Address to the General Assembly of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Charles
"I thank the Lord for this Gift of your Fraternity"
VATICAN CITY, February 07, 2013 - At
the end of the General Audience yesterday, the Holy Father Benedict XVI
received in audience in Paul VI Hall the participants to the General
Assembly of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo which elected a
new Superior General, Fr. Paolo Sottopietra. Here is the translation of the
Holy Father's address.
* * *
It gives me great joy to be with you. I
remember well my visits to Palazzo Borromeo, next to St. Mary's Major
Basilica, where I personally met Fr. Giussani; I have known his faith, his
joy, his strength and the richness of his ideas, the creativity of his
faith. A true friendship developed between us; and so, through him I got to
know even better the community of Communion and Liberation.
And I am glad that his successor is with
us, who continues this great work and inspires so many people, so many lay
people, men and women, priests and laity, to collaborate in spreading the
Gospel and the growth of the Kingdom of God. And among you I have also had
the opportunity to get to know Massimo Camisasca; we have talked about
different things; I have gotten to know his creativity in art, his ability
to see, to interpret the signs of the times, his great gift as a teacher, a
priest. I once even had the honour to ordain some priests in Porto Santa
Rufina, and it was nice to know that here a new Priestly Fraternity is
arising in the spirit of St. Charles Borromeo, who always remains the great
model of a Pastor who is truly stimulated by the love of Christ, who seeks
out the small, who loves them and so truly creates faith and builds up the
Now your Fraternity is large, and it is a
sign that there are vocations. But there is also a need to be open to
finding, accompanying, guiding and helping vocations mature. This is the
thing for which I thank Don Camisasca, who has been a great educator. And
today, education is always important to the growth of the truth, for us to
grow in our status as children of God and brothers of Jesus Christ.
Now, thanks be to God, I have also known
for a long time your new Superior General, who has also been in touch
somewhat with my theology. So, I am glad that I can be spiritually and
intellectually with you and that we can offer fruitful help to each other
through our work.
May the Lord bless you all. I thank the
Lord for this gift of your Fraternity: may it grow and deepen always, even
more in the love of Christ, in the love of men for Christ. The Lord
I give you my Blessing, sure that you pray
for me, that you accompany me with your prayers. Thank you all!
Pope's Feb. 2 Homily for Day of Consecrated Life
"Old and New Testament Join Together in a Marvelous Way in Giving Thanks for the
Gift of the Light"
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 6, 2012 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI
gave last Thursday at vespers on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord,
which is also the World Day of Consecrated Life.
* * *
Dear brothers and sisters!
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, 40 days after Jesus' birth, shows us
Mary and Joseph, who in obedience to the Mosaic Law travel to the temple of
Jerusalem to offer the child, as the first born, to the Lord and ransom him by a
sacrifice (cf. Luke 2:22-24). It is one of the cases in which the liturgical
time reflects historical time, because today it has been precisely 40 days since
the Solemnity of the Birth of the Lord; the theme of Christ the Light, which has
characterized the cycle of Christmas feasts and culminates in the Solemnity of
Epiphany, is taken up again and prolonged in today's feast.
The ritual gesture of Jesus' parents, which takes place in the form of the
humble discretion that characterizes the Incarnation of the Son of God, is
received in a unique way by the elderly Simeon and the prophetess Anna. By
divine inspiration they recognize in that child the Messiah announced by the
prophets. In the meeting between the venerable old Simeon and Mary, the young
mother, the Old and the New Testament join together in a marvelous way in giving
thanks for the gift of the Light, which shown in the darkness and prevented it
from taking over: Christ the Lord, light to enlighten the nations and the glory
of his people Israel (cf. Luke 2:32).
On the day in which the Church recalls the presentation of Jesus in the temple,
we celebrate the Day of Consecrated Life. In effect, the Gospel episode to which
we refer constitutes a significant icon of the self-donation of those who have
been called to represent, in the Church and in the world, the characteristic
traits of Jesus: virgin, poor, obedient, the Consecrated One of the Father. Thus
in today's feast we celebrate the mystery of consecration: the consecration of
Jesus, the consecration of Mary, the consecration of all those who place
themselves in the following of Jesus for the love of the Kingdom of God.
Following the ideas of Blessed John Paul II, who celebrated it for the first
time in 1997, the day dedicated to the consecrated life has some particular
purposes. It intends to respond first of all to the need to praise and thank the
Lord for the gift of this state of life, which pertains to the sanctity of the
Church. To each consecrated person today is dedicated the prayer of the whole
Community, who gives thanks to God the Father, giver of every good gift, for the
gift of this vocation, and with faith calls upon him once more. Moreover, this
occasion aims to increase more and more the recognition of the value of the
witness of those who have chosen to follow Christ through the practice of the
evangelical counsels by promoting knowledge and esteem for the consecrated life
among the People of God. Finally, the Day of Consecrated Life intends to be,
above all for you, dear brothers and sisters, who have embraced this state in
the Church, a precious occasion to renew the decisions and revive the sentiments
that have inspired and inspire your gift of yourselves to the Lord. This we wish
to do today; this is a task that you are called to accomplish every day of your
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican
Council, I have, as you know, called for the Year of Faith, which will open in
October. All of the faithful, but in a special way the members of the institutes
of consecrated life, have welcomed this initiative as a gift, and I hope that
they will live the Year of Faith as a favorable time for interior renewal -- for
which one always feels the need -- with a deepening of the essential values and
of the demands of their consecration. During the Year of Faith you, who have
accepted the call to follow Christ more closely through the profession of the
evangelical counsels, are called to deepen still further your relationship with
God. The evangelical counsels, accepted as an authentic rule of life, reinforce
the faith, hope and charity that unite us to God. This profound nearness to the
Lord, which must be the element that has priority and that characterizes your
existence, will bring you to a renewed commitment to him and it will have a
positive influence on your particular presence and the form of your apostolate
among the People of God, through the contribution of your charisms, in fidelity
to the magisterium, with the goal of being witnesses of faith and grace,
credible witnesses for the Church and the world of today.
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic
Life, with the means that it will judge adequate, will suggest directions and do
its best to ensure that this Year of Faith constitutes for all of you a year of
renewal and fidelity, so that all consecrated men and women engage in the new
evangelization with enthusiasm. While I address my cordial greeting to the
prefect of that dicastery, Monsignor Joăo Braz de Aviz -- whom I have chosen to
be among those whom I will make cardinals at the next consistory -- I gladly
welcome this moment to thank him and his collaborators in the precious service
that they give to the Holy See and to the whole Church.
Pope's Address to Carthusian Monks
"A Whole Life Barely Suffices to Enter Into This Union With God"
LAMEZIA TERME, Italy, OCT. 11, 2011 - Here is a L'Osservatore Romano translation
of the homily Benedict XVI gave Sunday during vespers celebrated in the
Carthusian monastery of St. Bruno. The Pope was on a one-day pastoral visit to
Lamezia Terme and Serra San Bruno in the region of Calabria, Italy.
* * *
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, Father
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 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 his passing between 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 vital sap that comes from God.
"Fugitiva relinquere et aeterna captare": to abandon transient realities and
seek to grasp the eternal. These words from the letter your Founder addressed to
Rudolph, Provost of Rheims, contain the core of your spirituality (cf. Letter to
Rudolph "the Green", n. 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 (cf.
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", n. 4). The
Successor of Peter's Visit to this historical 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, markedly in the area of transport and communications, has
made human life more comfortable but also more keyed up, at times even frantic.
Cities are almost always noisy, silence is rarely to be found in them because
there is always a lingering background noise, in some areas even at night. In
the recent decades, moreover, the development of the media has spread and
extended a phenomenon that had already been outlined in the 1960s: virtuality
that risks getting the upper hand over reality. Unbeknown 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, who were already born into this condition, seem to want to fill
every empty moment with music and images, as for 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 capable of remaining 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 royal Reality that exists and
that lies beyond the tangible dimension. He is a perceptible presence in every
created thing: 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 all, "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 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 the searching of a whole life. 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 for him as
soon as he knocks" (Letter to Rudolph "the Green", n. 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
special 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 Christ's resurrection is brought about
and made manifest in us, a mystery to which the word of God in the biblical
Reading from the Letter to the Romans has recalled us this evening: the Holy
Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead and will give life even to our mortal
bodies (cf. 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.
I have come here for this reason, 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 to his mystery of salvation, like the Virgin Mary who
stabat (stood) beneath the Cross, united with her Son in the same sacrifice of
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 unusually 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.
Pope's Message to Somascan Fathers
"Poverty of Love": "Root of Every Serious Human Problem"
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 29, 2011 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's
message to the superior of the Somascan Fathers, on the occasion of the jubilee
to be celebrated by the order to mark the 500th anniversary of the founder's
miraculous release from prison.
The founder, St. Jerome Emiliani (1481-1537), is the patron of orphans and
The celebrations will open in Venice on Sept. 25, with a Mass in St. Mark's
Basilica, and will continue throughout the year with a series of historical
meetings dedicated to the person and spirituality of the saint. The jubilee will
conclude with a nighttime youth pilgrimage to the shrine of the Great Virgin of
Treviso, in Italy. The official closing will take place in Somasca on Sept. 30,
* * *
To the Reverend Father Franco Moscone, CRS
Minister-General of the Order of the Somasca Regular Clerics
I have learned with profound satisfaction that this order is preparing to
celebrate with a jubilee year a joyous and important date for its history and
charism. Next Sept. 27 is, in fact, the fifth centenary of the miraculous
release from prison, wrought by Mary Most Holy, of the founder, St. Jerome
Emiliani, universal patron of orphans and abandoned youth: a prodigious event
that, at the same time, changed the course of a human life and began a highly
significant experience of consecrated life for the history of the Church.
The life of Venetian layman Gerolamo Miani was as though "re-founded" on the
night of Sept. 27, 1511, when after sincerely vowing to the Great Virgin of
Treviso that he would change his conduct, he was freed from the chains of prison
through the intercession of the Mother of God. He himself placed these chains
before the altar of the Virgin.
