Monday, October 3, 2022

Reflections on the Twenty-Eighth Sunday of
Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI

Entry 0302: Reflections on the Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary 

Time by Pope Benedict XVI  

On eight occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 9 October 2005, 15 October 2006, 14 October 2007, 12 October 2008, 11 October 2009, 10 October 2010, 9 October 2011, and 14 October 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus and six homilies delivered on these occasions.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 9 October 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The beatification of Clemens August von Galen, Bishop of Münster, a Cardinal and fearless opponent of the Nazi regime, took place this morning in St Peter’s Basilica.

Ordained a priest in 1904, he exercised his ministry for a long time in a Berlin parish, and in 1933 he became Bishop of Münster. In God’s Name he denounced the neo-pagan ideology of National Socialism, defending the freedom of the Church and human rights that were being seriously violated, and protecting the Jews and the weakest persons whom the regime considered as rubbish to be eliminated.

The three famous homilies that this intrepid Pastor gave in 1941 are remarkable. Pope Pius XII created him Cardinal in February 1946 and he died barely a month later, surrounded by the veneration of the faithful who recognized him as a model of Christian courage.

For this very reason, the message of Bl. von Galen is ever timely:  faith cannot be reduced to a private sentiment or indeed, be hidden when it is inconvenient; it also implies consistency and a witness even in the public arena for the sake of human beings, justice and truth.

I express my warm congratulations to the diocesan Community of Münster and to the Church in Germany as I invoke through the intercession of the new Blessed abundant graces from the Lord upon everyone.

In these days, as you know, the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is taking place at the Vatican to examine more deeply the theme of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Church today. I presided at the meetings in the first week and the Synod will also be my chief engagement in the next two weeks. I ask you to continue to pray for this Synod, so that it will yield the hoped for fruit.

Particularly in this month of October, in which every Ecclesial Community is called to renew its missionary commitment, I invite you to recapture what Pope John Paul II wrote in the fourth part of his Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine on the Eucharist as the “Source and Manifestation of Communion” (nos. 24-28): ”The encounter with Christ, constantly intensified and deepened in the Eucharist, issues in the Church and in every Christian an urgent summons to testimony and evangelization” (ibid., no. 24). This is emphasized by the dismissal at the end of Mass: ”Ite, missa est ”, which recalls the “missio”, the task of those who have taken part in the celebration to bring to everyone the Good News they have received and with it, to bring life to society.

Let us entrust this intention to the intercession of Mary Most Holy and St Daniel Comboni, whom the liturgy commemorates tomorrow. May he who was an outstanding evangelizer and protector of the African Continent help the Church of our time to respond with faith and courage to the mandate of the Risen Lord, who sends her out to proclaim God’s love to all the peoples.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 15 October 2006

Before concluding this solemn Celebration I would like to extend a cordial and grateful greeting to all of you who, coming from different nations, have made more visible by your devoted participation the meaning of today’s event for the universal Church.

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present today, especially those who have come for the canonization of Mother Théodore Guérin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. The Church rejoices in the four new Saints raised to the altars today. May their example inspire us and their prayers obtain for us guidance and courage. Invoking God’s abundant Blessings upon you, I wish you all a pleasant Sunday!

Turning now to the Virgin Mary, let us thank her for her motherly presence in the lives of the new Saints, and ask for her intercession so that every believer responds with joy and generous commitment to the call that God extends to him or her to be a sign of his holiness.

FILIPPO SMALDONE (1848 – 1923)
ROSA VENERINI (1656 – 1728)
THÉODORE GUÉRIN (1798 – 1856)


St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 15 October 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Four new Saints are proposed today for the veneration of the universal Church: Rafael Guízar y Valencia, Filippo Smaldone, Rose Venerini and Théodore Guérin. Their names will be remembered for ever.

In contrast to this immediately comes the thought of the “rich young man” of whom the Gospel, just proclaimed, speaks. This youth has remained anonymous; if he had responded positively to the invitation of Jesus, he would have become his disciple and probably the Evangelist would have recorded his name.

From this fact one can immediately glimpse the theme of this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word: if man puts his trust in the riches of this world, he will not reach the full sense of life and of true joy.

If instead, trusting the Word of God, he renounces himself and his goods for the Kingdom of Heaven, apparently losing much, he in reality gains all.

The Saint is exactly that man, that woman, who, responding with joy and generosity to Christ’s call, leaves everything to follow him. Like Peter and the other Apostles, as St Teresa of Jesus today reminds us as well as countless other friends of God, the new Saints have also run this demanding yet fulfilling Gospel itinerary and have already received “a hundred fold” in this life, together with trials and persecutions, and then eternal life.

Jesus, therefore, can truly guarantee a happy existence and eternal life, but by a route different from what the rich young man imagines: that is, not through a good work, a legal tribute, but rather in the choice of the Kingdom of God as the “precious pearl” for which it is worth selling all that one possesses (see Mt 13: 45-46).

The rich youth is not able to take this step. Notwithstanding that he has been the object of the loving gaze of Jesus (see Mk 10: 21), his heart is not able to detach itself from the many goods that he possessed.

Thus comes the teaching for the disciples: “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Mk 10: 23).

Earthly riches occupy and preoccupy the mind and the heart. Jesus does not say they are bad, but that they distance one from God if they are not, so to speak, “invested” for the Kingdom of Heaven, spent, that is, to come to the help of those who are poor.

Understanding this is the fruit of that wisdom of which the First Reading speaks. As we were told, she is more precious than silver or gold, and more beautiful, healthy and full of light, “because her radiance never ceases” (Wis 7: 10).

Obviously, this wisdom cannot be reduced merely to an intellectual dimension. It is much more; it is “the Wisdom of the heart”, as it is called in Psalm 89. It is a gift from on high (see Jas 3: 17), from God, and is obtained by prayer (see Wis 7: 7).

In fact, it has not remained distant from man; it has come close to his heart (see Dt 30: 14), taking form in the law of the First Covenant between God and Israel through Moses.

The Wisdom of God is contained in the Decalogue. This is why Jesus affirms in the Gospel that to “enter into life” it is necessary to observe the commandments (see Mk 10: 19). It is necessary, but not sufficient!

In fact, as St Paul says, salvation does not come from the law, but from Grace. And St John recalls that the law was given by Moses, while Grace and Truth come by means of Jesus Christ (see Jn 1: 17).

To reach salvation one must therefore be open in faith to the grace of Christ, who, however, when addressed, places a demanding condition: “Come, follow me” (Mk 10: 21).

The Saints have had the humility and the courage to respond “yes”, and they have renounced all to be his friends.

The four new Saints who we particularly venerate today have done likewise. In them we find the experience of Peter actualized: “Lo, we have left everything and followed you” (Mk 10: 28). Their only treasure is in heaven: it is God.

The Gospel that we have heard helps us to understand the figure of St Rafael Guízar y Valencia, Bishop of Vera Cruz in the beloved Mexican Nation, as an example of one who has left all to “follow Jesus”.

This Saint was faithful to the divine Word, “living and active”, that penetrates the depth of the spirit (see Heb 4: 12). Imitating the poor Christ, he renounced his goods and never accepted the gifts of the powerful, or rather, he gave them back immediately. This is why he received “a hundred fold” and could thus help the poor, even amid endless “persecutions” (see Mk 10: 30).

His charity, lived to a heroic degree, earned him the name, “Bishop of the poor”. In his priestly and later episcopal ministry, he was an untiring preacher of popular missions, the most appropriate way at the time to evangelize people, using his own “Catechism of Christian Doctrine”.

Since the formation of priests was one of his priorities, he reopened the seminary, which he considered “the apple of his eye”, and therefore he would often say: “A Bishop can do without the mitre, the crosier and even without the cathedral, but he cannot do without the seminary, since the future of his Diocese depends on it”.

