moral rigour sustainable solutions of development. In all these aspects of Christian commitment you can always count on the guidance and support of the Blessed Virgin. Let us therefore entrust ourselves to her maternal intercession.

Mary is the harbour, refuge and protection for the Sardinian people who have within them the strength of oak. When the storm has passed the oak stands strong; fires rage and it sends out new shoots; the drought comes and it wins through once again. Let us therefore renew joyfully our consecration to such a caring Mother. I am sure that generations of Sardinians will continue to climb to the Shrine at Bonaria to invoke the Virgin’s protection. Those who entrust themselves to Our Lady of Bonaria, a merciful and powerful Mother, will never be disappointed. May Mary Queen of Peace and Star of Hope intercede for us. Amen!


PASTORAL VISIT TO VITERBO AND BAGNOREGIO

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Valle Faul – Viterbo, Sunday, 6 September 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the end of this solemn Eucharistic Celebration, I once again thank the Lord for having given me the joy of making this Pastoral Visit to your diocesan community. I have come to encourage you and to strengthen you in your fidelity to Christ, as the theme you have chosen clearly shows: “Strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22: 31). Jesus addressed these words to the Apostle Peter during the Last Supper, entrusting to him the task of being Pastor of his whole Church here on earth.

Your Diocese has been distinguished for many centuries by a unique bond of affection and communion with the Successor of Peter. I was was able to see this when I visited the Palace of the Popes, and in particular, the Conclave Hall. St Leo the Great was born in the vast territory of ancient Tuscia. He rendered a great service to the truth in charity by diligently preaching the word, as his Sermons and his Letters testify. Pope Sabinian, the Successor of Gregory the Great was born in Blera; Paul III was born in Canino. The Roman Pontiffs chose Viterbo for their residence during the whole of the second part of the 13th century. Five of my Predecessors were elected here and four of them are buried here. At least 50 visited the city the last of whom was the Servant of God John Paul II, 25 years ago. These figures have historical significance, but above all I would like to here emphasize their spiritual value. Viterbo is rightly called the “City of Popes”, and this provides a further incentive for you to live and bear witness to the Christian faith, the same faith for which the Martyr Saints, Valentine and Hilary, gave their lives. They are buried in the Cathedral Church, the first of a long series of Saints, Martyrs, and Blesseds from your land.

“Strengthen your brethren”: I am aware that the Lord’s invitation is addressed to me today with particular intensity. Pray, dear brothers and sisters, that I may always carry out my mission as Pastor of the whole of Christ’s flock (see Jn 21: 15 ff.) with fidelity and love. For my part, I assure you of my constant remembrance of your diocesan community to the Lord, so that its different sections of which I have been able to admire a symbolic portrayal on the new doors of the Cathedral may converge towards fuller unity and fraternal communion. These are the indispensable conditions for offering the world an effective Gospel witness. I shall entrust these intentions to the Virgin Mary this afternoon, when I visit the Shrine of Our Lady of the Oak. Let us now ask her, with the prayer that recalls her “Yes” to the Angel’s announcement, to keep our faith ever strong and joyful.


PASTORAL VISIT TO VITERBO AND BAGNOREGIO

EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION

HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI

Valle Faul – Viterbo, Sunday, 6 September 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The setting in which we are celebrating Mass is truly original and evocative: we are in the “Valley” overlooking the ancient Port called Faul, a word whose four letters recall the four hills of the ancient Viterbium: Fanum-Arbanum-Vetulonia-Longula. On one side stands the imposing Palace, once the residence of the Popes, which as your Bishop recalled witnessed five conclaves in the 13th century. We are surrounded by buildings and spaces, the testimony of many events in the past and today woven into the life of your City and Province. In this context, which evokes centuries of civil and religious history, the whole of your Diocesan Community is gathered here, with the Successor of Peter, to be strengthened by him in fidelity to Christ and to his Gospel.

Dear brothers and sisters, I address to all of you my thoughts of gratitude for your warm welcome. I greet in the first place your beloved Pastor, Bishop Lorenzo Chiarinelli, whom I thank for his words of welcome. I greet the other Bishops, in particular those of Lazio, together with the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, the beloved diocesan priests, the deacons, the seminarians, the men and women religious, the young people and the children, and I extend my remembrance to all the members of the diocese.