"Dirupisti vincula mea" (Psalm 116:16). The verse of the psalm expresses the
genuine interior revolution that took place after that liberation, linked to the
tormented political vicissitudes of the age. It became an integral renewal of
Jerome's personality: By divine intervention he was liberated from the fetters
of egoism, pride, and the search for personal affirmation, so that his
existence, initially oriented especially to temporal goods, was centered solely
on God, whom he loved and served in a particular way in orphaned, sick and
Marked by his family vicissitudes, because of which he had become the tutor of
all his nephews who had been orphaned, St. Jerome developed the idea that youth,
in order to grow up with health -- and especially the neediest -- cannot be
abandoned, but that love is an essential requisite. In him, love went beyond
resourcefulness, and given that it was a love that arose from the very charity
of God, it was full of patience and understanding: attentive, tender, ready for
sacrifice, like that of a mother.
The Church of the 16th century, divided by the Protestant schism and in search
also of a serious internal reform, enjoyed a re-flowering of holiness that
became the first and most original answer to requests for renewal. The testimony
of saints shows that one must only have confidence in God: Trials, in fact, both
on the personal as well as the institutional level, serve to increase faith. God
has his plans, even when we do not succeed in understanding his ordinances.
Care of youth and their human and Christian education, which characterizes the
charism of the Somascans, continues to be a commitment of the Church, at all
times and in all places. It is necessary that the growth of the new generations
is nourished not only by cultural and technical notions, but above all by love,
which conquers individualism and egoism and enables one to pay attention to the
needs of every brother and sister, even when they cannot be changed, and even
more, precisely then.
The luminous example of St. Jerome Emiliani, described by Blessed John Paul II
as a "layman who inspired laymen," helps us to be concerned about all the
poverties experienced by our youth: moral, physical, existential and above all,
the poverty of love, the root of every serious human problem.
Continuing to guide us with her support will be the Virgin Mary, unsurpassable
model of faith and charity. Just as she released the chains that kept St. Jerome
prisoner, with her maternal goodness may she continue to liberate men from the
fetters of sin and the prison of a life deprived of love for God and for
neighbor, offering the keys that open God's heart to us and our hearts to God.
With these sentiments, I impart to you, Reverend Father, to all the members of
the Somascan Family, and to all those who will join the jubilee celebrations
with faith, a special apostolic blessing.
Castel Gandolfo, July 20, 2011
Pope's Homily on Day for Consecrated Life
"A Life Dedicated to Listening and to Proclaiming His Word"
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2011 - Here is a translation of the
address Benedict XVI delivered today during evening vespers on the occasion of
the World Day of Consecrated Life, which is observed on the feast of the
Presentation of the Lord. The liturgical service took place in St. Peter's
* * *
Dear brothers and sisters!
In today's feast we contemplate the Lord
Jesus whom Mary and Joseph take to the Temple "to present him to the Lord" (Luke
2:22). Revealed in this evangelical scene is the mystery of the Son of the
Virgin, the consecrated One of the Father, who came into the world to carry out
his will faithfully (cf. Hebrews 10:5-7).
Simeon points to him as "light for
revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32), and proclaims with prophetic word his
supreme offer to God and his final victory (cf. Luke 2:32-35). It is the meeting
of the two Testaments, the Old and the New. Jesus enters the ancient Temple, He
who is the new Temple of God: He comes to visit his people, bringing to
fulfillment obedience to the Law and inaugurating the end times of salvation.
It is interesting to observe close up
this entrance of the Child Jesus into the solemnity of the Temple, in the great
"coming and going" of so many people, seized by their endeavors: the priests and
the Levites with their turns of service, the numerous devotees and pilgrims,
desirous of encountering the Holy God of Israel. None of these, however, notice
anything. Jesus is a child like others, first born son of two very simple
parents. Even the priests are incapable of accepting the signs of the new and
particular presence of the Messiah and Savior. Only two elderly people, Simeon
and Anna, discover the great novelty. Led by the Holy Spirit, they see in that
Child the fulfillment of their long expectation and vigilance. Both contemplate
the light of God that comes to illumine the world, with their prophetic gaze
open to the future, as proclamation of the Messiah: "Lumen ad revelationem
gentium!" (Luke 2:32). In the prophetic attitude of two old people is the entire
Ancient Covenant, which expresses the joy of the encounter with the Redeemer. On
seeing the Child, Simeon and Anna intuit that it is in fact Him, the One
Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is an eloquent icon of the total donation of
the life for all those men and women who are called to reproduce in the Church
and in the world, through the evangelical counsels, the characteristic features
of Jesus virgin, poor and obedient" (postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Vita
Consecrata," No. 1). That is why today's feast was chosen by the Venerable John
Paul II to celebrate the annual Day of Consecrated Life. In this context, I
address a cordial and grateful greeting to Archbishop Joăo Bráz de Aviz, whom I
recently appointed prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated
Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, with the secretary and the collaborators.
I greet affectionately the Superiors General present and all consecrated
would like to propose three brief thoughts for reflection on this feast. The
first: the evangelical icon of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple contains
the essential symbol of light; the light that, coming from Christ, shines on
Mary and Joseph, on Simeon and Anna and, through them, on everyone. The Fathers
of the Church linked this radiation to the spiritual journey. Consecrated life
expresses this journey, in a special way as "philocalia," love of divine beauty,
reflection of the goodness of God (cf. ibid., No. 19). Resplendent on Christ's
face is this beauty. "The Church contemplates the transfigured face of Christ,
to be confirmed in the faith and not risk dismay before his disfigured face on
the Cross ... she is the Bride before her Spouse, sharing his mystery, enveloped
by his light, [from which] are gathered all his children ... But a singular
experience of the light that emanates from the Word incarnate are certainly
those called to the consecrated life. In fact, the profession of the evangelical
counsels places them as sign and prophecy for the community of brothers and for
the world" (ibid., No. 15).
In the second place, the evangelical icon manifests the
prophecy, gift of the Holy Spirit. Simeon and Anna, contemplating the Child
Jesus, perceive his destiny of death and resurrection for the salvation of all
peoples and proclaim this mystery as universal salvation. Consecrated life is
called to this prophetic witness, linked to its twofold attitude, contemplative
and active. Given to consecrated men and women, in fact, is to manifest the
primacy of God, passion for the Gospel practiced as a way of life and proclaimed
to the poor and to the last of the earth. "In the strength of such primacy
nothing can be preferred to personal love for Christ and for the poor in which
He lives. True prophecy is born from God, from friendship with Him, from
attentive listening to his Word in the different circumstances of history"
(ibid., No. 84). In this way consecrated life, in its daily living on the paths
of humanity, manifests the Gospel and the Kingdom already present and operative.
In the third place, the evangelical icon
of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple manifests the wisdom of Simeon and
Anna, the wisdom of a life dedicated totally to the search of the face of God,
of his signs, of his will; a life dedicated to listening and to proclaiming his
tuam, Domine, requiram': thy face, O Lord, do I seek" (Psalm 26:8). Hence, the
consecrated person witnesses the joyful and laborious commitment, the assiduous
and wise search of the divine will" (cf. Congress for the Institutes of
Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, Instruction The Service of
Authority and Obedience. Faciem tuam Domine requiram , No. 1).
Dear brothers and sisters, be assiduous
listeners of the Word, because every wisdom of life is born of the Word of the
Lord! Be scrutinizers of the Word, through Lectio Divina, because consecrated
life "is born from listening to the Word of God and accepting the Gospel as its
norm of life. To live following the chaste, poor and obedient Christ is in this
way a living "exegesis" of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit, in the strength of
which the Bible was written, is the same who illumines the Word of God to men
and women founders with new light. From it flows every charism and every rule is
an expression of it, giving origin to itineraries of Christian life marked by
evangelical radicalism" (postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Verbum Domini," No.
live above all in the most developed societies, a condition often marked by a
radical pluralism, by the progressive marginalization of religion from the
public sphere, by a relativism that touches fundamental values. This calls for
our Christian witness to be luminous and consistent and for our educational
effort to be ever more attentive and generous. In particular your apostolic
action, dear brothers and sisters, must become a life commitment, which accedes
with persevering passion, to wisdom as truth and beauty "splendor of the truth."
Be able to orient your life with wisdom, and with trust in the inexhaustible
possibilities of true education, and the intelligence and the heart of men and
women of our time to the "good life of the Gospel."
At this moment, my thought goes with
special affection to all consecrated men and women, in every part of the earth,
and I entrust them to the Blessed Virgin Mary:
O Mary, Mother of the Church,
I entrust to you consecrated life,
So that you will obtain for it the fullness of divine
That it may live in
listening to the Word of God,
the humility of the following of Jesus your Son and our Lord,
In the acceptance of the visit of the Holy Spirit,
In the daily joy of the Magnificat,
So that the Church is built by the holiness of life
Of these your sons and daughters,
In the commandment of love. Amen.
Papal Address to Union of Superiors General
"Consecrated Life Has its Origin in the Lord"
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2010 - Here is an address given Friday by Benedict XVI in
an audience with participants in a biannual general assembly of the Union of
Superiors General of religious congregations.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
I am delighted to meet with you on the occasion of the half-yearly assembly of
the Union of Superiors General, which you are celebrating -- in continuity with
that of last May -- on the theme of consecrated life in Europe. I greet the
president Don Pascual Chávez, whom I thank for the words that he addressed to
me, and the executive council; a special greeting to the directive committee of
the International Union of Superiors General and to the numerous superiors
general. I extend my thoughts to all of the members of your orders and
institutes throughout the world, especially those who suffer persecution for
witness to the Gospel. I would like to express my sincere thanks for what you do
in the Church and with the Church on behalf of evangelization and of man. I
think of the multiple pastoral activities in the parishes, in the shrines and
the centers of worship, for the catechesis and Christian formation of children,
of young people and of adults, manifesting your passion for Christ and for
humanity. I think of the great work in the field of education, in the
universities and in the schools; of the multiple social works, through which you
encounter the brothers who are most in need with God's love itself. I think also
of the witness, at times dangerous, of the evangelical life in the missions "ad
gentes," in often difficult circumstances.
Your last two assemblies have been dedicated to considering the future of
consecrated life in Europe. This has meant rethinking the meaning of your
vocation itself, which entails, first of all, seeking God, quaerere Deum: you
are seekers of God by vocation. To this pursuit you consecrate the most precious
energies of your life. You pass from secondary things to those that are
essential, to what is truly important; you seek the definitive, you seek God,
keeping your gaze fixed upon him. Like the first monks, you cultivate an
eschatological orientation: Behind the provisory you seek what remains, what
does not pass (Cf. Address at the Collčge des Bernardins, Paris, September 12,
2008). You seek God in the confreres whom have been given to you, with whom you
share the same life and mission. You seek him in the men and women of our time,
to whom you have been sent to offer, with your life and with your words, the
gift of the Gospel. You seek him especially in the poor, the first to hear the
Good News (cf. Luke 4:18). You seek him in the Church, where the Lord is
present, above all in the Eucharist and the other sacraments, and in his Word,
which is the master way of the pursuit of God; it leads us into conversation
with him and it reveals to us his true face. Always be passionate pursuers and
witnesses of God!