With this profound sense of priestly paternity he faced new persecutions and exiles, but he always guaranteed the formation of the students.

The example of St Rafael Guízar y Valencia is a call to his brother Bishops and priests to consider as fundamental in pastoral programmes, beyond the spirit of poverty and evangelization, the promotion of priestly and religious vocations, and their formation according to the heart of Jesus!

St Filippo Smaldone, son of South Italy, knew how to instil in his life the higher virtues characteristic of his land.

A priest with a great heart nourished continuously on prayer and Eucharistic adoration, he was above all a witness and servant of charity, which he manifested in an eminent way through service to the poor, in particular to deaf-mutes, to whom he dedicated himself entirely.

The work that he began developed thanks to the Congregation of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Hearts founded by him and which spread to various parts of Italy and the world.

St Filippo Smaldone saw the image of God reflected in deaf-mutes, and he used to repeat that, just as we prostrate before the Blessed Sacrament, so we should kneel before a deaf-mute.

From his example we welcome the invitation to consider the ever indivisible love for the Eucharist and love for one’s neighbour. But the true capacity to love the brethren can come only from meeting with the Lord in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

St Rose Venerini is another example of a faithful disciple of Christ, ready to give up all in order to do the will of God. She loved to say: “I find myself so bound to the divine will that neither death nor life is important: I want to live as he wishes and I want to serve him as he likes, and nothing more” (Biografia Andreucci, p. 515).

From here, from this surrender to God, sprang the long-admired work that she courageously developed in favour of the spiritual elevation and authentic emancipation of the young women of her time.

St Rose did not content herself with providing the girls an adequate education, but she was concerned with assuring their complete formation, with sound references to the Church’s doctrinal teaching.

Her own apostolic style continues to characterize the life of the Congregation of the Religious Teachers Venerini which she founded. And how timely and important for today’s society is this service, which puts them in the field of education and especially of the formation of women.

“Go, sell everything you own, and give the money to the poor... then come, follow me”. These words have inspired countless Christians throughout the history of the Church to follow Christ in a life of radical poverty, trusting in Divine Providence.

Among these generous disciples of Christ was a young Frenchwoman, who responded unreservedly to the call of the divine Teacher. Mother Théodore Guérin entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence in 1823, and she devoted herself to the work of teaching in schools. Then, in 1839, she was asked by her Superiors to travel to the United States to become the head of a new community in Indiana.

After their long journey over land and sea, the group of six Sisters arrived at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. There they found a simple log-cabin chapel in the heart of the forest. They knelt down before the Blessed Sacrament and gave thanks, asking God’s guidance upon the new foundation.

With great trust in Divine Providence, Mother Théodore overcame many challenges and persevered in the work that the Lord had called her to do. By the time of her death in 1856, the Sisters were running schools and orphanages throughout the State of Indiana.

In her own words, “How much good has been accomplished by the Sisters of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods! How much more good they will be able to do if they remain faithful to their holy vocation!”.

Mother Théodore Guérin is a beautiful spiritual figure and a model of the Christian life. She was always open for the missions the Church entrusted to her, and she found the strength and the boldness to put them [the missions] into practice in the Eucharist, in prayer and in an infinite trust in Divine Providence. Her inner strength moved her to address particular attention to the poor, and above all to children.

Dear brothers and sisters, we give thanks to the Lord for the gift of holiness that today shines forth in the Church with singular beauty.

Jesus also invites us, like these Saints, to follow him in order to have an inheritance in eternal life. May their exemplary witness illuminate and encourage especially young people, so that they may allow themselves to be won over by Christ, by his glance full of love.

May Mary, Queen of the Saints, raise up among the Christian people, men and women like St Rafael Guízar y Valencia, St Filippo Smaldone, St Rose Venerini and St Théodore Guérin, ready to abandon all for the Kingdom of God; disposed to make their own the logic of gift and service, the only one that saves the world. Amen.



St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 14 October 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday’s Gospel presents Jesus healing 10 lepers, of whom only one, a Samaritan and therefore a foreigner, returned to thank him (see Lk 17: 11-19). The Lord said to him: “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well” (Lk 17: 19). This Gospel passage invites us to a twofold reflection. It first evokes two levels of healing: one, more superficial, concerns the body. The other deeper level touches the innermost depths of the person, what the Bible calls “the heart”, and from there spreads to the whole of a person’s life. Complete and radical healing is “salvation”. By making a distinction between “health” and “salvation”, even ordinary language helps us to understand that salvation is far more than health: indeed, it is new, full and definitive life. Furthermore, Jesus here, as in other circumstances, says the words: “Your faith has made you whole”. It is faith that saves human beings, re-establishing them in their profound relationship with God, themselves and others; and faith is expressed in gratitude. Those who, like the healed Samaritan, know how to say “thank you”, show that they do not consider everything as their due but as a gift that comes ultimately from God, even when it arrives through men and women or through nature. Faith thus entails the opening of the person to the Lord’s grace; it means recognizing that everything is a gift, everything is grace. What a treasure is hidden in two small words: “thank you”!

Jesus healed 10 people sick with leprosy, a disease in those times considered a “contagious impurity” that required ritual cleansing (see Lv 14: 1-37). Indeed, the “leprosy” that truly disfigures the human being and society is sin; it is pride and selfishness that spawn indifference, hatred and violence in the human soul. No one, save God who is Love, can heal this leprosy of the spirit which scars the face of humanity. By opening his heart to God, the person who converts is inwardly healed from evil.

“Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1: 15). Jesus began his public life with this invitation that continues to resonate in the Church to the point that in her apparitions, the Virgin Most Holy has renewed this appeal, especially in recent times. Today, let us think in particular of Fatima, where precisely 90 years ago, from 13 May to 13 October 1917, the Virgin appeared to the three little shepherd children: Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. Thanks to radio and television link-up, I would like to be spiritually present at this Marian Shrine where Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has presided on my behalf at the concluding celebrations of this most important anniversary. I cordially greet him, the other Cardinals and Bishops present, the priests who work at the shrine and the pilgrims who have come from every part of the world for the occasion. Let us ask Our Lady for the gift of true conversion for all Christians, so that they may proclaim and witness consistently and faithfully to the perennial message of the Gospel, which points out to humanity the path of authentic peace.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 12 October 2008

As we prepare to conclude this Celebration with the recitation of the Angelus, I would like to address my greeting to the pilgrims who have come in large numbers from various countries to pay homage to the new Saints.

I cordially greet the English-speaking pilgrims, in particular the Official Delegation from India, and all those who have come to celebrate the canonization of St Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception.

Her heroic virtues of patience, fortitude and perseverance in the midst of deep suffering remind us that God always provides the strength we need to overcome every trial. As the Christian faithful of India give thanks to God for their first native daughter to be presented for public veneration, I wish to assure them of my prayers during this difficult time. Commending to the providential care of Almighty God those who strive for peace and reconciliation, I urge the perpetrators of violence to renounce these acts and join with their brothers and sisters to work together in building a civilization of love. God bless you all!

I joyfully welcome all the German-speaking faithful. I greet in particular the delegation and numerous pilgrims from Switzerland, as well as the Franciscan Sisters of Maria Hilf. St Maria Bernarda entrusted her life to God without reserve. Thus she became an instrument of the love of God which she proclaimed to the ends of the earth. By following her example, let us too strive to bring the God of love and hope to men and women. For this, may the Lord grant you the fullness of his grace.

