Benedict XVI in Ambruzzi region July 2010
Papal Homily in Sulmona
"Let Us Not Be Afraid to Be Silent"
SULMONA, Italy, JULY 4, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave during a Mass he celebrated today as part of his one-day trip to Italy's Abruzzi region.
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I am delighted to be with you today and to celebrate this solemn Eucharist with you. I greet your pastor, the bishop Monsignor Angelo Spina: I thank him for the warm expressions of welcome that he addressed to me on behalf of everyone, and for the gifts he gave me, which I truly appreciate as “signs” -- as he himself called them -- of the affective and effective communion that binds this people of the dear land of Abruzzo to the Successor of Peter. I greet the bishops and archbishops who are present, the priests, the religious, the representatives of the ecclesial associations and movements. I address a deferent thought to the mayor, Dr. Fabio Federico, grateful for his courteous welcome address and for the “signs,” and gifts, to the representative of the government and the civil and military officials. I give special thanks to those who generously offered their cooperation for this pastoral visit of mine.
Dear brothers and sisters! I have come to share the joys and hopes, the toils and efforts, ideals and aspirations of this diocesan community. I know well that at Sulmona too there is no lack of difficulties, problems and worries: I think, in particular, of those who concretely live their lives in precarious conditions because of the lack of work, the uncertainty of the future, physical and moral suffering and -- as the bishop recalled -- because of the sense of loss that followed the earthquake of April 6, 2009. I want to reassure everyone of my nearness and that I remember you in prayer, as I encourage perseverance in witness to human and Christian values deeply rooted in the faith and history of this area and its population.
Dear friends! My visit takes place on the occasion of the Jubilee Year proclaimed by the bishops of Abruzzo and Molise to celebrate the 800th anniversary of birth of St. Peter Celestine. Flying over your land I was able to contemplate the beauty of its landscape and, above all, admire some places closely linked to the life of this renowned figure: Mount Morrone, where Peter lived as a hermit for many years; the Hermitage of Sant’Onofrio, where in 1294 he received news of his election as Supreme Pontiff, which occurred at the conclave in Perugia; and the Abbey of Santo Spirito, whose main altar was consecrated by him after his coronation in the Basilica of Collemaggio in L’Aquila. In April of last year, after the earthquake that devastated this region, in this basilica I myself came to venerate the casket that contains his remains and leave the pallium that I received on the first day of my pontificate. More than 800 years have passed since the birth of St. Peter Celestine V, but he remains in history on account of the notable events of his pontificate and, above all, because of his holiness. Holiness, in fact, never loses its own power of attraction, it is not forgotten, it never goes out of fashion, indeed, with the passage of time, it shines with ever greater luminosity, expressing man’s perennial longing for God. From the life of St. Peter Celestine, I would like to gather some teachings that are also valid for our days.
Peter Angelerio was a “seeker of God” from his youth, a man who was desirous to find the answers to the great questions of our existence: Who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I alive? For whom do I live? He went in search of truth and happiness, he went in search of God and, to hear his voice, decided to separate himself from the world and to live as a hermit. Silence thus became the element that characterized his daily life. And it is precisely in external silence, but above all in internal silence, that he succeeded in perceiving God’s voice, a voice that was able to guide his life. Here a first aspect that is important for us: We live in a society in which it seems that every space, every moment must be “filled” with initiatives, activity, sound; often there is not even time to listen and dialogue. Dear brothers and sisters! Let us not be afraid to be silent outside and inside ourselves, so that we are able not only to perceive God’s voice, but also the voice of the person next to us, the voices of others.
But it is important to underscore a second element too: Peter Angelerio’s discovery of God was not only the result of his effort but was made possible by the grace of God itself that came to him. What he had, what he was, did not come from him: it was granted to him, it was grace, and so it was also a responsibility before God and before others. Even if our life is very different from his, the same thing is also true for us: the entirety of what is essential in our existence was bestowed upon us without our intervention. The fact that I live does not depend on me; the fact that there were people who introduced me to life, that taught me what it means to live and be loved, who handed down the faith to me and opened my eyes to God: all of that is grace and not “done by me.” We could have done nothing ourselves if it had not been given to us: God always anticipates us and in every individual life there is beauty and goodness that we can easily recognize as his grace, as a ray of the light of his goodness. Because of this we must be attentive, always keep our “interior eyes” open, the eyes of our heart. And if we learn how to know God in his infinite goodness, then we will be able to see, with wonder, in our lives -- as the saints did -- the signs of that God, who is always near to us, who is always good to us, who says: “Have faith in me!”
In interior silence, in perceiving the Lord’s presence, Peter del Morrone developed a lively experience of the beauty of creation, the work of God’s hands: he knew its deepest meaning, he respected its signs and rhythms, he used it for what is essential to life. I know that this local Church, like the others of Abruzzo and Molise, are actively engaged in a campaign of sensitivity to and promotion of the common good and of safeguarding creation: I encourage you in this effort, exhorting everyone to feel responsible for their own future, and that of others, respecting and caring also for creation, fruit and sign of God’s love.