The profound renewal of the consecrated life begins with the centrality of the
Word of God, and more concretely in the Gospel, supreme rule for all of you, as
the Second Vatican Council affirms in the decree "Perfectae Caritatis" (cf. n.
2) and as your founders well understood: The consecrated life is a plant with a
wealth of branches that has its roots in the Gospel. This is demonstrated by the
history of your institutes, in which the firm will to live the message of Christ
and configure your life to him, is and remains the fundamental criterion of
vocational discernment and of your personal and communal discernment. The Gospel
lived daily is the element that gives beauty to the consecrated life and
presents you before the world as a trustworthy alternative. Contemporary society
needs and the Church expects you to be a living Gospel.
Another fundamental aspect of the consecrated life that I would like to stress
is fraternity: "confession Trinitatis" (cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation
"Vita Consecrata," 41) and parable of the Church as communion. The witness of
your consecration passes through it. Fraternal life is one of the aspects
greatly sought by young people when they draw near to your life; it is an
important prophetic element that you offer to a fundamentally individualistic
society. I know the efforts that you are making in this field, as I also know
the difficulties that communal life has. There is need of serious and constant
discernment to listen to what the Spirit says to the communities (cf. Revelation
2:7), to recognize what comes from the Lord and what is contrary to him (cf.
"Vita Consecrata," 73). Without discernment accompanied by prayer and by
reflection, the consecrated life runs the risk of accommodating itself to the
criteria of this world: individualism, consumerism, materialism; criteria that
eliminate fraternity and deprive consecrated life of what is striking and
attractive about it. Be masters of discernment so that your brothers and sisters
assume this "habitus" and your communities become an eloquent sign for the world
of today. You who exercise the service of authority, and who have the task of
leadership and planning for the future of your religious institutes, remember
that an important part of the spiritual animation and government is the common
pursuit of means to promote communion, mutual communication, warmth and truth in
A last element that I would like to highlight is mission. Mission is the
Church's mode of being and, in it, of the consecrated life itself; it is part of
your identity; it moves you to bring the Gospel to everyone, without limits.
Mission, supported by a powerful experience of God, by a robust formation and by
a fraternal life in community, is a key for understanding and revitalizing
consecrated life. Go, then, and in creative fidelity make the challenge of the
new evangelization your own. Renew your presence in the Areopaguses of today to
proclaim, as St. Paul did in Athens, the "unknown" God (cf. Address at the
Collčge des Bernardins).
Dear Superiors General, for many institutes the present moment presents the
datum of numeric diminishment, especially in Europe. The difficulties, however,
must not make us forget that the consecrated life has its origin in the Lord: It
is willed by him for the building up and the holiness of his Church, and thus
the Church itself will never be deprived of it. As I encourage you to walk in
faith and in hope, I ask you for a renewed effort in vocations work and in
initial and permanent formation. I entrust you to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to
your holy founders and patrons, while from my heart I impart to you my apostolic
blessing, which I extend to your religious families.
Papal Message for Mother Teresa's 100th Birthday
Christ's "Thirst for Souls Is Quenched by Your
VATICAN CITY, AUG. 26, 2010 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI
sent to the Missionaries of Charity on the occasion of today's 100th anniversary
of the birth of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, founder of the order. The message was
directed to the superior-general of the order, Sister Mary Prema.
* * *
I send cordial greetings to you and to all the Missionaries of Charity at the
start of the celebrations of the centenary of the birth of Blessed Mother
Teresa, founder of your order and exemplary model of Christian virtues. I trust
that this year will be for the Church and for the world an occasion of fervent
gratitude to God for the invaluable gift that Mother Teresa was in the course of
her life and that she continues to be through the loving and tireless work that
you, her spiritual daughters, carry out.
To prepare for this year, you have sought to come closer to the person of Jesus,
whose thirst for souls is quenched by your ministry for him among the poorest of
the poor. Having responded with trust to the direct call of the Lord, Mother
Teresa exemplified excellently the words of St. John: "Beloved, if God so loved
us, we also must love one another. ... [I]f we love one another, God remains in
us and his love is brought to perfection in us" (1 John 4:11-12).
May this love continue to inspire you, Missionaries of Charity, to give
yourselves generously to Jesus, to all those you see and serve, that is, to the
poor, the marginalized, the abandoned. I encourage you to draw constantly from
the spirituality and the example of Mother Teresa and, following in her
footsteps, to accept Christ's invitation: "Come and be my light."
Participating spiritually in the celebrations for the centenary, with great
affection in the Lord, I impart to the Missionaries of Charity and to all those
you serve, my heartfelt paternal Apostolic Blessing.
Papal Message to Rogationist Fathers
"Spread Ever More the Spirit of Prayer ... for All
Vocations in the Church"
VATICAN CITY, JULY 8, 2010 - Here is a
translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to the 11th General Chapter of the
Rogationist Fathers, which began Monday.
* * *
To the Delegates to the Chapter Meeting of Rogationists of the Heart of Jesus
On the occasion of your 11th General Chapter, I wish to unite myself spiritually
to you, who are living an event of grace: it is a strong call to return ever
more to the roots of your congregation, to deepen the charism to then be able to
incarnate it in the present sociocultural context, in the most suitable ways.
In these intense days, you wish to focus your attention on the topic "The Rule
of Life, Expression of the Consecration, Guarantee of the Charismatic Identity,
Support of Fraternal Communion, Mission Plan." You intend to review and approve
the constitutions and norms of your institute to adapt them especially to the
new ecclesial sensibility stemming from the Second Vatican Council and codified
in the current Code of Canon Law. Such a commitment is of particular importance,
because it is about presenting to the whole religious family the reference texts
to which everyone will have to conform their own experience of fraternal and
apostolic life, to be an eloquent sign of the love of God and instrument of
salvation in every environment.
May God bless your plans! To be fruitful you must faithfully preserve the
spiritual patrimony handed down to you by your founder, St. Annibale Maria di
Francia, who loved Christ intensely, and was always inspired by him in carrying
out a prudent vocational apostolate as well as courageous work in favor of his
needy neighbors. Follow his example and joyfully continue his mission, still
valid today, even though the social conditions in which we live have changed. In
particular, spread ever more the spirit of prayer and of solicitude for all
vocations in the Church; be eager laborers for the coming of the Kingdom of God,
dedicating yourselves with every energy to evangelization and human development.
The great challenge of inculturation asks you today to proclaim the Good News
with comprehensible languages and ways to the men of our time, involved in
rapidly changing social and cultural processes. Vast, hence, is the field of
apostolate that opens before you! Like your founder, give your existence to all
those who are "thirsty" for hope, cultivate an authentic passion to educate,
above all for young people, spend yourselves with a generous pastoral activity
among people, especially in favor of all those who suffer in body and spirit.
To this end, I am pleased to repeat to you what I said recently, almost at the
end of the Year for Priests: "Every Pastor, therefore, is a means through whom
Christ himself loves men: it is through our ministry, dear priests, it is
through us that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them"
(General Audience, May 27, 2010).
Your congregation boasts a long history, written by courageous witnesses of
Christ and the Gospel. You are called to walk in these footsteps today with
renewed zeal to drive yourselves with prophetic liberty and wise discernment, on
bold apostolic roads and missionary frontiers, cultivating a close collaboration
with the bishops and the other components of the ecclesial community. The vast
horizons of evangelization and the urgent need to witness the evangelical
message to all, without distinction, constitute the field of your apostolate. So
many still wait to know Jesus, only redeemer of man, and not a few situations of
injustice and of moral and material hardship summon believers.
Such an urgent mission requires incessant personal and community conversion.
Only hearts totally open to the action of grace are able to interpret the signs
of the times and to receive the appeals of humanity in need of hope and peace.
May faithful adherence to Christ and to his Gospel shine in the various fields
of your ecclesial service. May the Holy Virgin, queen of vocations and mother of
priests protect you, help you and be the sure guide on the path of your
religious family, so that it will be able to bring to fulfillment every good
With these hopes, while assuring you of my affectionate remembrance in prayer
for each one of you and for your chapter, I impart to you my heartfelt blessing,
which I gladly extend to all Rogationists, to the Daughters of Divine Zeal and
to all those you meet in your daily apostolate.
Papal Homily During Visit to Dominican Cloister
"You Were Consecrated to Jesus, to Belong to Him
ROME, JUNE 24, 2010 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave
today during his visit to cloistered nuns of the Dominican convent of Santa
Maria del Rosario in Rome's Monte Mario district.
* * *
I address to each one of you the words of Psalm 124 (125), which we just prayed:
"Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their
hearts!" (v. 4). I greet you above all with this wish: the goodness of the Lord
be upon you. In particular, I greet your Mother Prioress and thank her from my
heart for the kind expressions she addressed to me in the name of the community.
With great joy I accepted the invitation to visit this convent, to be able to
pause with you at the feet of the image of St. Sixtus' acheropita Virgin, now
protector of the Roman convents of St. Mary in Tempulo and of St. Sixtus.
Together we have prayed the midday prayer, a small part of this Liturgical
Prayer that, as cloistered, marks the rhythm of your days and makes you
interpreters of the Church-Bride which unites her, in a special way, with her
Lord. With this choral prayer, which finds its culmination in the daily
participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, your consecration to the Lord in
silence and seclusion becomes fecund and full of fruits, not only for the path
of sanctification and purification, but also for the apostolate of intercession
that you carry out for the whole Church, so that it can appear pure and holy in
the presence of the Lord. You, who know well the efficacy of prayer, experience
every day the many graces of holiness it can obtain in the Church.