I address a warm greeting to the pilgrims who have come to Rome to participate in the joyful celebration for the new Saints’ canonization especially to the Archbishops and Bishops who have accompanied them, to the Franciscan Sisters Missionaries of Mary Help of Christians and to the other Authorities of Colombia and Ecuador who have come representing those countries, so rich in fruits of holiness. May the new Saints intercede for all their fellow citizens today so that, in following their example of consistent faith and charity to their brethren, they may bear a constant witness of Christ’s love for all people, thereby imparting new vigour to the Christian roots of their peoples and illuminating the construction of a more just and solidary society, inspired by the Gospel values. Many thanks.

I cordially greet you, dear French-speaking pilgrims. Today, subsequent to the Lord’s call and after the example of the Saints who have just been canonized, we are invited to be daring witnesses of the Word of God at the crossroads, in order to invite everyone we meet to the wedding of the Gospel. May our prayers accompany the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops during its work! With my Apostolic Blessing.

Among the participants at this solemn canonization, I also greet the Polish pilgrims. The day dedicated to the commemoration of my beloved Predecessor John Paul ii is celebrated today in your homeland. I bless every initiative to commemorate his person. I commend you all to God in my prayers.

Lastly, I address a cordial greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, especially to the spiritual children of St Gaetano Errico and to the faithful who have come from Naples and Campania. Dear friends, in the lives of the Saints and in their achievements one always encounters the strong spiritual presence of the Virgin Mary. I am pleased to emphasize, in this month of October, their adherence to the prayer of the Rosary as a means of daily union with Jesus, a source of inspiration and comfort and an instrument of intercession for the Church’s needs in accordance with the Pope’s intentions. In this regard, I invite you to pray for reconciliation and peace in certain situations that are causing alarm and deep suffering: I am thinking of the peoples of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and I am thinking of the violence against the Christians in Iraq and in India whom I remember daily before the Lord. Let us also invoke the protection of Mary Queen of All Saints, upon the work of the Synod of Bishops that is meeting in these days at the Vatican.

Gaetano Errico (1791-1860)
Mary Bernard (Verena) Bütler(1848-1924)
Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception
(Anna Muttathupadathu) (1910-1946)
Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán (1832-1869)


St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 12 October 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, four new figures of Saints are proposed for the veneration of the universal Church: Gaetano Errico, Maria Bernarda Bütler, Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, and Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán. The liturgy presents them to us with the Gospel image of the guests who take part at the banquet clad in the wedding garment. We also find the image of the banquet in the First Reading and in other passages in the Bible: it is a joyful image because the banquet accompanies a wedding feast, the Covenant of love between God and his People. The Old Testament prophets constantly led Israel to expect this Covenant. And in an epoch marked by trials of every kind, it was when the difficulties risked discouraging the chosen People that the Prophet Isaiah raised his reassuring voice: “the Lord of hosts”, he says, “will make for all peoples a feast of rich and choice wine, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines (25: 6). God will put an end to the sorrow and shame of his People, who will be able at last to live in the happiness of communion with him. God never abandons his People: for this reason the Prophet invites us to rejoice: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us... let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us” (v. 9).

If the First Reading exalts God’s fidelity to his promise, the Gospel, with the parable of the marriage feast, makes us reflect on the human response. Several of those first invited refused the invitation because they were attracted by different interests; others even disdained the king’s invitation, provoking a punishment that afflicted not only them but also the entire city. However, the king was not discouraged and sent his servants out to seek other guests to fill his banquet hall. Thus the aspect of the refusal of those initially invited caused the invitation to be extended to all, with a special predilection for the poor and the disadvantaged. This is what occurred in the Paschal Mystery: the force of evil is defeated by the omnipotence of God’s love. The Risen Lord can now invite everyone to the banquet of Paschal joy and he himself can provide the guests with a wedding garment, symbol of the free gift of sanctifying grace.

However, the human being must reciprocate God’s generosity by freely adhering to him. It is precisely this generous path that was taken by those who we are venerating today as Saints. In Baptism they received the wedding garment of divine grace, they kept it clean and purified it and made it radiant during their life through the Sacraments. They are now taking part in the wedding feast in Heaven. The banquet of the Eucharist is an anticipation of the final feast in Heaven, to which the Lord invites us every day and in which we must take part, clothed in the wedding garment of his grace. Should it happen that we soil or even tear this garment with sin, God’s goodness does not reject or abandon us to our destiny but rather offers us, with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the possibility of restoring the wedding garment to the pristine state required for the feast.

The ministry of Reconciliation therefore is a ministry that is always relevant. The priest Gaetano Errico, Founder of the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, devoted himself to it with diligence, perseverance and patience, never refusing or sparing himself. He is thus enrolled among the extraordinary priestly figures who tirelessly made the confessional the place for dispensing God’s mercy, helping people to find themselves, fight against sin and progress on the path of the spiritual life. The street and the confessional were the privileged places of this new Saint’s pastoral action. The street gave him the opportunity to meet people to whom he would address his customary invitation: “God loves you, when will we see each other?”. And in the confessional he enabled them to encounter the mercy of the heavenly Father. How many wounded souls did he heal in this way! How many people did he reconcile with God through the Sacrament of forgiveness! Thus St Gaetano Errico became an expert in the “science” of forgiveness and was concerned to teach it to his missionaries, advising them: “God, who does not desire the sinner’s death, is always more merciful than his ministers; thus may you be as merciful as you can be, so that you will receive mercy from God”.

At a very early age, Maria Bernarda Bütler, born in Auw in the Swiss canton of Aargau, experienced deep love for the Lord. As she herself said: “This is impossible to explain to someone who has not experienced the same thing”. This love brought Verena Bütler, as she was then called, to enter the Capuchin Convent of Maria Hilf in Altstätten, where she made her final profession at the age of 21. When she was 40, she received the call to the missions and went to Ecuador and then to Colombia. On 29 October 1995, my venerable Predecessor John Paul II raised her to the honours of the altar, because of her life and her commitment to her neighbour.

Mother Maria Bernarda, a figure well-remembered and well-loved especially in Colombia, thoroughly understood that the banquet that the Lord has prepared for all people is represented in a very special way by the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, Christ himself receives us as friends and gives himself to us in the banquet of Bread and the Word, entering into deep communion with each one. The Eucharist is the source and pillar of the spirituality of this new Saint and of the missionary drive that impelled her to leave Switzerland, the land of her birth, to open herself to other horizons of evangelization in Ecuador and Colombia. In the serious adversities that she was obliged to face, including exile, engraved in her heart she carried the exclamation of the Psalm we have heard today: “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side” (Ps 23: 4). Thus, docile to the Word of God after Mary’s example, she behaved like the servants mentioned in the Gospel narrative that we heard: she went everywhere proclaiming that the Lord invites everyone to his banquet. Thus she brought others to share in the love of God to whom, throughout her life, she dedicated herself with faithfulness and joy.

“He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces” (Is 25: 8). These words of the prophet Isaiah contain the promise which sustained Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception through a life of extreme physical and spiritual suffering. This exceptional woman, who today is offered to the people of India as their first canonized saint, was convinced that her cross was the very means of reaching the heavenly banquet prepared for her by the Father. By accepting the invitation to the wedding feast, and by adorning herself with the garment of God’s grace through prayer and penance, she conformed her life to Christ’s and now delights in the “rich fare and choice wines” of the heavenly kingdom (see Is 25: 6). She wrote, “I consider a day without suffering as a day lost”. May we imitate her in shouldering our own crosses so as to join her one day in paradise.

Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán, a young Ecuadorian lay woman, offers us a perfect example of a prompt and generous response to the invitation that the Lord extends to us to share in his love. Already at a very early age, in receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, she felt clearly in her heart the call to live a life of holiness and devotion to God. To sustain the Holy Spirit’s action in her soul with docility, she always sought the counsel and guidance of good and expert priests, considering spiritual direction as one of the most effective means to arrive at holiness. St Narcisa of Jesus shows us a path of Christian perfection obtainable for all the faithful. Despite the many and extraordinary graces that she received, she lived her life with great simplicity, dedicated to her work as a seamstress and to her apostolate as a catechist. In her passionate love for Jesus, who led her on a path of intense prayer and torment and to identify herself increasingly with the mystery of the Cross, she offers us an attractive witness and a perfect example of a life totally dedicated to God and to her brothers and sisters.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank the Lord for the gift of holiness that is today resplendent in the Church with singular beauty. Jesus invites each one of us to follow him, like these Saints, on the way of the Cross, so that we might then inherit the eternal life that he, dying, gave to us. May their examples be an encouragement to us; may their teachings guide and comfort us; may their intercession sustain us in our daily efforts so that we too may one day come to share with them and with all the saints the joy of the eternal banquet in the heavenly Jerusalem. Above all may Mary Queen of All Saints, who in this month of October we venerate with special devotion, obtain this grace for us. Amen.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 11 October 2009

At the end of this solemn celebration, noon invites us to the prayer of the Angelus. Before reciting it, I would like to offer a cordial greeting to all of you who have wished with your participation to pay homage to the new Saints. I extend a special thought to the authorities with official delegations who have come from various countries: I thank you for your presence.

I extend cordial greetings to all the English-speaking pilgrims here this Sunday, especially those who have come to Rome in such great numbers for today’s canonization. May these new saints accompany you with their prayers and inspire you by the example of their holy lives. I also greet the group of survivors of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I pray that the world may never again witness such mass destruction of innocent human life. May God bless all of you, as well as your families and loved ones at home.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Virgin Mary is the Star that guides every journey of holiness. Her “Fiat” is a model of perfect adherence to the divine will and her “Magnificat” expresses the song of exultation of the Church, which already on this earth rejoices in the great works of God and in Heaven eternally praises his glory.

Let us turn with filial trust to the Mother of Christ, invoking peace and salvation through her intercession and that of the new Saints.



Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 11 October 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”. The brief conversation we heard in the Gospel passage, between a man identified elsewhere as the rich young man and Jesus, begins with this question (see Mk 10: 17-30). We do not have many details about this anonymous figure; yet from a few characteristics we succeed in perceiving his sincere desire to attain eternal life by leading an honest and virtuous earthly existence. In fact he knows the commandments and has observed them faithfully from his youth. Yet, all this which is of course important is not enough. Jesus says he lacks one thing, but it is something essential. Then, seeing him well disposed, the divine Teacher looks at him lovingly and suggests to him a leap in quality; he calls the young man to heroism in holiness, he asks him to abandon everything to follow him: “go, sell what you have, and give to the poor... and come, follow me” (v. 21).

“Come, follow me”. This is the Christian vocation which is born from the Lord’s proposal of love and can only be fulfilled in our loving response. Jesus invites his disciples to give their lives completely, without calculation or personal interest, with unreserved trust in God. Saints accept this demanding invitation and set out with humble docility in the following of the Crucified and Risen Christ. Their perfection, in the logic of faith sometimes humanly incomprehensible consists in no longer putting themselves at the centre but in choosing to go against the tide, living in line with the Gospel. This is what the five Saints did who are held up today with great joy for the veneration of the universal Church: Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński, Francisco Coll y Guitart, Jozef Damien de Veuster, Rafael Arnáiz Barón and Mary of the Cross (Jeanne Jugan). In them we contemplate the Apostle Peter’s words fulfilled: “Lo, we have left everything and followed you” (v. 28), and Jesus’ comforting reassurance: “there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time... with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (vv. 29-30).

Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński, Archbishop of Warsaw, the Founder of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary, was a great witness of faith and pastoral charity in very troubled times for the nation and for the Church in Poland. He zealously concerned himself with the spiritual development of the faithful, he helped the poor and orphans. At the Ecclesiastical Academy in St Petersburg he saw to the sound formation of priests and as Archbishop of Warsaw he instilled in everyone the desire for inner renewal. Before the January 1863 Uprising against Russian annexation he put the people on guard against useless bloodshed. However, when the rebellion broke out and there were repressions he courageously defended the oppressed. On the Tsar of Russia’s orders he spent 20 years in exile at Jaroslaw on the Volga, without ever being able to return to his diocese. In every situation he retained his steadfast trust in Divine Providence and prayed: “O God, protect us not from the tribulations and worries of this world... only multiply love in our hearts and obtain that in deepest humility we may keep our infinite trust in your help and your mercy”. Today his gift of himself to God and to humankind, full of trust and love, becomes a luminous example for the whole Church.

St Paul reminds us in the Second Reading that “the word of God is living and active” (Heb 4: 12). In it the Father who is in Heaven speaks lovingly to his children in all the epochs (see Dei Verbum, no. 21), making them know his infinite love and, in this way, encouraging them, consoling them and offering them his plan of salvation for humanity and for every person. Aware of this, St Francisco Coll dedicated himself eagerly to disseminating it, thus faithfully fulfilling his vocation in the Order of Preachers, in which he had made his profession. His passion was for preaching, mainly as an itinerant preacher, following the form of the “popular missions”. Thus he aimed to proclaim and to revive the word of God in the villages and towns of Catalonia, thereby guiding people to profound encounter with God. This encounter leads to conversion of heart, to receiving divine grace joyfully and to keeping up a constant conversation with Our Lord through prayer. For this reason his evangelizing activity included great dedication to the sacrament of Reconciliation, a special emphasis on the Eucharist and constant insistence on prayer. Francisco Coll moved the hearts of others because he conveyed to them what he himself lived passionately within, what set his own heart on fire: love for Christ and surrender to him. To ensure that the seed of the word of God fell on good ground, Francisco founded the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Anunciata to give an integral education to children and young women so that they might continue to discover the unfathomable treasure that is Christ, the faithful friend who never abandons us and never wearies of being beside us, enlivening our hope with his word of life.

Jozef De Veuster received the name of Damien in the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. When he was 23 years old, in 1863, he left Flanders, the land of his birth, to proclaim the Gospel on the other side of the world in the Hawaiian Islands. His missionary activity, which gave him such joy, reached its peak in charity. Not without fear and repugnance, he chose to go to the Island of Molokai to serve the lepers who lived there, abandoned by all. Thus he was exposed to the disease from which they suffered. He felt at home with them. The servant of the Word consequently became a suffering servant, a leper with the lepers, for the last four years of his life. In order to follow Christ, Fr Damien not only left his homeland but also risked his health: therefore as the word of Jesus proclaimed to us in today’s Gospel says he received eternal life (see Mk 10: 30). On this 20th anniversary of the Canonization of another Belgian Saint, Bro. Mutien-Marie, the Church in Belgium has once again come together to give thanks to God for the recognition of one of its sons as an authentic servant of God. Let us remember before this noble figure that it is charity which makes unity, brings it forth and makes it desirable. Following in St Paul’s footsteps, St Damien prompts us to choose the good warfare (see 1 Tim 1: 18), not the kind that brings division but the kind that gathers people together. He invites us to open our eyes to the forms of leprosy that disfigure the humanity of our brethren and still today call for the charity of our presence as servants, beyond that of our generosity.