In today’s second reading, taken from the Letter to the Galatians, we heard a beautiful expression of St. Paul, which is also a perfect spiritual portrait of St. Peter Celestine: “For me the only boast is in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world” (6:14). Truly the cross was the center of his life. It gave him the strength to face bitter penances and the most difficult times, from youth to his last hour: he was always aware that through it comes salvation. The cross also gave St. Peter Celestine a clear awareness of sin that was always accompanied by an awareness that was just as clear of God’s mercy for his creature. Seeing the wide-open arms of his crucified God, he felt himself transported into the infinite sea of God’s love. As a priest he experienced the beauty of being the administrator of this mercy, absolving penitents of sin, and, when he was elected to the See of the Apostle Peter, he wanted to grant a special indulgence called “The Pardon.” I would like to exhort priests to be clear and credible witnesses of the good news of reconciliation with God, helping the man of today to recover the sense of sin and God’s forgiveness, to experience that superabundant joy that the prophet Isaiah spoke to us about in the first reading (cf. Isaiah 66:10-14).
Finally, a third element: St. Peter, although he lived as a hermit, was not “closed in on himself” but was filled with passion to bring the good news of the Gospel to his brothers. And the secret of his pastoral fruitfulness was precisely in “abiding” in the Lord, in prayer, as we were also reminded by today’s Gospel passage: the first priority is always to pray to the Lord of the harvest (cf. Luke 10:2). And it is only after this invitation that Jesus outlines some of the essential duties of the disciples: the serene, clear and courageous proclamation of the Gospel message -- even in moments of persecution -- without ceding to the allurement of fashion nor to that of violence and imposition; detachment from worry about things -- money, clothing -- confiding in the providence of the Father; attention and care especially for the sick in body and spirit (cf. Luke 10:5-9). These were also the characteristics of the brief and trying pontificate of Celestine V and these are the characteristics of the missionary activity of the Church in every age.
Brothers and sisters! I am among you to confirm you in the faith. I would like to exhort you, firmly and with affection, to remain solid in that faith that you have received, which gives meaning to life and gives one strength to love. May the example and intercession of the Mother of God and of St. Peter Celestine accompany us on this journey. Amen!
Pope's Address to Youth in Sulmona
"The Secret of a Vocation Lies in the Relationship With God"
SULMONA, Italy, JULY 5, 2010 - Here is a translation of a transcription of Benedict XVI's Sunday address to young people in the cathedral of Sulmona. The Pope made a one-day trip to the region, which was devastated by an earthquake in 2009.
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Dear young people!
First of all I want to say that I am very happy to meet you! I thank God for the possibility he gives me to be with you for a while, as a father of a family, together with your bishop and your priests. I thank you for the affection you manifest to me with so much warmth! But I also thank you for what you said to me, through your two "spokesmen," Francesca and Cristian.
You asked me questions, with much frankness and, at the same time, you showed you have firm points, convictions. This is very important. You are youth who reflect, who wonder, and who also have a sense of truth and goodness. That is, you know how to use the mind and heart, and this is not a small matter! On the contrary, I would say it is the principal element in this world: to learn to use well the intelligence and wisdom that God has given us. In the past, the people of this land of yours did not have many means to study, or to affirm themselves in society, but had what truly makes a man and a woman rich: faith and moral values. This is what builds persons and civil coexistence!
Two essential aspects arise from your words: one positive and one negative. The positive aspects comes from your Christian vision of life, an education that you evidently received from your parents, your grandparents and other educators: priests, professors, catechists. The negative aspect is in the shadows that darken your horizon: they are the concrete problems, which make it difficult to look to the future with serenity and optimism, but they are also the false values and illusory models, which are suggested to us and which promise to fill our life whereas instead they empty it.
What should be done, then, so that these shadows will not become too heavy? First of all, I see that you are young people with a good memory! Yes, I have been impressed by the fact that you remembered phrases that I spoke in Sydney, in Australia, during World Youth Day of 2008. And you also remembered that World Youth Days were born 25 years ago. But above all you demonstrated that you have a historical memory linked to your land: you spoke to me of a figure born eight centuries ago, St. Peter Celestine V, and you said you consider him very timely!
You see dear friends, in this way you have, as is often said, "an extra talent." Yes, the historical memory is truly an "extra talent" in life, because without a memory there is no future. Once it was said that history is life's teacher. The present consumerist culture tends instead to flatten man in the present, to make him lose a sense of the past, of history; but by doing so it also deprives him of the capacity to understand himself, to perceive problems, and to build the future. Hence, dear young people, I want to say to you: a Christian is one who has a good memory, who loves history and tries to know it.
Hence, I thank you, because you speak to me of St. Peter of Morrone, Celestine V, and you are able to appreciate his experience today, in such a different world, but precisely because of this, in need of rediscovering something that always has worth, that is perennial, as for example the capacity to listen to God in exterior but above all in interior silence.