Dear Sisters, the community you make up is a place where you can dwell in the
Lord; it is for you the New Jerusalem, to which the tribes of the Lord go up to
praise the name of the Lord (cf. Psalm121:4). Be grateful to Divine Providence
for the sublime and gratuitous gift of the monastic vocation, to which the Lord
has called you without any merit of yours. With Isaiah, you can affirm "the Lord
formed me from the womb" (Isaiah 49:5). Even before you were born, the Lord had
kept your heart for himself to be able to fill it with his love. Through the
sacrament of baptism you received Divine grace in yourselves, immersed in his
Death and Resurrection, you were consecrated to Jesus, to belong to him
exclusively. The way of contemplative life, which you received from St. Dominic
in the form of cloister, places you, as living and vital members, in the heart
of the Lord's Mystical Body, which is the Church; and as the heart makes the
blood circulate and maintains the whole body alive, so your hidden existence
with Christ, interlaced with work and prayer, contributes to sustain the Church,
instrument of salvation for every man whom the Lord redeemed with his blood.
It is this inexhaustible source that you approach with prayer, presenting in the
presence of the Most High the spiritual and material needs of so many brothers
in difficulty, the strayed life of all those who separate themselves from the
Lord. How can one not be moved by compassion for those who seem to wander
aimlessly? How can one not wish that in their life they will encounter Jesus,
the only one who gives meaning to existence? The holy desire that the Kingdom of
God be established in the heart of every man, is identified with prayer itself,
as St. Augustine teaches us: Ipsum desiderium tuum, oratio tua est; et si
continuum desiderium, continue oratio (cf. Ep. 130, 18-20); because of this, as
fire that burns and is never extinguished, the heart remains alert, it never
ceases to desire and it always raises a hymn of praise to God.
Recognize because of this, Dear Sisters, that in everything you do, beyond the
personal moments of prayer, your heart continues to be led by the desire to love
God. With the Bishop of Hippo, acknowledge that the Lord has put his love in
your hearts, desire that dilates the heart, until it makes it capable of
receiving God himself (cf. In. O. Ev. tr. 40, 10). This is the horizon of the
earthly pilgrimage! This is your goal! This is why you have chosen to live in
obscurity and in the renunciation of earthly goods: to desire above all that
good which has no equal, that precious pearl that merits the renunciation of any
other good to enter into its possession.
May you be able to pronounce every day your "yes" to God's designs, with the
same humility with which the Holy Virgin said her "yes." May she, who in silence
received the Word of God, guide you in your daily virginal consecration, so that
you will be able to experience in obscurity the profound intimacy she lived with
Jesus. Invoking her maternal protection, together with that of St. Dominic, St.
Catherine of Siena and of the many men and women saints of the Dominican Order,
I impart to you all a special Apostolic blessing, which I willingly extend to
the persons who entrust themselves to your prayers.
Pope's Homily on Day of Consecrated Life
"A School of Trust in the Mercy of God"
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2010 - Here is a translation of the homily
Benedict XVI delivered today during vespers on the feast of the Presentation of
the Lord in the Temple, which is also the 14th Day of Consecrated Life.
Present at the liturgical celebration were members of the Institutes of
Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is a celebration of a
mystery of the life of Christ, linked to the precept of the Mosaic law that
prescribed for parents, 40 days after the birth of their first-born, to go to
the Temple of Jerusalem to offer their son to the Lord and for the ritual
purification of the mother (cf Exodus 13:1-2.11-16; Leviticus 12:1-8).
Mary and Joseph also fulfilled this rite, offering -- according to the law -- a
couple of turtle doves or pigeons. Reading things in greater depth, we
understand that at that moment it was God himself who presented his
Only-begotten Son to men, through the words of the elderly Simeon and the
prophetess Anna. Simeon, in fact, proclaimed Jesus as "salvation" of humanity,
as "light" of all nations and "sign of contradiction," because he would reveal
the thoughts of hearts (cf Luke 2:29-35).
In the East this feast was called Hypapante, feast of meeting: In fact, Simeon
and Anna, who met Jesus in the Temple and recognized in him the Messiah so
awaited, represent humanity that meets its Lord in the Church. Subsequently,
this feast spread also to the West, developing above all the symbol of light,
and the procession with candles, which gave origin to the term "Candlemas." With
this visible sign one wishes to signify that the Church meets in faith him who
is "the light of men" and receives him with all the impulse of her faith to take
this "light" to the world.
In concomitance with this liturgical feast, Venerable John Paul II, beginning in
1997, wished that the whole Church should celebrate a special Day of Consecrated
Life. In fact, the oblation of the Son of God -- symbolized by his presentation
in the Temple -- is the model for every man and woman that consecrates all his
or her life to the Lord.
The purpose of this day is threefold: first of all to praise and thank the Lord
for the gift of consecrated life; in the second place, to promote the knowledge
and appreciation by all the People of God; finally, to invite all those who have
fully dedicated their life to the cause of the Gospel to celebrate the marvels
that the Lord has operated in them.
In thanking you for having gathered in such numbers, on this day dedicated
particularly to you, I wish to greet each one of you with great affection: men
and women religious and consecrated persons, expressing to you my cordial
closeness and heartfelt appreciation for the good you do in the service of the
People of God.
The brief reading, which was just proclaimed, treats of the Letter to the
Hebrews, which brings together well the motives that were at the origin of this
significant and beautiful event and offers us some ideas for reflection. This
text -- which has two verses, but very charged with significance -- opens the
second part of the Letter to the Hebrews, introducing the central theme of
Christ the high priest.
One should really consider as well the immediately preceding verse, which says:
"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession" (Hebrews 4:14). This
verse shows Jesus who ascends to the Father; while the subsequent one presents
him descending toward men. Christ is presented as the Mediator: He is true God
and true man -- that is why he really belongs to the divine and to the human
In reality, it is properly and only from this faith, from this profession of
faith in Jesus Christ, the only and definitive Mediator, that consecrated life
has meaning in the Church, a life consecrated to God through Christ. It has
meaning only if he is truly Mediator between God and us, otherwise it would only
be a form of sublimation or evasion.
If Christ was not truly God, and was not, at the same time, fully man, the
foundation of Christian life as such would come to naught, and in an altogether
particular way, the foundation of every Christian consecration of man and woman
would come to naught. Consecrated life, in fact, witnesses and expresses in a
"powerful" way the reciprocal seeking of God and man, the love that attracts
them to one another. The consecrated person, by the very fact of his or her
being, represents something like a "bridge" to God for all those he or she meets
-- a call, a return. And all this by virtue of the mediation of Jesus Christ,
the Father's Consecrated One. He is the foundation! He who shared our frailty so
that we could participate in his divine nature.
Our text insists on more than on faith, but rather on "trust" with which we can
approach the "throne of grace," from the moment that our high priest was himself
"put to the test in everything like us." We can approach to "receive mercy,"
"find grace," and "to be helped in the opportune moment." It seems to me that
these words contain a great truth and also a great comfort for us who have
received the gift and commitment of a special consecration in the Church.
I am thinking in particular of you, dear sisters and brothers. You approached
with full trust the "throne of grace" that is Christ, his Cross, his Heart, to
his divine presence in the Eucharist. Each one of you has approached him as the
source of pure and faithful love, a love so great and beautiful as to merit all,
in fact, more than our all, because a whole life is not enough to return what
Christ is and what he has done for us. But you approached him, and every day you
approach him, also to be helped in the opportune moment and in the hour of
Consecrated persons are called in a particular way to be witnesses of this mercy
of the Lord, in which man finds his salvation. They have the vivid experience of
God's forgiveness, because they have the awareness of being saved persons, of
being great when they recognize themselves to be small, of feeling renewed and
enveloped by the holiness of God when they recognize their own sin. Because of
this, also for the man of today, consecrated life remains a privileged school of
"compunction of heart," of the humble recognition of one's misery but, likewise,
it remains a school of trust in the mercy of God, in his love that never
abandons. In reality, the closer we come to God, and the closer one is to him,
the more useful one is to others. Consecrated persons experience the grace,
mercy and forgiveness of God not only for themselves, but also for their
brothers, being called to carry in their heart and prayer the anxieties and
expectations of men, especially of those who are far from God.
In particular, communities that live in cloister, with their specific commitment
of fidelity in "being with the Lord," in "being under the cross," often carry
out this vicarious role, united to Christ of the Passion, taking on themselves
the sufferings and trials of others and offering everything with joy for the
salvation of the world.
Finally, dear friends, we wish to raise to the Lord a hymn of thanksgiving and
praise for consecrated life itself. If it did not exist, how much poorer the
world would be! Beyond the superficial valuations of functionality, consecrated
life is important precisely for its being a sign of gratuitousness and of love,
and this all the more so in a society that risks being suffocated in the vortex
of the ephemeral and the useful (cf Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation.
Consecrated Life, 105). Consecrated life, instead, witnesses to the
superabundance of the Lord's love, who first "lost" his life for us. At this
moment I am thinking of the consecrated persons who feel the weight of the daily
effort lacking in human gratification, I am thinking of elderly men and women
religious, the sick, of all those who feel difficulties in their apostolate. Not
one of these is futile, because the Lord associates them to the "throne of
grace." Instead, they are a precious gift for the Church and the world, thirsty
for God and his Word.
Full of trust and gratitude, let us then also renew the gesture of the total
offering of ourselves, presenting ourselves in the Temple. May the Year for
Priests be a further occasion, for priests religious to intensify the journey of
sanctification, and for all consecrated men and women, a stimulus to support and
sustain their ministry with fervent prayer.
This year of grace will have a culminating moment in Rome, next June, in the
international meeting of priests, to which I invite all those who exercise the
Sacred Ministry. We approach the thrice Holy to offer our life and our mission,
personal and community, of men and women consecrated to the Kingdom of God. Let
us carry out this interior gesture in profound spiritual communion with the
Virgin Mary: while contemplating her in the act of presenting the Child Jesus in
the Temple, we venerate her as the first and perfect consecrated one, carried by
that God she carries in her arms; Virgin, poor and obedient, totally dedicated
to us because totally of God. In her school, and with her maternal help, we
renew our "here I am" and our "fiat." Amen.
Pope's Letter for St. Anselm Celebration
"One of the Brightest Figures in the Tradition of the Church"
AOSTA, Italy, APRIL 28, 2009 - Here is the text of the letter Benedict XVI sent
to Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, retired archbishop of Bologna, on the occasion of the
ninth centenary of the death of St. Anselm. The message was read April 21, the
saint's feast day, at a solemn Mass in the Aosta cathedral in honor of the
philosopher and theologian.
* * *
In view of the celebrations in which you, venerable brother, will take part as
my legate in the illustrious city of Aosta in honor of the ninth centenary of
the death of St. Anselm, which took place in Canterbury on 21 April 1109, I
would like to give you a special message in which I wish recall the main
features of this great monk, theologian and pastor of souls, whose work has left
a deep mark on the history of the Church.