Your Diocese has recently been united with Viterbo, with the Abbey of San Martino of Monte Cimino, with the Dioceses of Acquapendente, Bagnoregio, Montefiascone and Tuscania. This new configuration is now artistically portrayed, sculpted on the “Bronze Doors” of the Cathedral Church which I was able to bless and to admire as I began my Visit at Piazza San Lorenzo. I address with respect the Civil and Military Authorities, the representatives of the Parliament, the Government, the Region and the Province, and especially the Mayor of the City, who has expressed the cordial sentiments of the population of Viterbo. I thank the Police Forces and I greet the many soldiers present in this city, as well as those involved in peace missions throughout the world. I greet and thank the volunteers and all who have contributed to the fulfilment of my Visit. I reserve a very particular greeting for the elderly and those who are alone, for the sick, for those in prison and for all those who have been unable to take part in our meeting of prayer and friendship.

Dear brothers and sisters, every liturgical assembly is a space for the presence of God. Gathered for the Blessed Eucharist, disciples of the Lord proclaim that he is risen, that he is alive and is the Giver of life; and let us witness that his presence is grace, it is fulfilment, it is joy. Let us open our hearts to his word and welcome the gift of his presence! In this Sunday’s First Reading, the Prophet Isaiah (35: 4-7) encourages those “who are of a fearful heart” and proclaims this marvellous newness which experience has confirmed: when the Lord is present the eyes of the blind are reopened, the ears of the deaf unstopped and the lame man leaps like a hart. All things are reborn and all things are revived, for beneficial waters irrigate the desert. The “desert”, in Isaiah’s symbolic language, can call to mind the tragic events, difficult situations and loneliness that often mark life; the deepest desert is the human heart when it loses the capacity for listening, speaking and communicating with God and with others. Eyes then become blind because they are incapable of seeing reality; ears are closed so as not to hear the cry of those who implore help; hearts are hardened in indifference and selfishness. But now, the Prophet proclaims, all is destined to change; the “dry land” of a closed heart will be watered by a new, divine sap. And when the Lord comes, to those who are fearful of heart in every epoch he says authoritatively: “Be strong, fear not!” (v. 4).

Here the Gospel episode recounted by St Mark (7: 31-37) fits in perfectly. Jesus heals a deaf-mute in the pagan land. First he welcomes him and takes care of him with the language of gestures which is more direct than words; and then, using an Aramaic term, he says “Eph’phatha”, that is, “be opened”, restoring the man’s hearing and speech. Full of wonder, the crowd exclaims: “he has done all things well” (v. 37). We can see in this “sign” Jesus’ ardent desire to overcome man’s loneliness and incommunicability created by selfishness, in order to bring about a “new humanity”, the humanity of listening and speech, of dialogue, of communication, of communion with God. A “good” humanity, just as all of God’s Creation is good; a humanity without discrimination, without exclusion as the Apostle James recommends in his Letter (2: 1-5) so that the world is truly and for all a “scene of true brotherhood” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 37), in an opening to love of our common Father, who created us and made us his sons and daughters.

Dear Church of Viterbo, may Christ, whom we see in the Gospel opening ears and releasing the tongue of the deaf-mute, open your hearts and always give you the joy of listening to his word, the courage to proclaim his Gospel, the ability to speak of God and to speak in this way with your brothers and sisters and, finally, the courage to discover God’s Face and his Beauty! However, for this to happen, as St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio where I shall go this afternoon recalls, the mind must, “in beholding these things, transcend and pass over, not only this visible world, but even itself” (Itinerarium mentis in Deum VII, 1). This is the itinerary of salvation, illumined by the light of God’s word and nourished by the sacraments that bring together all Christians.