A short time ago you asked me: How can one recognize God's call? Well, the secret of a vocation lies in the capacity and in the joy of distinguishing his voice, of listening to and following his voice. But to do this, it is necessary to accustom our heart to recognize the Lord, to hear him like a person who is near me and who loves me. As I said this morning, it is important to learn to live moments of interior silence in the day-to-day routine to be able to hear the Lord's voice. Be sure that if one learns to listen to this voice, and to follow it with generosity, one fears nothing, he or she knows and feels that God is with him or her, and that he is a Friend, Father and Brother. Said in one word: the secret of a vocation lies in the relationship with God, in prayer that grows precisely in interior silence, in the capacity to feel that God is near. And this is true both before the decision, at the moment, that is, of deciding and of leaving, as well as later if one wishes to be faithful and to persevere along the way. Above all St. Peter Celestine was this: a man of listening, of interior silence, a man of action, a man of God. Dear young people: always find room in your days for God, to listen to him and to speak to him!
And here, I would like to say a second thing: true prayer is in fact not foreign to reality. If praying alienated you, took you away from your real life, beware: it would not be true prayer! On the contrary, dialogue with God is the guarantee of truth, of truthfulness with oneself and with others and, therefore, of liberty. To be with God, to listen to his Word, in the Gospel, in the liturgy of the Church, defends us from the fascinations of pride and of presumption, from fashions and conformism, and gives us the strength to be truly free, including from certain temptations masked as good things.
You asked me: how can we be in the world without being of the world? I answer you: precisely thanks to prayer, to personal contact with God. It is not about multiplying words -- Jesus already said that -- but of being in the presence of God, of making one's own, in one's mind and heart, the phrases of the "Our Father," which embrace all the problems of our life, and also of adoring the Eucharist, meditating on the Gospel in our rooms, or participating with recollection in the liturgy. All this does not separate us from life, but helps us to be ourselves in every environment, faithful to God's voice that speaks to our consciences, free from the conditioning of the moment.
Thus it was for St. Celestine V: He was always able to act according to his conscience in obedience to God and, because of this, without fear and with great courage, including in difficult moments, such as those related to his brief pontificate, not fearful of losing his own dignity, but knowing that this consists in being in the truth. And God is the guarantor of truth. Whoever follows him is not afraid, not even of denying himself, his own ideas, because "whoever has God, lacks nothing," as St. Teresa of Avila said.
Dear friends! Faith and prayer do not resolve problems, but enable one to address them with a new light and strength, in a way fitting to man, and also more serenely and effectively. If we look at the history of the Church, we will see that it is rich in figures of saints and blesseds who, precisely beginning with an intense and constant dialogue with God, illumined by faith, were always able to find new, creative solutions to respond to concrete human needs in every century: health, education, work, etc. Their daring was animated by the Holy Spirit and by a strong and generous love of brothers, especially of the weakest and most underprivileged.
Dear young people! Let yourselves be conquered totally by Christ! You too, begin to undertake with determination the path of holiness, that is, be in contact, in conformity with God -- a way that is open to all -- because this will also make you be more creative in seeking solutions to the problems you find, and in seeking them together! This is another distinctive sign of a Christian: he is never an individualist.
Perhaps you will say to me, but if we look at St. Peter Celestine, for example, in his choice of life, is this not perhaps individualism, a fleeing from responsibilities? This temptation certainly exists. But in the experiences approved by the Church, the solitary life of prayer and penance is always at the service of the community, open to others, it is never in opposition to the needs of the community. Hermitages and monasteries are oases and sources of spiritual life from which all can drink. The monk does not live for himself, but for others, and it is for the good of the Church and of society that he cultivates the contemplative life, so that the Church and society can always be sprinkled with new energies, by the Lord's action.
Dear young people! Love your Christian communities, do not be afraid to commit yourselves to live together the experience of faith! Love the Church very much: she has given you the faith, she has brought you to know Christ! And love your bishop, your priests very much: with all our weaknesses, priests are beautiful presences in life!
The rich young man of the Gospel, after Jesus suggested that he leave everything and follow him -- as we know -- left there sad, because he was too attached to his goods (cf. Matthew 19:22). In you, instead, I read joy! And this is also a sign that you are Christians: that for you Jesus Christ means a lot. Although it might be difficult to follow him, it is worth more than anything. You believe that God is the precious pearl that gives value to everything else: in the family, in study, in work, in human love ... in life itself. You have understood that God is infinite Love: the only one who satiates our heart. I would like to recall the experience of St. Augustine, a young man who sought with great difficulty, for a long time, outside of God, something that would satiate his thirst for truth and happiness. But at the end of this journey of seeking he understood that our heart is without peace while it does not find God, while it does not rest in him (cf. The Confessions 1, 1).
Dear young people! Keep your enthusiasm, your joy, the one born from having encountered the Lord, and be able to communicate this also to your friends, to your contemporaries! Now I must go and I must say that I very much regret leaving you. With you I feel that the Church is young! But I leave happy, as a father who is serene because he has seen that his children are growing and are growing well. Carry on, dear young people! Carry on in the way of the Gospel; love the Church, our Mother; be simple and pure of heart; be humble and generous. I entrust you all to your holy patrons, to St. Peter Celestine and above all to the Virgin Mary, and I bless you with great affection. Amen.