The anniversary is indeed an opportunity not to be missed to renew the memory of
one of the brightest figures in the tradition of the Church and in the history
of Western European thought. The exemplary monastic experience of Anselm, his
original method of rethinking the Christian mystery, his subtle philosophical
and theological doctrine, his teaching on the inviolable value of conscience and
on freedom as the responsible adherence to truth and goodness, his passionate
work as a shepherd of souls, dedicated with all his strength to the promotion of
"freedom of the Church," have never ceased to arouse in the past the deepest
interest, which the memory of his death is happily reigniting and encouraging in
many ways and in different places.
In this memorial of the "Magnificent Doctor" -- as St. Anselm is called -- the
Church of Aosta cannot but be recognized, the Church in which he was born and
which is rightly pleased to consider Anselm as her most illustrious son. Even
when he left Aosta in the time of his youth, he continued to carry in his memory
and in his heart the bundle of memories that was never far from his thoughts in
the most important moments of life. Among those memories, a particular place was
certainly reserved for the sweet image of his mother and the majestic mountains
of his valley with their high peaks, and perennial snow, in which he saw
represented, as if in a fascinating and suggestive symbol, the sublimity of God.
To Anselm - "a child raised in the mountains," as Admero his biographer calls
him, ("Vita Sancti Anselmi," i, 2) - God appears to be that of which you cannot
think of something bigger: perhaps his intuition was not unrelated to the
childhood view of those inaccessible peaks. Already as a child he thought that
in order to find God it was necessary to "climb to the summit of the mountain"
(ibid.). In fact, he will realize more and more that God remains at an
inaccessible height, located beyond the horizons which man is able to reach,
since God is beyond the thinkable. Because of this, the journey in search of
God, at least on this earth, will never end, but will always be thought and
desire, the rigorous process of the intellect and the imploring inquiry of the
The intense desire to know and the innate propensity for clarity and logical
rigor will push Anselm towards the "scholeae" [schools] of his time. He will
therefore join the monastery of Le Bec, where his inclination for dialectic
reflection will be satisfied and above all, where his cloistered vocation will
enkindle. To dwell on the years of the monastic life of Anselm is to encounter a
faithful religious, "constantly occupied in God alone and in the disciplines of
heaven" -- as his biographer writes -- in order to achieve "such a summit of
divine speculation that would enable him by a path opened by God to penetrate,
and, once penetrated, to explain the most obscure and previously unresolved
questions concerning the divinity of God and our faith and to prove with clear
reasons that what he stated belonged to sure Catholic doctrine" ("Vita Sancti
Anselmi," i, 7). With these words, his biographer describes the theological
method of St. Anselm, whose thought was ignited and illuminated in prayer. It is
he himself that confesses, in his famous work, that the understanding of faith
is an approach toward a vision, which we all yearn for and which we all hope to
enjoy at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, "Quoniam inter fidem et speciem
intellectum quem in hac vita capimus esse medium intelligo: quanto aliquis ad
illum proficit, tanto eum propinquare speciei, ad quam omnes anhelamus, existimo
(Cur Deus homo, Commendatio).
The saint desired to achieve the vision of the logical relationships inherent to
the mystery, to perceive the "clarity of truth," and thus to grasp the evidence
of the "necessary reasons," intimately bound to the mystery. A bold plan
certainly, and it is one whose success still occupies the reflections of the
students of Anselm today. In fact, his search of the "intellectus" [intellect]
positioned between "fides" [faith] and "species" [vision] comes out of the
source of the same faith and is sustained by confidence in reason, through which
faith in a certain way is illuminated. The intent of Anselm is clear: "to raise
the mind to contemplation of God" (Proslogion, Proemium). There remain, in any
event, for every theological research, his programmatic words: "I do not try,
Lord, to penetrate your depth, because I cannot, even from a distance, compare
it with my intellect, but I want to understand, at least up to a certain point,
your truth, which my heart believes and loves. I do not seek, in fact, to try to
understand it in order to believe it, but I believe in order to understand
it."[Non quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam] (Proslogion, 1).
In Anselm, prior and abbot of Le Bec, we underline some characteristics that
further define his personal profile. What strikes us, first of all, is his
charism as an expert teacher of spiritual life, one who knows and wisely
illustrates the ways of monastic perfection. At the same time, one is fascinated
by his instructive geniality, which is expressed in that discernment method --
which he names, the "via discretionis" (Ep. 61) -- which is a small image of his
whole life, an image composed of both mercy and firmness. The peculiar ability
which he demonstrates in initiating disciples to the experience of authentic
prayer is very peculiar: in particular, his "Orationes sive Meditationes,"
eagerly requested and widely used, which have contributed to making many people
of his time " anime oranti" [praying souls], as with his other works, have
proved themselves a valuable catalyst in making the Middle Ages a "thinking"
and, we might add, "conscientious" period. One would say that the most authentic
Anselm can be found at Le Bec, where he remained thirty three years, and where
he was much loved. Thanks to the maturity that he acquired in a similar
environment of reflection and prayer, he will be able, as well in the midst of
the subsequent trials as bishop, to declare: "I will not retain in my heart any
resentment for any one" (Ep. 321).
The nostalgia of the monastery will accompany him for the rest of his life. He
confessed it himself when he was constrained, to his deepest sorrow and that of
his monks, to leave the monastery to assume the Episcopal ministry to which did
not feel well disposed: "It is well known to many," he wrote to Pope Urban II,
"the violence which was done to me, and how much I was reluctant and contrary,
when I was brought as a bishop to England and how I explained the reasons of
nature, age, weakness and ignorance, which were opposed to this office and that
absolutely detest and shun scholastic duties, which I cannot dedicate myself to
at all without endangering the salvation of my soul" (Ep. 206). He confides
later with his monks in these terms: "I have lived for 33 years a monk -- three
years without responsibility, 15 as prior, and as many as abbot -- in such a way
that all the good people that knew me loved me, certainly not by my own merits
but for the grace of God, and the ones that loved me most were those that knew
me most intimately and with greatest familiarity" (Ep. 156). And he added: "You
have been many to come to Le Bec ... Many of you I surrounded with a love so
tender and sweet that each one had the impression that I did not love anyone
else in the same way" (ibid.).
Appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and beginning, in this way, his most troubled
journey, his "love of truth" (Ep. 327), his uprightness, his strict loyalty to
conscience, his "Episcopal freedom" (Ep. 206), his " Episcopal honesty" (Ep.
314), his tireless work for the liberation of the Church from the temporal
conditionings and from the servitude of calculations that are incompatible with
his spiritual nature will appear in their full light. His words to King Henry
remain exemplary in this respect, "I reply that in neither baptism nor in any
other ordination that I have received, did I promised to observe the law or the
custom of your father or of the Archbishop Lanfranco, but the law of God and of
all the orders received" (Ep. 319). For Anselm, the primate of the Church of
England, one principle applies: "I am a Christian, I am a monk, I am a Bishop: I
desire to be faithful to all, according to the debt I have with each" (Ep. 314).
In this vein he does not hesitate to say: "I prefer to be in disagreement with
men than, agreeing with them, to be in disagreement with God" (Ep. 314).
Precisely for this reason he feels ready even for the supreme sacrifice: "I am
not afraid to shed my blood, I fear no wound in my body nor the loss of any
material good" (Ep. 311).
It is understandable that, for all these reasons, Anselm still retains a great
actuality and a strong appeal, in as much as it is fruitful to revisit and
republish his writings, and together meditate continuously on his life. For this
reason I have rejoiced that Aosta, on the occasion of the ninth centenary of the
death of the saint, has distinguished itself with a set of appropriate and
intelligent initiatives -- especially with the careful edition of his works --
with the intention to make known and loved the teachings and examples of this,
its illustrious son. I entrust to you, Venerable Brother, the task of bringing
to the faithful of the ancient and beloved city of Aosta the exhortation to
remember with admiration and affection this great fellow citizen of theirs,
whose light continues to shine throughout the Church, especially where the love
for the truths of faith and the desire for their study by the light of reason
are cultivated. And, in fact, faith and reason -- "fides et ratio" -- are united
admirably in Anselm. I send, with these heartfelt sentiments through you,
venerable brother, to the Bishop, Monsignor Giuseppe Anfossi, the clergy, the
religious and the faithful of Aosta and to all those who take part in the
celebrations in honor of the "Magnificent Doctor," a special apostolic blessing,
propitiatory of an abundant outpouring of heavenly favours.
Benedict XVI's Address to the Franciscan Family
"Attract to Christ Men and Women of All Ages"
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 20, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address
Benedict XVI gave Saturday at the pontifical residence at Castel Gandolfo, in an
audience with members of the Franciscan family participating in the "Chapter of
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Franciscan family!
With great joy I welcome you all at this happy and historic occasion that has
gathered you all together: the eighth centenary of the approval of the "protoregola"
[monastic rule] of St. Francis by Pope Innocent III. Eight hundred years have
passed, and those dozen friars have become a multitude, scattered all over the
world and now here, by you, worthily represented. In recent days you have
gathered in Assisi for what you wanted to call the "Chapter of Mats" to recall
your origins. And at the end of this extraordinary experience you have come
together with the "Signor Papa" [Lord Pope], as your seraphic founder would say.
I greet you all with affection: the Friars Minor of the three branches, guided
by the respective Ministers General, among whom I thank Father José Rodriguez
Carballo for his kind words, the members of the Third Order, with their Minister
General; the Franciscan women religious and members of the Franciscan secular
institutes, and knowing them spiritually present, the Poor Clares, which
constitute the "second order."
I am pleased to welcome some Franciscan bishops, and in particular I greet the
bishop of Assisi, Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, who represents the Church of
Assisi, the home of Francis and Clare, and spiritually, of all the Franciscans.
We know how important it was for Francis, the link with the bishop of Assisi at
the time, Guido, who acknowledged his charisma and supported it. It was Guido
who presented Francis to Cardinal Giovanni of St. Paul, who then introduced him
to the Pope and encouraged the adoption of the Rule. Charism and institution are
always complementary for the edification of the Church.
What should I tell you, dear friends? First of all I would like to join you in
giving thanks to God for the path that he has marked out for you, filling you
with his benefits. And as Pastor of the Church, I want to thank him for the
precious gift that you are for the entire Christian people. From the small
stream that flowed from the foot of Mount Subasio, it has formed a great river,
which has made a significant contribution to the universal spread of the Gospel.