I would now like to take up certain spiritual and pastoral paths of this journey which you too are called to take, beloved Church which dwells in this region. One priority that is very close to your Bishop’s heart is education in the faith, as research, as Christian initiation, as life in Christ. It is “becoming Christian” that consists in that “learning Christ” which St Paul expresses with the phrase: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2: 20). Parishes, families and the various associations are involved together in this experience. Catechists and all educators are called to commit themselves. Schools from primary schools to the University of Tuscia, ever more important and prestigious, and in particular Catholic schools, including the “San Pietro” Philosophical and Theological Institute are called to offer their own contribution. There are ever timely models, authentic pioneers of education in the faith from which to draw inspiration. I would like to mention, among others, St Rose Venerini (1656-1728) whom I had the joy of canonizing three years ago a true precursor of girls’ schools in Italy, precisely during the “Age of Enlightenment”; St Lucia Filippini (1672-1732), who, with the help of Venerable Cardinal Marco Antonio Barbarigo (1640-1706), founded the praiseworthy “Religious Teachers Filippini”. It will be possible to draw further from these spiritual sources successfully in order to face with clarity and consistency the current, unavoidable and overriding “educational emergency”, a great challenge to every Christian community and to the whole of society, which is actually a process of “Eph’phatha”, of opening the eyes and the ears and also releasing the tongue.

Education goes together with the witness of faith. “Faith”, St Paul writes, “work[s] through love” (Gal 5: 6). It is from this perspective that the Church’s charitable action gains her identity: her initiatives, her works, are signs of faith and of the love of God who is Love, as I recalled frequently in my Encyclicals Deus Caritas Est and Caritas in Veritate. Here the presence of volunteers is flourishing and ever increasing both at the personal level and as voluntary associations Caritas is the organization that serves as their vehicle and for their education. The young St Rose (1233-1251), Co-Patroness of the Diocese whose feast falls precisely in these days, is a shining example of faith and generosity to the poor. Furthermore, how can we omit to mention that St Giacinta Marescotti (1585-1640) from her monastery encouraged Eucharistic Adoration in the city and gave life to institutions and projects for prisoners and social outcasts? Nor can we forget the Franciscan witness of St Crispin, a Capuchin (1668-1759), which still inspires the presence of praiseworthy social aid. It is significant that in this atmosphere of Gospel fervour many houses of consecrated life came into being and in particular, cloistered monasteries, which constitute a visible reminder of the primacy of God in our lives and remind us that the first form of charity is, precisely, prayer. Emblematic in this regard is the example of Bl. Gabriella Sagheddu (1914-1939), a Trappist nun. In the Monastery of Vitorchiano, where she is buried, the spiritual ecumenism that was urgently pressed for by the Second Vatican Council (see Unitatis Redintegratio, no. 8) continues to be presented, nourished by ceaseless prayer. I also recall Bl. Domenico Bàrberi (1792-1849), a Passionist from Viterbo. In 1845 he accepted into the Church John Henry Newman, who later became a Cardinal, a high-profile intellectual of luminous spirituality.

Lastly, I would like to mention a third aspect of your pastoral plan: attention to the signs of God. As Jesus did with the deaf-mute, God continues likewise to reveal to us his project through “events and words”. Listening to his word and discerning his signs must therefore be the task of every Christian and every community. The most immediate of God’s signs is undoubtedly attention to one’s neighbour in accordance with what Jesus said: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25: 40). Furthermore, as the Second Vatican Council affirmed, the Christian is called to be “a witness before the world to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus, and a sign of the living God” (Lumen Gentium, no. 38). The priest whom Christ has chosen all for himself must be such in the first place. During this Year for Priests, pray with greater intensity for priests, for seminarians and for vocations, so that they may be faithful to this vocation of theirs! Likewise, every consecrated and every baptized person must be a sign of the living God.

Lay faithful, young people and families, do not be afraid to live and to bear witness to the faith in the various sectors of society, in the many situations of human existence! In this context also Viterbo has contributed prestigious figures. On this occasion it is a duty and a joy to commemorate Mario Fani of Viterbo the young man who founded the “Circolo Santa Rosa” who, together with Giovanni Acquaderni of Bologna, kindled that first spark which was later to become the historic experience of the laity in Italy: Catholic Action. The seasons of history come and go, social contexts change, but the vocation of Christians to live the Gospel in solidarity with the human family, in step with the times, has not been silenced and does not go out of fashion. This is social commitment, this is the service proper to political action, this is integral human development.