Turning to today’s Gospel, the figure of the young man who tells Jesus of his desire to be something more than one who fulfils to the letter the duties imposed by the law contrasts with Bro. Rafael, canonized today, who died at age 26 as an oblate at the Trappist Monastery of San Isidro de Dueñas. Bro. Rafael also came from a rich family and, as he himself said, was of a “somewhat dreamy disposition”, but his dreams did not vanish before the attraction of material goods and the other aims that the worldly life sometimes proposes with great insistence. He said “yes” to the call to follow Jesus, instantly and with determination, without limits or conditions. So it was that he set out on a journey which, from the moment when he realized at the Monastery that “he did not know how to pray”, brought him in just a few years to the peak of spiritual life, which he recounts in a very frank and natural style in many of his letters. Bro. Rafael, who is also near to us, continues with his example and his actions to offer us an attractive path, especially for young people who are not content with little but aspire to the full truth, the ineffable happiness which is attained through God’s love. “A life of love.... This is the only reason for living”, the new Saint said. And he insisted: “All things come from God’s love”. May the Lord listen kindly to one of the last prayers of St Rafael Arnáiz, when he offered God his whole life, imploring him: “Take me to yourself and give yourself to the world”. May he give himself to revive the inner life of today’s Christians. May he give himself so that his Brother Trappists and monastic centres continue to be beacons that reveal the intimate yearning for God which he himself instilled in every human heart.

By her admirable work at the service of the most deprived elderly, St Mary of the Cross is also like a beacon to guide our societies which must always rediscover the place and the unique contribution of this period of life. Born in 1792 at Cancale in Brittany, Jeanne Jugan was concerned with the dignity of her brothers and sisters in humanity whom age had made more vulnerable, recognizing in them the Person of Christ himself. “Look upon the poor with compassion”, she would say, “and Jesus will look kindly upon you on your last day”. Jeanne Jugan focused upon the elderly a compassionate gaze drawn from her profound communion with God in her joyful, disinterested service, which she carried out with gentleness and humility of heart, desiring herself to be poor among the poor. Jeanne lived the mystery of love, peacefully accepting obscurity and self-emptying until her death. Her charism is ever timely while so many elderly people are suffering from numerous forms of poverty and solitude and are sometimes also abandoned by their families. In the Beatitudes Jeanne Jugan found the source of the spirit of hospitality and fraternal love, founded on unlimited trust in Providence, which illuminated her whole life. This evangelical dynamism is continued today across the world in the Congregation of Little Sisters of the Poor, which she founded and which testifies, after her example, to the mercy of God and the compassionate love of the Heart of Jesus for the lowliest. May St Jeanne Jugan be for elderly people a living source of hope and for those who generously commit themselves to serving them, a powerful incentive to pursue and develop her work!

Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank the Lord for the gift of holiness which shines out in the Church today with unique beauty. While I greet with affection each one of you Cardinals, Bishops, civil and military authorities, priests, men and women religious and members of the lay faithful of various nationalities who are taking part in this solemn Eucharistic celebration I would like to address to all the invitation to let yourselves be attracted by the luminous examples of these Saints, to let yourselves be guided by their teaching so that our entire life may become a song of praise to God’s love. May their heavenly intercession obtain for us this grace and, especially, the motherly protection of Mary, Queen and Mother of humanity. Amen.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 10 October 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I have just come from St Peter’s Basilica where I presided at the opening Mass for the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. This extraordinary Synod Meeting that will last for two weeks, sees gathered at the Vatican the Pastors of the Church who live in the region of the Middle East, a particularly variegated situation: in those lands, in fact, the one Church of Christ is expressed in the full richness of her ancient Traditions. The theme on which we shall reflect is: “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: communion and witness”. In fact, in those countries, unfortunately marked by deep divisions and torn by age-old conflicts, the Church is called to be a sign and instrument of unity and reconciliation, modelled on the first community of Jerusalem, in which “the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul”, as St Luke says (Acts 4: 32). This task is not easy, since the Christians of the Middle East often find themselves having to bear difficult living conditions, at both family and community levels. But this must not be a discouragement: it is precisely in this context that Christ’s perennial message rings out, more necessary and urgent than ever: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1: 15). On my recent Visit to Cyprus I presented the Instrumentum Laboris of this Synodal Assembly. Now that it has begun, I ask everyone to pray, invoking from God an abundant outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The month of October is called the month of the Rosary, a “spiritual cadence”, so to speak, that derives from the liturgical Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, which is celebrated on 7 October. We are therefore asked to let ourselves be guided by Mary in this prayer, ancient and ever new, which is especially dear to her because it leads us directly to Jesus, contemplated in his Mysteries of salvation: joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious. In the footsteps of Venerable John Paul ii (see Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae), I would like to recall that the Rosary is a biblical prayer, interwoven with Sacred Scripture throughout. It is a prayer of the heart, in which the repetition of the Hail Mary directs the thoughts and affections to Christ and therefore becomes a trusting supplication to his Mother and ours. It is a prayer that helps us to meditate on the word of God and to assimilate Eucharistic Communion, modelling ourselves on Mary who cherished in her heart all that Jesus did and said, and his Presence itself.

Dear friends, we know how deeply our brothers and sisters in the Middle East love and venerate the Virgin Mary. They all look to her as a caring Mother, close to all who suffer, and as a Star of hope. Let us entrust to her intercession the Synodal Assembly that begins today, so that the Christians of this region may be strengthened in communion and may bear witness to the Gospel of love and peace to all.



Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 10 October 2010

Venerable Brothers,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Eucharistic celebration, the rendering of thanks to God par excellence, is marked for us today, gathered around the Tomb of St Peter, by an extraordinary reason: the grace of seeing gathered together for the first time at a Synod, around the Bishop of Rome and the Universal Shepherd, the Bishops of the Middle Eastern region. Such a singular event demonstrates the interest of the whole Church for that precious and beloved part of God’s people who live in the Holy Land and the whole of the Middle East.

Above all, we give thanks to the Lord of history, because despite the often difficult and tormented events, he has permitted the Middle East to see, from the time of Jesus until today, a continuity in the presence of Christians. In those lands, the one Church of Christ is expressed in the variety of liturgical, spiritual, cultural and disciplinary traditions of the six venerable Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris, as well as in the Latin tradition. The fraternal greeting which I address with great affection to the Patriarchs of each one of them wishes to be extended at this time to all the faithful entrusted to their pastoral care in their respective countries as well as in the Diaspora.

On this Sunday, the 28th of Ordinary Time, the Word of God offers a theme for meditation which brings us closer in a meaningful way to the event of the Synod that we open today. Continued reading of the Gospel of Luke leads us to the story of the healing of the 10 lepers, of whom only one, a Samaritan, returns to thank Jesus. Connected with this text, the first reading, from the Second Book of Kings, tells the story of the healing of Naaman, head of the Aramaean army, also a leper, who was cured by immersing himself seven times in the waters of the Jordan River, on the orders of the Prophet Elisha. Naaman too returns to the prophet and, recognizing him as the mediator of God, professes his faith in the one Lord. So two lepers, two non-Jews, who are cured because they believe in the word of God’s messenger. Their bodies are healed, but they are open to faith, and this heals their souls, that is, it saves them.

The Responsorial Psalm sings of this reality: “Yahweh has made known his saving power, / revealed his saving justice for the nations to see. / Mindful of his faithful love and his constancy to the House of Israel” (Ps 98: 2-3). This then is the theme: salvation is universal, but it passes through a specific historical mediation, the mediation of the people of Israel, which goes on to become that of Jesus Christ and the Church. The door of life is open for everyone, but this is the point, it is a “door”, that is, a definite and necessary passage. This is summed up in the Pauline formula we heard in the Second Letter to Timothy: “the salvation in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 2: 10). It is the mystery of the universality of Salvation and, at the same time of its necessary link with the historical mediation of Christ Jesus, preceded by that of the People of Israel and continued by that of the Church. God is love and wants all men to be part of His life; to carry out this plan He, who is Triune, creates in the world a mystery of a communion that is human and divine, historical and transcendent: He creates it with the method so to speak of the Covenant, tying himself to men with faithful and inexhaustible love, forming a holy people, that becomes a blessing for all the families of the earth (see Gen 12: 13). Thus He reveals Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (see Ex 3: 6), who wants to lead his people to the “land” of freedom and peace. This “land” is not of this world; the whole of the divine plan goes beyond history, but the Lord wants to build it with men, for men and in men, beginning with the coordinates of space and time in which they live and which He Himself gave them.