It all began from the conversion of Francis, who, following the example of Jesus
"emptied himself" (cf. Phil 2:7) and, by marrying Lady Poverty, became a witness
and herald of the Father who is in heaven. To the "Poverello" [little poor man],
one can apply literally some expressions that the apostle Paul uses to refer to
himself and which I like to remember in this Pauline Year: "I have been
crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in
me. And this life, I live in the flesh, I live by faith of the Son of God who
has loved me and given himself for me" (Gal. 2:19-20). And again: "From now on
let no one bother me: for I wear the marks of Jesus on my body" (Gal 6:17).
Francis reflects perfectly the footsteps of Paul and in truth can say with him:
"For me, to live is Christ" (Phil 1:21). He has experienced the power of divine
grace and he is as one who has died and risen. All his previous wealth, any
source of pride and security, everything becomes a "loss" from the moment of
encounter with the crucified and risen Jesus (cf. Phil 3:7-11). The leaving of
everything at that point becomes almost necessary to express the abundance of
the gift received. A gift so great as to require a total detachment, which
itself isn't enough; it requires a entire life lived "according to the form of
the holy Gospel" (2 Tests, 14: the Franciscan Sources, 116).
And here we come to the point that surely lies at the heart of our meeting. I
would summarize it as follows: the Gospel as a rule of life. "The Rule and life
of the Friars Minor is this, to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus
Christ:" this is what Francis writes at the beginning of his Rule (Rb I, 1: FF,
75). He defined himself entirely in the light of the Gospel. This is his charm.
This is his enduring relevance. Thomas of Celano relates that the Poverello
"always held himself in the heart of Jesus. Jesus on the lips, Jesus in his
ears, Jesus is his eyes, Jesus in his hands, Jesus in all the other members
[...] In fact finding himself often traveling and meditating or singing about
Jesus, he would forget he was traveling and would stop to invite all creatures
to praise Jesus" (1 Cel., II, 9, 115: FF115). So the Poverello has become a
living gospel, able to attract to Christ men and women of all ages, especially
young people, who prefer radical idealism to half-measures. The Bishop of
Assisi, Guido, and then Pope Innocent III recognized in the proposal of Francis
and his companions the authenticity of the Gospel, and knew how to encourage
their commitment for the good of the Church.
Here is a spontaneous reflection: Francis could have also not gone to the Pope.
Many religious groups and movements were forming during that time, and some of
them were opposed to the Church as an institution, or at least didn't seek the
Churches' approval. Certainly a polemical attitude towards the hierarchy would
have won Francis many followers. Instead, he immediately thought to put his
journey and that of his companions into the hands of the Bishop of Rome, the
Successor of Peter. This fact reveals his true ecclesial spirit. The little "we"
that had started with his first friars he conceived from the outset inside the
context of the great "we" of the one and universal Church. And the Pope
recognized and appreciated this. The Pope, in fact, on his part, could have not
approved the project of the life of Francis. Indeed, we can well imagine that
among the collaborators of Innocent III, some counseled him to that effect,
perhaps fearing that his group of monks would end up resembling other heretical
groups and pauperisms of the time. Instead the Roman Pontiff, well informed by
the Bishop of Assisi and Cardinal Giovanni of St. Paul, was able to discern the
initiative of the Holy Spirit and welcomed, blessed and encouraged the nascent
community of "Friars Minor."
Dear brothers and sisters, eight centuries have passed, and now you have wanted
to renew this gesture of your founder. You are all sons and heirs of those
origins, of that "good seed" which was Francis, who was conformed to the "grain
of wheat" which is the Lord Jesus, died and risen to bring forth much fruit (cf.
Jn 12:24). The saints propose anew the fruitfulness of Christ. As Francis and
Clare of Assisi, you also commit yourselves to follow the same logic: to lose
your lives for Jesus and the Gospel, to save them and make them abundantly
fruitful. While you praise and thank the Lord who has called you to be part of
such a great and beautiful family, stay attentive to what the Spirit says to it
today, in each of its components, to continue to proclaim with passion the
Kingdom of God, the footsteps of your seraphic father. Every brother and every
sister should keep always a contemplative mood, happy and simple; always begin
from Christ, as Francis set out from the gaze of the Crucifix of San Damiano and
from the meeting with the leper, to see the face of Christ in our brothers and
sisters who suffer and bring to all his peace. Be witnesses to the "beauty" of
God, which Francis was able to sing contemplating the wonders of creation, and
that made him exclaim to the Most High: "You are beauty!" (Praises of God Most
High, 4.6: FF 261).
Dear friends, the last word I would like to leave with you is the same that the
risen Jesus gave to his disciples: "Go!" (cf. Mt 28:19, Mk 16:15). Go and
continue to "repair the house" of the Lord Jesus Christ, his Church. In recent
days, the earthquake that struck the Abruzzo region has severely damaged many
churches, and you from Assisi know what this means. But there is another "ruin"
that is far more serious: that of people and communities! Like Francis, always
start with yourselves. We are the first house that God wants to restore. If you
are always able to renew yourselves in the spirit of the Gospel, you will
continue to assist the pastors of the Church to make more and more beautiful the
Church's face, that of the bride of Christ. The Pope, now the same as then,
expects this of you. Thank you for coming! Now go and bring to all the peace and
love of Christ the Savior. May Mary Immaculate, "Virgin made Church" (cf.
Greetings to the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1 FF, 259), accompany you always. And may
my Apostolic Blessing, which I cordially impart to all of you here present, and
the entire Franciscan family, support you as well.
[Translation by Matthew Pollock]
[The Holy Father greeted the Franciscans in various languages. In English, he
I am pleased to welcome in a special way the Minister Generals gathered with the
priests, Sisters and Brothers of the worldwide Franciscan community present at
this audience. As you mark the Eight-hundredth anniversary of the approval of
the Rule of Saint Francis, I pray that through the intercession of the Poverello,
Franciscans everywhere will continue to offer themselves completely at the
service of others, especially the poor. May the Lord bless you in your
Apostolates and shower your communities with abundant vocations.
© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Benedict XVI's Address to Benedictine Sisters
"Mary's Heart Is the Cloister Where the Word Continues to Speak in Silence"
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI
gave March 9 upon visiting the monastery of the Benedictine Oblate Sisters of
St. Frances of Rome at Tor de' Specchi.
* * *
Dear Oblate Sisters,
After my Visit to the nearby Municipal Hall on the Capitoline Hill, I come with
great joy to meet you at this historic Monastery of Santa Francesca Romana,
while you are still celebrating the fourth centenary of her canonization on 29
May 1608. Moreover, the Feast of this great Saint occurs this very day,
commemorating the date of her birth in Heaven. I am therefore particularly
grateful to the Lord to be able to pay this tribute to the "most Roman of women
Saints", in felicitous continuity with the meeting I have just had with the
Administrators at the municipal headquarters. As I address my cordial greeting
to your community, and in particular to the President, Mother Maria Camilla Rea
whom I thank for her courteous words expressing your common sentiments I also
extend my greeting to Auxiliary Bishop Ernesto Mandara, to the students who live
here and to everyone present.
As you know, together with my collaborators in the Roman Curia, I have just
completed the Spiritual Exercises which coincided with the first week of Lent.
In these days I have experienced once again how indispensable silence and prayer
are. And I also thought of St Frances of Rome, of her unreserved dedication to
God and neighbour which gave rise to the experience of community life here, at
Tor de' Specchi. Contemplation and action, prayer and charitable service, the
monastic ideal and social involvement: all this has found here a "laboratory"
rich in fruits, in close connection with the Olivetan nuns of Santa Maria Nova.
But the real impetus behind all that was achieved in the course of time was the
heart of Frances, into which the Holy Spirit had poured out his spiritual gifts
and at the same time inspired a multitude of good initiatives.
Your monastery is located in the heart of the city. How is it possible not to
see in this, as it were, the symbol of the need to bring the spiritual dimension
back to the centre of civil coexistence, to give full meaning to the many
activities of the human being? Precisely in this perspective your community,
together with all other communities of contemplative life, is called to be a
sort of spiritual "lung" of society, so that all that is to be done, all that
happens in a city, does not lack a spiritual "breath", the reference to God and
his saving plan. This is the service that is carried out in particular by
monasteries, places of silence and meditation on the divine word, places where
there is constant concern to keep the earth open to Heaven. Then your monastery
has its own special feature which naturally reflects the charism of St Frances
of Rome. Here you keep a unique balance between religious life and secular life,
between life in the world and outside the world. This model did not come into
being on paper but in the practical experience of a young woman of Rome; it was
written one might say by God himself in the extraordinary life of Francesca, in
her history as a child, an adolescent, a very young wife and mother, a mature
woman conquered by Jesus Christ, as St Paul would say. Not without reason are
the walls of these premises decorated with scenes from her life, to show that
the true building which God likes to build is the life of Saints.
In our day too, Rome needs women and of course also men but here I wish to
emphasize the feminine dimension women, as I was saying, who belong wholly to
God and wholly to their neighbour; women who are capable of recollection and of
generous and discreet service; women who know how to obey their Pastors but also
how to support them and encourage them with their suggestions, developed in
conversation with Christ and in first-hand experience in the area of charity,
assistance to the sick, to the marginalized, to minors in difficulty. This is
the gift of a motherhood that is one with religious self-gift, after the model
of Mary Most Holy. Let us think of the mystery of the Visitation. Immediately
after conceiving the Word of God in her heart and in her flesh, Mary set out to
go and help her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth. Mary's heart is the cloister where
the Word continues to speak in silence, and at the same time it is the crucible
of a charity that is conducive to courageous gestures, as well as to a
persevering and hidden sharing.
Dear Sisters, thank you for the prayers with which you always accompany the
ministry of the Successor of Peter and thank you for your invaluable presence in
the heart of Rome. I hope that you will experience every day the joy of
preferring nothing to love of Christ, a motto we have inherited from St Benedict
but which clearly mirrors the spirituality of the Apostle Paul, venerated by you
as Patron of your Congregation. To you, to the Olivetan monks and to everyone
present here, I warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing.
© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Papal Speech to Religious of Genoa
"Persevere in Your Institutions and Especially in Your Presence"
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 5, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of
XVI's May 18 address to members of the Cathedral Chapter and
consecrated religious, gathered at St. Lawrence's Cathedral in Genoa.