Dear brothers and sisters, when the heart is fearful in the desert of life do not be afraid, entrust yourselves to Christ, the first-born of the new humanity: a family of brothers and sisters built in freedom and justice, in the truth and charity of God’s children. Saints dear to you belong to this great family: Lawrence, Valentine, Hilary, Rose, Lucia, Bonaventure and many others. Our common Mother is Mary whom you venerate with the title of Our Lady of the Oak as Patroness of the whole Diocese in its new configuration. May they keep you ever united and nourish in each one the desire to proclaim Christ’s presence and love with words and with deeds! Amen.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Courtyard of the Papal Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 5 September 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

First I would like to apologize for arriving late! I have just returned from Carpineto Romano where, 200 years ago, Pope Leo XIII, Vincenzo Gioacchino Pecci, was born. I thank the Lord for having been able to celebrate the Eucharist with his fellowcitizens on this important anniversary. I now wish briefly to present my Message published a few days ago addressed to the young people of the world for the 26th World Youth Day that will be taking place in Madrid in a little less than a year.

The theme I have chosen for this Message uses an expression from St Paul’s Letter to the Colossians: “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (2: 7). It is definitely a proposal that goes against the tide! Indeed who today suggests to young people that they be “rooted” and “firm”? Rather uncertainty, mobility and volubility are extolled... all aspects that reflect a culture unsure about basic values, about the principles on whose basis to direct and regulate life. In fact, because of my experience and the contacts I have with youth I know well that every generation, indeed, every individual person, is called to take anew the path of the discovery of life’s meaning. And it is for this very reason that I chose to propose again a Message in the biblical style that evokes the images of a tree and a house. A young person, in fact, is like a growing tree: to develop healthily it needs deep roots which when stormy gales come will keep it firmly planted in the ground. The image of the building under construction also recalls the need for good foundations so that the house will be solid and safe.

And this is the heart of the Message: it is inherent in the words “in Christ” and “in the faith”. The full maturity of the person, his or her inner stability, are founded in the relationship with God, a relationship that passes through an encounter with Jesus Christ. A relationship of deep trust, of authentic friendship with Jesus, can give a young person what he or she needs to face life: serenity and interior enlightenment, an aptitude for thinking positively, broadmindedness with regard to others, the readiness to pay in person for goodness, justice and truth. One last and very important aspect: in order to become a believer a young person is supported by the faith of the Church; if no one is an island, neither is the Christian who discovers in the Church the beauty of faith shared with others in brotherhood and in the service of charity.

My Message to young people is dated 6 August, the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. May the light of Christ’s Face shine in the heart of every young person! And may the Virgin Mary accompany and protect communities and youth groups towards the important Meeting in Madrid in 2011.


PASTORAL VISIT TO CARPINETO ROMANO

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Monti Lepini Square, Sunday, 5 September 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

May I first of all express my joy at being here with you at Carpineto Romano, treading in the footsteps of my beloved Predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II! The circumstance that has brought me here is also a joyful one: the bicentenary of the birth in this beautiful town of Pope Leo XIII, Vincenzo Gioacchino Pecci, on 2 March 1810. I thank you all for your welcome! In particular, I greet with gratitude Bishop Lorenzo Loppa of Anagni-Alatri, and the Mayor of Carpineto, who have welcomed me at the beginning of the celebration, as well as the other Authorities present. I address a special thought to the young people, especially those who have made the diocesan pilgrimage. Unfortunately, my Visit is very short and it is entirely concentrated in this Eucharistic celebration; but here we find everything: the Word and the Bread of Life that nourishes faith, hope and charity; and we renew the bond of communion that makes us the one Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We have listened to the Word of God and it comes naturally to welcome it, on this occasion, thinking again of Pope Leo XIII and of the legacy he has bequeathed to us. The main theme that emerges from the biblical Readings is that of the primacy of God and of Christ. In the Gospel passage from St Luke, Jesus himself frankly states the three conditions necessary for being his disciples: to love him more than anyone else and more than life itself; to carry one’s cross and to walk after him; to renounce all one’s possessions. Jesus sees a great crowd following him with his disciples and wants to make it quite clear to all that following him is demanding and cannot depend on enthusiasm or opportunism. It must be a carefully considered decision taken after asking oneself, in all conscience: who is Jesus for me? Is he truly “Lord”, does he take first place, like the sun around which all the planets rotate? And the First Reading from the Book of Wisdom indirectly suggests to us the reason for this absolute primacy of Jesus Christ: in him we find the answers to the questions of human beings in every epoch who seek the truth about God and about themselves. God is out of our reach and his plans are unknown to us. Yet he has chosen to reveal himself, in creation and especially in the history of salvation, while in Christ he fully manifested himself and his will. Although it remains true that “No one has ever seen God” (Jn 1: 18), we now know his “name” and his “face” and even his will, because Jesus, who is the Wisdom of God made man, has revealed them to us. “Thus”, writes the sacred author of the First Reading, “men were taught what pleases you, and were saved by wisdom” (Wis 9: 18).