With its own specificity, the land we call the “Middle East’, makes up part of those coordinates. God sees this region of the world, too, from a different perspective, one might say, “from on high’: it is the land of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the land of the Exodus and the return from exile; the land of the Temple and of the Prophets, the land in which the Only-Begotten Son of Mary was born, lived, died, and rose from the dead; the cradle of the Church, established in order to carry Christ’s Gospel to the ends of the earth. And we too, as believers, look at the Middle East with this view, from the perspective of the history of salvation. It is this internal point of view which guided me during Apostolic visits to Turkey, the Holy Land Jordan, Israel, Palestine and Cyprus, where I was able to experience first-hand the joys and concerns of the Christian communities. It was for this reason, too, that I willingly accepted the proposal of the Patriarchs and Bishops to convoke a Synodal Assembly in order to reflect together, in light of Sacred Scripture and Church traditions, on the present as well as the future of the faithful and populations of the Middle East.

Looking at that part of the world from God’s perspective means recognizing it as the “cradle’ of a universal design of salvation in love, a mystery of communion which becomes true in freedom and thus asks man for a response. Abraham, the prophets, and the Virgin Mary are the protagonists of this response which, however, has its completion in Jesus Christ, Son of that same land, yet descended from Heaven. From Him, from his Heart and his Spirit was born the Church, which is a pilgrim in this world, yet belongs to Him. The Church was established to be a sign and an instrument of the unique and universal saving project of God among men; She fulfils this mission simply by being herself, that is, “Communion and witness”, as the theme of this Synodal Assembly which opens today says, referring to Luke’s famous description of the first Christian community: “The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul” (Acts 4: 32). Without communion there can be no witness: the life of communion is truly the great witness. Jesus said it clearly: “It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples” (Jn 13: 35). This communion is the life of God itself which is communicated in the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ. It is thus a gift, not something which we ourselves must build through our own efforts. And it is precisely because of this that it calls upon our freedom and waits for our response: communion always requires conversion, just as a gift is better if it is welcomed and utilized. In Jerusalem the first Christians were few. Nobody could have imagined what was going to take place. And the Church continues to live on that same strength which enabled her to begin and to grow. Pentecost is the original event but also a permanent dynamism, and the Synod of Bishops is a privileged moment in which the grace of Pentecost may be renewed in the Church’s journey, so that the Good News may be announced openly and heard by all peoples.

Therefore, the reason for this Synodal Assembly is mainly a pastoral one. While not being able to ignore the delicate and at times dramatic social and political situation of some countries, the Pastors of the Middle Eastern Churches wish to concentrate on the aspects of their own mission. In this regard, the Instrumentum laboris, elaborated by a Pre-Synodal Council whose members we thank for their work, underlined these ecclesial finalities of the Assembly, pointing out that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it wishes to revive the communion of the Catholic Church in the Middle East. First of all within each Church, among all its members: Patriarch, Bishop, priests, religious, persons of consecrated life and the laity. And, thereby, in the relationships with the other Churches. Ecclesial life, thus strengthened, will see the development of very positive fruits in the ecumenical path with the other Churches and ecclesial Communities present in the Middle East. This occasion is also propitious for constructively continuing the dialogue with the Jews, to whom we are tied by an indissoluble bond, the lengthy history of the Covenant, and with the Muslims.

Also, the work of the Synodal Assembly is oriented to the witness of Christians at a personal, family and social level. This requires the reinforcing of their Christian identity through the Word of God and the Sacraments. We all hope that the faithful feel the joy in living in the Holy Land, a land blessed by the presence and by the Paschal Mystery of the Lord Jesus Christ. Over the centuries those places attracted multitudes of pilgrims and even men and women in religious communities, who have considered it a great privilege to be able to live and bear witness in the land of Jesus. Despite the difficulties, Christians in the Holy Land are called to enliven their consciousness of being the living stones of the Church in the Middle East, at the holy Places of our salvation. However, living in a dignified manner in one’s own country is above all a fundamental human right: therefore, the conditions of peace and justice, which are necessary for the harmonious development of all those living in the region, should be promoted. Therefore all are called to make their personal contribution: the international community, by supporting a stable path, loyal and constructive, towards peace; those most prevalent religions in the region, in promoting the spiritual and cultural values that unite men and women and exclude every expression of violence. Christians will continue to contribute not only with the work of social promotion, such as institutes of education and healthcare, but above all with the spirit of the evangelical Beatitudes, which enliven the practice of forgiveness and reconciliation. In this commitment, they will always have the support of the entire Church, as is solemnly attested by the presence here of the Delegates of the Episcopates of other continents.

Dear friends, let us entrust the work of the Synodal Assembly for the Middle East to the many Saints of that blessed land; let us invoke upon it the constant protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that the coming days of prayer, of reflection and of fraternal communion may be the harbingers of the good fruits for the present and for the future of the beloved Middle Eastern populations. To them we address a hopeful greeting with all our heart: “Peace to you, peace to your family, peace to all that is yours!” (1 Sam 25: 6).




Former-Sir Area in the industrial suburb of Lamezia Terme, Sunday, 9 October 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we come to the end of our celebration let us turn with filial devotion to the Virgin Mary, whom we venerate in this month of October with the title of Queen of the Holy Rosary. I know that there are various Marian Shrines in your region, and I am glad to know that popular piety is alive. I encourage you to practise it constantly, in the light of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, of the Apostolic See and of your Pastors.

I entrust your diocesan community to Mary with affection so that it may journey on united in faith, hope and charity. May the Mother of the Church help you always to have at heart ecclesial communion and missionary zeal. May she sustain priests in their ministry, help parents and teachers in their educational task, comfort the sick and the suffering and preserve in young people a pure and generous soul.

Let us also invoke Mary’s intercession for the most serious social problems in this area and in the whole of Calabria, especially the problems of unemployment, of youth and of the safeguard of disabled people who demand increasing attention on the part of all and, in particular, of the institutions.

I urge you, the lay faithful, in particular, in communion with your bishops, to ensure that your competent and responsible contribution to building the common good not be lacking.

As you know, this afternoon I shall be going to Serra San Bruno to visit the Charterhouse. St Bruno came to this area nine centuries ago and made a deep mark on it with the power of his faith. The faith of the saints renews the world! With the same faith, may you too renew your, our beloved Calabria!



Former-Sir Area, Industrial suburb of Lamezia Terme, Sunday, 9 October 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is my great joy to be able to break with you the bread of the word of God and of the Eucharist. I am delighted to be here in Calabria and in this city, Lamezia Terme, for the first time. I offer my cordial greeting to all of you who have come here in such great numbers and I thank you for your warm welcome! I greet in particular Bishop Luigi Antonio Cantafora, your Pastor, and thank him for the courteous words of welcome he has addressed to me on behalf of all. I also greet the archbishops and bishops present, the priests, men and women religious, representatives of the ecclesial Associations and Movements. I address a respectful thought to the Mayor, Prof. Gianni Speranza, with gratitude for his courteous greeting, to the Government Representative and the civil and military Authorities, who have wished to honour this meeting with their presence. Special thanks are due to those who have generously collaborated in the realization of my Pastoral Visit.