The gathering took place during the Pontiff's two-day pastoral visit to
the Italian region of Liguria.
* * *
Dear Members of the Cathedral Chapter,
Dear Men and Women Religious,
In this brief but intense Pastoral Visit to Genoa I could not omit
visit to your famous Cathedral, dedicated to St Lawrence, which
preserves the relics of St John the Baptist, the Precursor of Jesus. I
am happy to meet the Canons of the venerable Metropolitan Chapter and
the men and women Religious present and working in the Archdiocese.
This church, surrounded by a network of alleys, seems to be the point
of convergence and arrival of every path as though people desired to
come out from the shade of the narrow streets into the light of their
Cathedral, as if they wanted to come out into the light of God that
welcomes, embraces, illumines and restores all. I offer my cordial
greeting to each one of you. I address a special greeting to Mons.
Mario Grone, Head of the Cathedral Chapter, and Fr Domenico Rossi,
Diocesan Delegate for Consecrated Life who have expressed your devout
In past centuries, the Church of Genoa had a rich tradition of
and generous service to the brethren, thanks to the work of zealous
priests and men and women religious of both active and contemplative
life. Here the names of various Saints and Blesseds spring to mind:
Antonio Maria Gianelli, Agostino Roscelli, Tommaso Reggio, Francesco
Maria da Camporosso, Caterina Fieschi Adorno, Virginia Centurione
Bracelli, Paola Frassinetti, Eugenia Ravasco, Maria Repetto, Benedetta
Cambiagio Frassinello. But even now, notwithstanding the difficulties
that society is going through, the enthusiasm for evangelization is
strong in your communities. What has grown in particular is the common
desire to have closer relations of ever more brotherly understanding in
order to collaborate in the missionary action promoted throughout the
Archdiocese. In fact, in compliance with the guidelines of the Italian
Bishops' Conference, you wish to adopt an ongoing state of mission as a
testimony of the joy of the Gospel and an explicit invitation to
encounter Jesus Christ that is addressed to all. Here I am among you,
dear friends, to encourage you to walk in this direction.
In particular, I would like to point out to you as an example the
Apostle Paul, whose special Jubilee we are preparing to celebrate on
the occasion of the 2,000th anniversary of his birth. After his
conversion to Christ on the road to Damascus he dedicated himself
without reserve to the Gospel cause. For Christ he faced trials of all
kinds and stayed faithful to him until the sacrifice of his life.
Having come to the end of his earthly pilgrimage, he wrote to Timothy
his faithful disciple: "For I am already on the point of being
sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good
fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (II Tim 4:
6-7). May each one of us, dear brothers and sisters, be able to say the
same thing on the last day of his/her own life. In order for this to
happen, and it is what the Lord expects of his friends, we must
cultivate the same missionary spirit that animated St Paul with
constant spiritual, ascetic and pastoral formation. Above all, we must
become "specialists" in listening to God and credible examples of a
holiness that is expressed in fidelity to the Gospel without yielding
to the spirit of the world. As Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, a zealous Pastor
of this Archdiocese for several decades and now buried in this
Cathedral of yours, wrote: "Religious life pivots around God and
arranges all things around God and thus becomes a witness of God and
the call of God" (Letter to all the Women Religious Praying and Working
in the Diocese of Genoa on the Congress on: "Worship of the Lord", 15
Dear Members of the Chapter of Canons of the Cathedral, in
the liturgies which take place here, may you remember that everything
in us is invigorated by personal and liturgical prayer. Once again it
was Cardinal Siri who stressed that "the most venerable and holiest
action, worthy of all consideration and regard, of all honour and
distinction which is carried out in a diocese is the solemn celebration
of the Divine Office, in other words what you do.... The entire
Diocese, and in a certain sense the entire Church, prays through your
lips. The debt of the diocesan family of the faithful is discharged
before God primarily with this prayer of yours" (Towards the Congress
on "Worship of the Lord", Pastoral Letter to the Canons, 24 January
Dear brothers and sisters and in particular you Consecrated
thank you for your presence. It is a presence old and ever new, despite
your dwindling numbers and strength. But be confident: our times are
not those of God and of his Providence. It is necessary to pray and to
increase in personal and community holiness. The Lord provides. I ask
you never to consider yourselves as though you were in the "twilight"
of life: Christ is the eternal dawn, our light. I ask you to persevere
in your institutions and especially in your presence: the death of your
communities impoverishes you but also Genoa. The poor, the sick,
families, children, our Parishes: all this forms a valuable context for
service and gift in order to build the Church and serve humankind. I
especially recommend to you the education of children and young people:
you know that it is the educational challenge which is most urgent
because without an authentic human education it is impossible to go
far. And all of you, although in different ways, have had an
educational experience in the past. We must help parents in their
extraordinary and difficult educational task; we must help Parishes and
groups; we must continue even with great sacrifices, Catholic schools
which are a great treasure of the Christian community and a true
resource for the Country.
Dear Canons and dear men and women Religious, the long spiritual
tradition of Genoa includes six Popes, among whom I remember above all
Benedict XV of venerable memory, the Pope of peace.
In Humani Generis Redemptionem he wrote, "What gives a man's words
and vigour and makes them promote wonderfully the salvation of souls is
divine grace" [n. 17]. Let us never forget it: being called to proclaim
together the joy of Christ and the beauty of the Church is what binds
us. This joy and this beauty, which come from the Spirit, are a gift
and a sign of God's presence in our souls. In order to be witnesses and
heralds of the saving message we cannot rely solely on our human
forces. It is God's own fidelity that encourages and shapes fidelity to
him: for this reason let us be guided by the Spirit of truth and love.
This is the invitation that I address to each one of you, corroborating
it with a special remembrance in prayer. I entrust you all to the
Madonna della Guardia, to St Lawrence, to St John the Baptist and to
your Patron Saints. With these sentiments I bless you wholeheartedly.
Pope's Address to Participants of Salesian
"Don Bosco Is a Shining Example of a Life Marked by Apostolic Zeal"
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 10, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the
address Benedict XVI gave March 31 upon receiving in audience the
participants of the 26th General Chapter of the Congregation of Don
* * *
Your Eminence, Dear Members of the General Chapter of the Salesian
Congregation, I am pleased to meet you today as your Chapter is now
reaching its conclusion. I first of all thank Fr Pascual Chávez
Villanueva, Rector Major, for the sentiments he has expressed on behalf
of you all, confirming the Congregation's will to work with the Church
and for the Church always, in full harmony with the Successor of Peter.
I thank him too for the generous service he has carried out in the past
six years and offer him my good wishes for his recent renewal in
office. I also greet the members of the new General Council who will
help the Rector Major in his task of animation and in the governance of
your whole Congregation. ?In the Message I addressed to the Rector
Major at the beginning of the Chapter, and through him to you, the
Chapter Members, I expressed certain expectations that the Church has
of you Salesians and I also offered several ideas for the progress of
your Congregation. Today, I intend to take up again and examine some of
these recommendations in the light of the work you are doing. Your
26th Chapter is being celebrated in a period of great social, economic
and political change, of heightened ethical, cultural and environmental
problems and unresolved conflicts between races and nations. Moreover,
in our time, communication between peoples is more intense, there are
new opportunities for knowledge and dialogue and a livelier exchange on
the spiritual values that give meaning to life. ?In particular, the
appeals young people make to us and especially their questions about
the fundamental problems are linked to their intense longing for a full
life, authentic love and constructive freedom. They are situations that
test the Church and her ability to proclaim Christ's Gospel today with
its promise full of hope. ?I therefore warmly hope that the entire
Salesian Congregation, thanks to the results of your General Chapter,
may live with renewed dynamism and fervour the mission for which,
through the maternal intervention of Mary, Help of Christians, the Holy
Spirit brought it into being in the Church. I want today to encourage
you and all Salesians to continue on the path of this mission in full
fidelity to your original charism, already in the context of the
upcoming second centenary of Don Bosco's birth. With the theme "Give
me souls, take away all else", your General Chapter's aim was to revive
apostolic zeal in every Salesian and throughout the Congregation. This
will help give Salesians a better defined profile so that they may
become increasingly aware of their identity as people consecrated "for
the glory of God" and increasingly on fire with pastoral zeal "for the
salvation of souls".
Strong religious vocations
Don Bosco wanted the choice of consecrated life to guarantee the
continuity of his charism in the Church. Today too, the Salesian
movement can only grow in fidelity to its charism if a strong and vital
nucleus of consecrated people continues to form its core. ?Thus, in
order to strengthen the identity of the Congregation as a whole your
first commitment consists in reinforcing the vocation of each Salesian
so that he may live in full fidelity to his call to the consecrated
life. ?The entire Congregation must strive to be ceaselessly "a living
memorial of Jesus' way of living and acting as the Incarnate Word in
relation to the Father and in relation to the brethren" (Vita
Consecrata, n. 22). May Christ be the centre of your lives!
It is necessary to let oneself be seized by him and to start out afresh
from him always. May everything else be counted "as loss because of the
surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus" and as "refuse, in order that
I may gain Christ" (Phil 3: 8). It is here that ardent love for the
Lord Jesus is born, the aspiration to identify oneself with him,
assuming his sentiments and way of life, trusting abandonment in the
Father and dedication to the evangelizing mission that must
characterize every Salesian: he must feel chosen to follow the
obedient, poor and chaste Christ in conformity with Don Bosco's
teaching and example. The secularization process gaining ground in
contemporary culture unfortunately does not spare even communities of
consecrated life. For this reason it is necessary to watch over forms
and lifestyles that risk weakening Gospel witness as well as rendering
pastoral action ineffective and the vocational response fragile.
I therefore ask you to help your confreres preserve and revive their
faithfulness to the call. Jesus' prayer to the Father before his
Passion, asking that he keep in his name all the disciples that he had
given him and that none of them be lost (cf. Jn 17: 11-12), is
particularly appropriate for vocations of special consecration. "The
spiritual life must therefore have first place in the programme" of
your Congregation (Vita Consecrata, n. 93). ?May the Word of God and
the Liturgy be sources of Salesian spirituality! In particular, may
lectio divina, practised daily by every Salesian, and the Eucharist
celebrated every day in the community, nourish and support Salesian
spirituality! From this will be born the authentic spirituality of
apostolic dedication and ecclesial communion.