This fundamental reminder of the Word of God makes us think of two aspects of the life and ministry of your venerable Fellow Citizen whom we are commemorating today, the Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII. First of all it should be emphasized that he was a man of great faith and profound devotion. This still continues to be the basis of everything for every Christian, including the Pope. Without prayer, that is, without inner union with God, we can do nothing, as Jesus clearly tells his disciples at the Last Supper (see Jn 15: 5). Pope Pecci’s deep religious feeling shone out through his words and actions and was also reflected in his Magisterium: among his numerous Encyclicals and Apostolic Letters, like the theme running through a series of books, there are those of a properly spiritual character which aim above all at increasing Marian devotion, especially through the Holy Rosary. It is a true and proper “catechesis”, which marks the 25 years of his Pontificate from beginning to end. Yet we also find Documents on Christ the Redeemer, on the Holy Spirit, on the consecration to the Sacred Heart, on the devotion to St Joseph, on St Francis of Assisi. Leo XIII had special ties with the Franciscan Family as he belonged to the Third Order. I like to consider all these different elements as facets of a single reality: love of God and of Christ, to which absolutely nothing must be preferred. And Vincenzo Gioacchino Pecci assimilated this, his first and principal quality, here in his native town from his parents and from his parish.

However there is also a second aspect which once again derives from the primacy of God and of Christ. It is found in the public action of every Pastor of the Church in particular of every Supreme Pontiff with the characteristics proper to the personality of each one. I would say that the very concept of “Christian wisdom”, which emerged earlier in the First Reading and in the Gospel, offers us the synthesis of this structure according to Leo xiii it is not by chance that it is also the incipit of one of his Encyclicals. Every Pastor is called to pass on to the People of God “wisdom” not abstract truths; in other words a message that combines faith and life, truth and practical reality. Pope Leo XIII, with the help of the Holy Spirit was able to do this in one of the most difficult periods of history for the Church by, staying faithful to tradition and, at the same time, measuring up to the great open questions. And he succeeded precisely on the basis of “Christian wisdom”, founded on the Sacred Scriptures, on the immense theological and spiritual patrimony of the Catholic Church and also on the sound and crystal clear philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas, whom he esteemed highly and promoted throughout the Church.

At this point after considering the basis, in other words the faith and spiritual life and hence the general framework of Leo XIII’s Message, I shall refer to his social Magisterium. The Encyclical Rerum Novarum brought it undying fame but it was enriched by many other interventions that constitute an organic body, the first nucleus of the Church’s social doctrine. Let us start with St Paul’s Letter to Philemon. Which the Liturgy felicitously makes us read this very day. It is the shortest text of all the Pauline Letters. During a period in prison the Apostle transmitted the faith to Onesimus, a slave originally from Colossae, after he had escaped from his master Philemon, a rich inhabitant of that city, and had become Christian together with his relatives, thanks to Paul’s preaching. The Apostle now writes to Philemon asking him to receive Onesimus no longer as a slave but as a brother in Christ. The new Christian brotherhood overcame the separation between slaves and free men, and grafted on to history a principle of the promotion of the individual that was to lead to the abolition of slavery and also to surmounting other barriers that still exist today. Pope Leo XIII dedicated to the theme of slavery his Encyclical Catholicae Ecclesiae, of 1890.