This Sunday’s liturgy presents a parable to us that speaks of a wedding banquet to which many were invited. The First Reading, from the Book of Isaiah, prepares the ground for this theme, for it speaks about the banquet of God. It is an image — the banquet — often used in the Scriptures to indicate the joy in communion and in the abundance of the Lord’s gifts, and it gives some idea of the celebration of God with humanity as Isaiah describes: “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine... well refined” (Is 25:6). The Prophet adds that God’s intention is to put an end to sadness and shame; he wants all people to live happily in love of him and in mutual communion. Therefore his plan is to eliminate death forever, to wipe away the tears from all faces, to take away once and for all the dishonourable condition of his people, as we heard (vv. 7-8). All this awakens deep gratitude and hope: “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (v. 9).

In the Gospel Jesus speaks to us of the answer that is given to the invitation of God — represented by a king — to take part in this marriage feast (see Mt 22:1-14). Many guests were invited but something unexpected happens: they refuse to take part in the celebration, they have other things to do; indeed, some of them show contempt for the invitation. God is generous to us, he offers us his friendship, his gifts, his joy, but often we do not welcome his words, we show greater interest in other things and put our own material concerns, our own interests, first. The king’s invitation even meets with hostile and aggressive reactions. Yet this does not impede his generosity. He is not discouraged and sends his servants out to invite many other people. The refusal of those invited first causes the invitation to be extended to everyone, even the poorest, the abandoned and disinherited. The servants gather together those they find and the wedding hall is filled: the king’s goodness knows no bounds and all are given the possibility of answering his call. However, there was one condition in order to attend this wedding feast: that the wedding garment be worn. And, on entering the hall, the king notices that someone has not wished to wear it and for this reason bars him from the banquet.

I would like to reflect for a moment on this point with a question: why did this man accept the king’s invitation, enter the banquet hall, find the door opened to him but not put on the wedding garment? What is this wedding garment? At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, in Coena Domini, this year I mentioned a beautiful commentary on this parable by St Gregory the Great. He explains that the guest had accepted God’s invitation to take part in his banquet, that in a certain way he had faith which opened the door of the banquet hall to him, but he lacked something essential: the wedding garment, which is charity or love. And St Gregory adds: “Therefore each one of you in the Church who has faith in God has already taken part in the wedding feast, but cannot claim to wear the wedding garment unless he jealously guards the grace of love” (Homily 38, 9; PL 76, 1287). And this garment is woven symbolically on two looms of wood, one above and one below: love of God and love of neighbour (see ibid., 10: PL 76, 1288). We are all invited to be the Lord’s guests, to enter his banquet with faith, but we must put on and take care of the wedding garment: charity, to live in the profound love of God and neighbour.

Dear brothers and sisters, I have come to share with you the joys and hopes, efforts and commitments, ideals and aspirations of this diocesan community. I know that you have prepared yourselves for this Visit with an intense spiritual journey, taking as your motto a verse from the Acts of the Apostles: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (3:6). I also know that in Lamezia Terme, as in all of Calabria, there is no lack of difficulties, problems and anxieties. If we look at this beautiful region, we recognize in it a land that is seismic not just geologically but also from a structural, behavioural and social point of view; a land, that is, where problems arise in acute and destabilizing forms; a land where unemployment is staggering, where all too often a high crime rate damages the social fabric; it is a land in which one has a constant feeling of being in a state of emergency.

You Calabrians have been able to respond to the emergency with surprising promptness and readiness, with an extraordinary capacity for adapting to hardship. I am sure you will be able to overcome today’s difficulties to make way for a better future. Never give in to the temptation of pessimism or of withdrawal. Summon up the resources of your faith and your human gifts; strive to grow in the ability to collaborate, to care for others and for every public good, look after the wedding garment of love; persevere in witnessing to the human and Christian values that are so deeply rooted in the faith and history of this territory and of its population.

Dear friends, my Visit comes almost at the end of the process begun by this local Church as part of a quinquennial pastoral project. Together with you I would like to thank the Lord for the fruitful journey and for the many seeds of good that promise great hope for the future. To face the new social and religious situation, diverse from that of the past, perhaps more problematic but also richer in potential, a modern and organic pastoral endeavour is necessary, one that musters all Christian forces around the Bishop: priests, religious and lay people, animated by the common commitment to evangelization. In this regard, I learned with pleasure of the effort being made to listen attentively and perseveringly to the word of God, through organized monthly meetings in various diocesan centres and the spread of the practice of lectio divina. The School of the Social Doctrine of the Church is equally timely, both because of its well articulated proposal and because of its far-reaching circulation. I warmly hope that from these initiatives will spring a new generation of men and women who can promote not so much their private interests but rather the common good. I would also like to encourage and bless the efforts of all those, priests and lay people, who are involved in the preparation of Christian couples for marriage and the family, in order to give an evangelical and competent response to the many contemporary challenges in the area of the family and of life.

Moreover, I am aware of the zeal and dedication with which you priests carry out your pastoral service, as well as the systematic and effective work of formation you address to them, and especially to the youngest. Dear priests, I urge you to root your spiritual life ever more deeply in the Gospel, cultivating your inner life, an intense relationship with God and detaching yourselves with determination from a certain consumerist and worldly mentality, which is a recurrent temptation in the situation in which we live. Learn to grow in communion among yourselves and with your bishop, among yourselves and with the lay faithful, fostering esteem and reciprocal collaboration. There is no doubt that many benefits will derive from this for parish life and for civil society itself. May you be able to encourage the groups and movements, with discernment and in accordance with the well-known ecclesial criteria: they should be well integrated in the ordinary pastoral service of the diocese and parishes, in a profound spirit of communion.

To you, lay faithful, young people and families I say: do not be afraid to live and to witness to faith in the different sectors of society, in the many contexts of human life! You have every reason to show you are strong, confident and courageous, and this is thanks to the light of faith and the power of love. And when you encounter opposition from the world, make the Apostle’s words your own: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). This is how the saints behaved that blossomed down the centuries throughout Calabria. May it be they who keep you ever united and nourish in each one the desire to proclaim, with words and with works, the presence and love of Christ. May the Mother of God, whom you so deeply venerate, help you and lead you to profound knowledge of her Son. Amen!



Church of the Charterhouse of Serra San Bruno, Sunday, 9 October 2011

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Carthusian Brothers,

Brothers and Sisters,

I thank the Lord who has brought me to this place of faith and prayer, the Charterhouse of Serra San Bruno. In renewing my grateful greeting to Archbishop Vincenzo Bertolone of Catanzaro-Squillace, I address this Carthusian Community, each one of its members, with deep affection, starting with the Prior, Fr Jacques Dupont, whom I warmly thank for his words, while I ask him to communicate my grateful thoughts and my blessing to the Minister General and to the Nuns of the Order.

I am first of all eager to stress that this Visit of mine comes in continuity with certain signs of strong communion between the Apostolic See and the Carthusian Order, which became apparent in the past century. In 1924, Pope Pius XI issued an Apostolic Constitution with which he approved the Statutes of the Order, revised in the light of the Code of Canon Law. In May 1984, Blessed John Paul II addressed a special Letter to the Minister General, on the occasion of the ninth centenary of the foundation by St Bruno of the first community at the Chartreuse [Charterhouse] near Grenoble. On 5 October that same year my beloved Predecessor came here and the memory of him walking by these walls is still vivid.

Today I come to you in the wake of these events, past but ever timely, and I would like our meeting to highlight the deep bond that exists between Peter and Bruno, between pastoral service to the Church’s unity and the contemplative vocation in the Church. Ecclesial communion, in fact, demands an inner force, that force which Father Prior has just recalled, citing the expression “captus ab Uno”, ascribed to St Bruno: “grasped by the One”, by God, “Unus potens per omnia”, as we sang in the Vespers hymn. From the contemplative community the ministry of pastors draws a spiritual sap that comes from God.