This particular experience of St Paul with Onesimus can give rise to a broad reflection on the incentive to human promotion contributed by Christianity in the process of civilization and also on the method and style of this contribution, that are in conformity with the Gospel images of “seed” and “leaven”: within historical reality Christians, acting as individual citizens or in an association, constitute a beneficial and peaceful force for profound change, encouraging the development of the potentials inherent in reality itself. It is this form of presence and action in the world that is proposed by Church’s social doctrine, which always focuses on the development of consciences as a condition for effective and lasting transformations.

We must now ask ourselves: what was the context into which, 200 years ago, was born the man who 68 years later was to become Pope Leo XIII? Europe was then weathering the great Napoleonic storm that followed the French Revolution. The Church and many expressions of Christian culture were radically disputed (think only of examples such as, calculating the years no longer from Christ’s birth but from the beginning of the new revolutionary era, or of removing the names of Saints from the calendar, from streets, from villages...). Rural populations were not of course favourable to these overwhelming changes and remained firm to religious traditions. Daily life was hard and difficult: the conditions of health and of nourishment left much to be desired. In the meantime industry was developing and with it the workers’ movement, more and more politically organized. The Magisterium of the Church, at its highest level, was driven and aided by local thoughts and experiences to compile an overall interpretation in view, of the new society and of its common good. Thus when Leo XIII was elected Pope in 1878 he felt called to bring this interpretation to completion in the light of his extensive knowledge of international breadth, but also of many projects put into practice “on the spot” by Christian communities and men and women of the Church.

Indeed, dozens and dozens of Saints and Blesseds, from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th, sought and tested, with the creativity of charity, many ways to put the Gospel message into practice in the new social situations. There is no doubt that such initiatives, with the sacrifices and reflection of these men and women, prepared the ground for Rerum Novarum and for Pope Pecci’s other social Documents. Since the time when he was Apostolic Nuncio in Belgium, he had realized that the social question could be positively and effectively confronted with dialogue and mediation. In a time of harsh anti-clericalism and passionate demonstrations against the Pope, Leo XIII knew how to guide and support Catholics on the path to a constructive participation, rich in content, firm on principles and capable of openness. Subsequent to Rerum Novarum, in Italy and in other countries an authentic explosion of initiatives arose: associations, rural and artisan country banks, newspapers... a vast “movement” of which the Servant of God Giuseppe Toniolo was an enlightened animator. A very elderly Pope but, wise and far-sighted, Leo XIII was able to usher into the 20th century a rejuvenated Church with the right approach to facing the new challenges. He was a Pope still politically and physically a “prisoner” in the Vatican, but in reality, with his Magisterium, he represented a Church which could face without complexes the important questions of the contemporary age.

Dear friends of Carpineto Romano, we do not have time to examine these subjects in depth. The Eucharist which we are celebrating, the Sacrament of Love, recalls to us the essential: charity, the love of Christ that renews men and women and the world. This is the essential and we see it clearly, we almost perceive it in the words of St Paul in his Letter to Philemon. In that short note, in fact, can be felt all the gentleness at the same time as the revolutionary force of the Gospel; one feels the discreet and at the same time irresistible style of charity, which, as I wrote in my social Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, it is “the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity” (no. 1). With joy and affection I therefore leave you the old and ever new commandment: love one another as Christ has loved us, and with this love may you be the salt and light of the world. Thus you will be faithful to the legacy of your great and venerable Fellow Citizen, Pope Leo XIII; and so may it be throughout the Church! Amen.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 4 September 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The biblical Readings of Mass this Sunday converge on the theme of brotherly love in the community of believers whose source lies in the communion of the Trinity. The Apostle Paul says that the whole Law of God finds fullness in love, so that in our relationships with others the Ten Commandments and every other precept are summed up in these words: “Love your neighbour as yourself” (see Rom 13:8-10).

The Gospel text from chapter 18 of Matthew on the life of the Christian community tells us that brotherly love also involves a sense of mutual responsibility. For this reason if my brother commits a sin against me I must treat him charitably and first of all, speak to him privately, pointing out that what he has said or done is wrong. This approach is known as “fraternal correction”: it is not a reaction to the offence suffered but is motivated by love for one’s brethren.

St Augustine comments: “Whoever has offended you, in offending you, has inflicted a serious injury upon himself; and would you not care for a brother’s injury?... You must forget the offence you have received but not the injury of one of your brethren (Discourse 82, 7).

And what if my brother does not listen to me? In today’s Gospel Jesus points to a gradual approach: first, speak to him again with two or three others, the better to help him realize what he has done; if, in spite of this, he still refuses to listen, it is necessary to tell the community; and if he refuses to listen even to the community, he must be made to perceive that he has cut himself off by separating himself from the communion of the Church.

All this demonstrates that we are responsible for each other in the journey of Christian life; each person, aware of his own limitations and shortcomings, is called to accept fraternal correction and to help others with this specific service.

Another fruit of love in the community is unanimous prayer. Jesus said: “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in Heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:19-20). Personal prayer is of course important, indeed indispensable, but the Lord guarantees his presence to the community — even if it is very small — which is united and in agreement, because this reflects the very reality of the Triune God, perfect communion of love. Origen says “we should practise this symphony” (Commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew, 14,1), in other words this harmony within the Christian community. We should practise both fraternal correction — which demands deep humility and simplicity of heart — and prayer so that it may rise to God from a community truly united in Christ.

Let us ask all this through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and of St Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor, whom we commemorated in the liturgy yesterday.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 9 September 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the centre of today’s Gospel (Mk 7:31-37), there is a small but very important word. A word that — in its deepest sense — sums up Christ’s whole message and all his work. The Evangelist Mark records this word in the very language of Jesus in which Jesus spoke it so that we may hear it even more vividly. The word is “Ephphatha”, which means “be opened”. Let us look at the context in which it is used. Jesus was crossing the region known as Decapolis, between the coast of Tyre and Sidon and Galilee, hence an area that was not Jewish. They brought him a deaf-mute to be healed — evidently Jesus’ fame had spread that far. Jesus took him aside and touched his ears and his tongue and then, looking up to heaven, said with a deep sigh: “Ephphatha” which means “be opened”. Then the man immediately began to hear and to speak plainly (see Mk 7:35).

This, therefore is the historical and literal meaning of this word: thanks to Jesus’ intervention, the deaf-mute “was opened”; previously he had been closed, isolated, it had been very difficult for him to communicate. For him healing meant an “opening” to others and to the world, an opening which, starting with the organs of hearing and speech, involved his whole self and his life: he could at last communicate and thus relate in a new way.

However, we all know that a person’s closure and isolation do not only depend on the sense organs. There is an inner closure that affects the person’s inmost self, which the Bible calls the “heart”. It is this that Jesus came to “open”, to liberate, so as to enable us to live to the full our relationship with God and with others. This is why I said that this small word, “ephphatha — be opened”, sums up in itself Christ’s entire mission. He was made man so that man, rendered inwardly deaf and mute by sin, might be able to hear God’s voice, the voice of Love that speaks to his heart, and thus in his turn learn to speak the language of love, to communicate with God and with others. For this reason the word and the action of the “ephphatha” have been integrated into the Rite of Baptism as one of the signs that explain its meaning: the priest, touching the mouth and ears of the newly baptized person says: “ephphatha”, praying that he or she may soon hear the word of God and profess the faith. Through Baptism, the human person begins, so to speak, to breathe the Holy Spirit whom Jesus invoked from the Father with that deep sigh in order to heal the deaf-mute.

Let us now turn in prayer to Mary Most Holy, whose Nativity we celebrated yesterday. Because of her unique relationship with the Incarnate Word Mary was fully “open” to the Lord’s love, in her heart she was constantly listening to his word. May her maternal intercession obtain that every day, in faith, we experience the miracle of the “ephphatha”, to live in communion with God and with our brothers and sisters. 



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