Fugitiva relinquere et aeterna captare”: to abandon transient realities and seek to grasp that which is eternal. These words from the letter your Founder addressed to Rudolph, Provost of Rheims, contain the core of your spirituality (see Letter to Rudolph, no. 13): the strong desire to enter in union of life with God, abandoning everything else, everything that stands in the way of this communion, and letting oneself be grasped by the immense love of God to live this love alone.

Dear brothers you have found the hidden treasure, the pearl of great value (see Mt 13:44-46); you have responded radically to Jesus’ invitation: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mt 19:21). Every monastery — male or female — is an oasis in which the deep well, from which to draw “living water” to quench our deepest thirst, is constantly being dug with prayer and meditation. However, the charterhouse is a special oasis in which silence and solitude are preserved with special care, in accordance with the form of life founded by St Bruno and which has remained unchanged down the centuries. “I live in a rather faraway hermitage... with some religious brothers”, is the concise sentence that your Founder wrote (Letter to Rudolph “the Green”, no. 4). The Successor of Peter’s Visit to this historic Charterhouse is not only intended to strengthen those of you who live here but the entire Order in its mission which is more than ever timely and meaningful in today’s world.

Technical progress, especially in the area of transport and communications, has made human life more comfortable but also more keyed up, at times even frenetic. Cities are almost always noisy, silence is rarely to be found in them because there is always background noise, in some areas even at night. In recent decades, moreover, the development of the media has spread and extended a phenomenon that had already been outlined in the 1960s: virtuality risks predominating over reality. Unbeknownst to them, people are increasingly becoming immersed in a virtual dimension because of the audiovisual messages that accompany their life from morning to night.

The youngest, born into this condition, seem to want to fill every empty moment with music and images, out of fear of feeling this very emptiness. This is a trend that has always existed, especially among the young and in the more developed urban contexts but today it has reached a level such as to give rise to talk about anthropological mutation. Some people are no longer able to remain for long periods in silence and solitude.

I chose to mention this socio-cultural condition because it highlights the specific charism of the Charterhouse as a precious gift for the Church and for the world, a gift that contains a deep message for our life and for the whole of humanity. I shall sum it up like this: by withdrawing into silence and solitude, human beings, so to speak, “expose” themselves to reality in their nakedness, to that apparent “void”, which I mentioned at the outset, in order to experience instead Fullness, the presence of God, of the most real Reality that exists and that lies beyond the tangible dimension. He is a perceptible presence in every creature: in the air that we breathe, in the light that we see and that warms us, in the grass, in stones.... God, Creator omnium, [the Creator of all], passes through all things but is beyond them and for this very reason is the foundation of them all.

The monk, in leaving everything, “takes a risk”, as it were: he exposes himself to solitude and silence in order to live on nothing but the essential, and precisely in living on the essential he also finds a deep communion with his brethren, with every human being.

Some might think that it would suffice to come here to take this “leap”. But it is not like this. This vocation, like every vocation, finds an answer in an ongoing process, in a life-long search. Indeed it is not enough to withdraw to a place such as this in order to learn to be in God’s presence. Just as in marriage it is not enough to celebrate the Sacrament to become effectively one but it is necessary to let God’s grace act and to walk together through the daily routine of conjugal life, so becoming monks requires time, practice and patience, “in a divine and persevering vigilance”, as St Bruno said, they “await the return of their Lord so that they might be able to open the door to him as soon as he knocks” (Letter to Rudolph “the Green”, no. 4); and the beauty of every vocation in the Church consists precisely in this: giving God time to act with his Spirit and to one’s own humanity to form itself, to grow in that particular state of life according to the measure of the maturity of Christ.

In Christ there is everything, fullness; we need time to make one of the dimensions of his mystery our own. We could say that this is a journey of transformation in which the mystery of Christi’s resurrection is brought about and made manifest in us, a mystery of which the word of God in the biblical Reading from the Letter to the Romans has reminded us this evening: the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead and will give life to our mortal bodies also (see Rom 8:11) is the One who also brings about our configuration to Christ in accordance with each one’s vocation, a journey that unwinds from the baptismal font to death, a passing on to the Father’s house. In the world’s eyes it sometimes seems impossible to spend one’s whole life in a monastery but in fact a whole life barely suffices to enter into this union with God, into this essential and profound Reality which is Jesus Christ.

This is why I have come here, dear Brothers who make up the Carthusian Community of Serra San Bruno, to tell you that the Church needs you and that you need the Church! Your place is not on the fringes: no vocation in the People of God is on the fringes. We are one body, in which every member is important and has the same dignity, and is inseparable from the whole. You too, who live in voluntary isolation, are in the heart of the Church and make the pure blood of contemplation and of the love of God course through your veins.

Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis [the cross is steady while the world is turning], your motto says. The Cross of Christ is the firm point in the midst of the world’s changes and upheavals. Life in a Charterhouse shares in the stability of the Cross which is that of God, of God’s faithful love. By remaining firmly united to Christ, like the branches to the Vine, may you too, dear Carthusian Brothers, be associated with his mystery of salvation, like the Virgin Mary who stabat (stood) beneath the Cross, united with her Son in the same sacrifice of love.

Thus, like Mary and with her, you too are deeply inserted in the mystery of the Church, a sacrament of union of men with God and with each other. In this you are singularly close to my ministry. May the Most Holy Mother of the Church therefore watch over us and the holy Father Bruno always bless your community from Heaven. Amen.



St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 14 October 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The main theme of this Sunday’s Gospel (Mk 10:17-30) is wealth. Jesus teaches that it is very difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, but not impossible; in fact, God can win over the heart of a person who has great possessions and spur him or her to solidarity and sharing with the needy, with the poor, to entering, that is, the logic of giving. In this way he places himself on the path of Jesus Christ who, as the Apostle Paul writes — “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).

As often happens in the Gospel, it all started with a meeting: that of Jesus with someone who “had great possessions” (Mk 10:22). He was a person who had faithfully observed from his youth all the commandments of God’s Law, but had not yet found true happiness; and this is why he asks Jesus what he should do “to inherit eternal life” (v. 17). On the one hand he is attracted, as everyone is, by the fullness of life; on the other, being used to relying on his wealth, he thinks that eternal life can in some way “be purchased”, perhaps even by observing a special commandment.

Jesus, however, understands the deep desire that exists in this person and, the Evangelist notes, turns a loving gaze on him: the gaze of God (see v. 21). However, Jesus also realizes what the weak point of that man is: his very attachment to his many possessions; and so he proposes that the man give it all to the poor in order that his treasure — and hence his heart — will no longer be on earth but in heaven, and he adds: “Come, follow me” (v. 21). But, instead of accepting Jesus’ invitation joyfully, the man went away sorrowfully (see v. 22) because he can not break away from his riches, that will never give him happiness and eternal life.

It is at this point that Jesus gives his disciples — and us too today — his teaching: “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (v. 23). The disciples were dismayed at his words; and especially after Jesus added: “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”. However, seeing the astonished, he said: “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God” (see vv. 24-27).

St Clement of Alexandria commented: “Let [the parable] teach the prosperous that they are not to neglect their own salvation, as if they had been already foredoomed, nor, on the other hand, to cast wealth into the sea, or condemn it as a traitor and an enemy to life, but learn in what way and how to use wealth and obtain life” (Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved, 27, 1-2).

The history of the Church is full of examples of rich people who used their possessions in an evangelical way, even attaining holiness. Let us only think of St Francis, St Elizabeth of Hungary or St Charles Borromeo. May the Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom, help us to accept Jesus’ invitation joyfully, in order to enter the fullness of life. 

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