The flourishing of your Congregation will be guaranteed by fidelity to
the Gospel lived "sine glossa" and to your Rule of Life, particularly
an austere way of life and Gospel poverty practised consistently, with
faithful love for the Church and the generous gift of yourselves to
youth, especially the neediest and most disadvantaged. Don Bosco is a
shining example of a life marked by apostolic zeal, lived at the
service of the Church in the Congregation and in the Salesian Family.
At the school of St Joseph Cafasso, your Founder learned to make his
own the motto "Give me souls, take away all else", as the synthesis of
a model of pastoral action inspired by the figure and spirituality of
St Francis de Sales. ?This model fits into the horizon of the absolute
primacy of God's love, a love that succeeds in shaping passionate
personalities eager to contribute to Christ's mission to set the whole
earth ablaze with the fire of his love (cf. Lk 12: 49).
Precious good of souls
Besides the ardour of God's love, another characteristic of the
Salesian model is awareness of the inestimable value of "souls". This
perception by contrast generates an acute sense of sin and its
devastating consequences in time and in eternity. The apostle is called
to cooperate with the Saviour's redeeming action in order that no one
be lost. "Saving souls", precisely as St Peter said, was thus Don
Bosco's raison d'être. His immediate successor, Bl. Michele Rua,
up the life of your beloved Father and Founder in these words: "He did
not give way, he did not speak, did not turn his hand to any task that
did not aim at the salvation of young people.... He truly had only
their souls at heart". This is what Bl. Michele Rua said of Don Bosco.
Today, it is also urgently necessary to nourish this passion in every
Salesian's heart. Thus, he will not hesitate to venture daringly into
the most difficult milieus of evangelizing action for young people,
especially for those who are materially and spiritually the poorest.?He
will have the patience and courage even to propose to young people that
they live in total dedication in consecrated life. He will have an open
mind in order to identify the new needs of young people and listen to
their prayers for help, possibly leaving to others areas that have
already been consolidated by pastoral interventions.
For this reason the Salesian will face the totalizing demands of the
mission with a simple, poor and austere life, sharing the living
conditions of the poorest of the poor, and will have the joy of giving
more to those who have received less in their lives. ?May his apostolic
enthusiasm become so contagious that others also catch it. The Salesian
thus becomes a champion of what the apostolate means, helping first of
all young people to know and love the Lord Jesus, to let themselves be
fascinated by him, to cultivate evangelizing commitment, to love their
own peers, to be apostles to other young people like St Dominic Savio,
Bl. Laura Vicuña and Bl. Zepherin Namuncurà and the five
Martyrs of the Oratory of Poznan.?Dear Salesians, may you be committed
to forming lay people with apostolic hearts, inviting them all to walk
in the holiness of life that develops courageous disciples and
The challenges of educating
In the Message I addressed to the Rector Major at the beginning of your
General Chapter, I wished to present in spirit to all Salesians the
Letter I recently sent to the faithful of Rome concerning the anxiety
about what I called a great educational emergency. ?"Educating has
never been an easy undertaking and seems to be becoming increasingly
difficult today; thus, many parents and teachers are tempted to give up
their task and do not even succeed in understanding what the mission
entrusted to them truly is. Indeed, too many uncertainties, too many
doubts are circulating in our society and our culture, too many
distorted images are transmitted by the media. "It thus becomes
difficult to propose to the new generations something valid and
reliable, rules of conduct and worthwhile objectives to which to devote
one's life" (Address at the Presentation of a Letter on "The Urgent
Task of Education", 23 February 2008; L'Osservatore Romano English
edition, 5 March, p. 5).
Actually, the most serious aspect of the educational crisis is the
sense of discouragement that overcomes many educators, parents and
teachers in particular as they face the difficulties of their task
today. I therefore wrote in the Letter cited: "The soul of education,
as of the whole of life, can only be a dependable hope. Today, our hope
is threatened on many sides and we even risk becoming, like the ancient
pagans, people "having no hope and without God in the world', as the
Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians of Ephesus (Eph 2: 12).
"What may be the deepest difficulty for a true educational endeavour
consists precisely in this: the fact that at the root of the crisis of
education lies a crisis of trust in life", which is basically nothing
other than distrust in the God who called us to life. In the education
of youth it is extremely important that the family play an active role.
Families frequently have difficulty in facing the challenges of
education; they are often unable to make their own contribution or are
The special tenderness and commitment to young people that are
characteristic of Don Bosco's charism must be expressed in an equal
commitment to the involvement and formation of families.
Your youth ministry, therefore, must be decisively open to family
ministry. Caring for families does not mean taking people away from
work for young people; on the contrary, it means making it more
permanent and effective. ?I thus encourage you to deepen the forms of
this commitment on which you have set out; this will prove advantageous
to the education and evangelization of the young. ?In the face of these
multiple tasks, your Congregation must assure its members in particular
a sound formation.
The Church urgently needs people with a solid and profound faith, an
up-dated cultural training, genuine human sensitivity and a strong
pastoral sense. She needs consecrated people who devote their lives to
being on these boundaries. Only in this way will it be possible to
evangelize effectively, proclaiming the God of Jesus Christ and thus
the joy of life.
Your Congregation must therefore devote itself to this formative
commitment as one of its priorities. It must continue to take great
pains in training its members without being satisfied with mediocrity,
overcoming the difficulties of vocational weakness, encouraging solid
spiritual guidance and guaranteeing educational and pastoral quality in
I conclude by thanking God for the presence of your charism at the
service of the Church. I encourage you in achieving the goals that your
General Chapter will propose to the entire Congregation. I assure you
of my prayers for the implementation of what the Spirit will suggest to
you for the good of youth, families and all the lay people involved in
the spirit and mission of Don Bosco.?With these sentiments and as a
pledge of abundant heavenly gifts, I now impart my Apostolic Blessing
to you all.
Papal Address to Members of Jesuit General
"Rediscover the Fullest Meaning of Your Characteristic '4th Vow'
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 4, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the
address Benedict XVI gave Feb. 21 upon receiving in audience members of
the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus.
* * *
Dear Fathers of the General Congregation of the Society of Jesus,
I am pleased to welcome you today as your demanding work is
its conclusion. I thank the new Superior General, Fr Adolfo
for expressing your sentiments and your commitment to respond to the
expectations that the Church has of you. I spoke to you of this in the
Message I addressed to Rev. Fr Kolvenbach and -- through him -- to the
entire Congregation at the beginning of its work. I once again thank Fr
Peter-Hans Kolvenbach for the valuable service he has rendered to your
Order in governing it for almost a quarter of a century. I also greet
the members of the new General Council and the Assistants who will help
the Superior General in his most delicate task as the religious and
apostolic guide of your entire Society.
Your Congregation is being held during a period of great social,
economic and political change; of conspicuous ethical, cultural and
environmental problems, of conflicts of all kinds; yet also of more
intense communication between peoples, of new possibilities for
knowledge and dialogue, of profound aspirations for peace. These are
situations that deeply challenge the Catholic Church and her capacity
for proclaiming to our contemporaries the word of hope and salvation. I
therefore ardently hope that thanks to the results of your Congregation
the entire Society of Jesus will be able to live out with renewed
dynamism and fervour the mission for which the Spirit willed it in the
Church and has preserved it for more than four and a half centuries
with extraordinary apostolic fruitfulness. Today, in the ecclesial and
social context that marks the beginning of this millennium, I would
like to encourage you and your confreres to continue on the path of
this mission in full fidelity to your original charism. As my
Predecessors have said to you on various occasions, the Church needs
you, relies on you and continues to turn to you with trust,
particularly to reach those physical and spiritual places which others
do not reach or have difficulty in reaching. Paul VI's words remain
engraved on your hearts: "Wherever in the Church, even in the most
difficult and extreme fields, at the crossroads of ideologies, in the
social trenches, there has been and there is confrontation between the
burning exigencies of man and the perennial message of the Gospel, here
also there have been, and there are, Jesuits" (Address to the 32nd
General Congregation of the Jesuits, 3 December 1974; ORE, 12 December,
n. 2, p. 4.).
As the Formula of your Institute says, the Society of Jesus was
in the first place "for the defence and propagation of the faith". In
an age when new geographical horizons were unfolding, Ignatius' first
companions placed themselves at the Pope's disposal so that "he might
use them wherever he deemed it would be for the greater glory of God
and the benefit of souls" (Autobiography, n. 85). Thus, they were sent
to proclaim the Lord to peoples and cultures that did not yet know him.
They did so with a courage and zeal that have lived on to our day as an
exemplary inspiration. The name of Francis Xavier is the most famous of
all, but how many others one could give! The new peoples, who do not
know the Lord or who do not know him well so that they cannot recognize
him as the Saviour, are distant today not so much from the geographical
as rather from the cultural viewpoint. It is not oceans or immense
distances that challenge the heralds of the Gospel but the boundaries
resulting from an erroneous or superficial vision of God and man that
stand between faith and human knowledge, faith and modern science,
faith and the commitment to justice.
The Church thus urgently needs people with a deep and sound faith,
well-grounded culture and genuine human and social sensitivity, of
Religious and priests who dedicate their lives to being on these very
frontiers to bear witness and to help people understand that on the
contrary there is profound harmony between faith and reason, between
the Gospel spirit, the thirst for justice and initiatives for peace.
Only in this way will it be possible to make the Lord's true Face known
to the many for whom he is still concealed or unrecognizable. The
Society of Jesus should therefore give preferential attention to this.
Faithful to its best tradition, it must persevere in taking great pains
to form its members in knowledge and virtue and not to be content with
mediocrity, since confrontation and dialogue with the very different
social and cultural contexts and the diverse mentalities of today's
world is one of the most difficult and demanding tasks. This quest for
quality and for human, spiritual and cultural validity must also
characterize the whole of the Jesuits' many-facetted formative and
educative activities as they come into contact with people of every
sort wherever they may happen to be.
In its history, the Society of Jesus has lived extraordinary
experiences of proclamation and encounter between the Gospel and world
cultures -- it suffices to think of Matteo Ricci in China, Roberto De
Nobili in India or of the "Reductions" in Latin America. And you are
rightly proud of them. I feel it is my duty today to urge you to set
out once again in the tracks of your predecessors with the same courage
and intelligence, but also with an equally profound motivation of faith
and enthusiasm to serve the Lord and his Church. However, while you
seek to recognize the signs of God's presence and work in every corner
of the world, even beyond the bounds of the visible Church, while you
strive to build bridges of understanding and dialogue with those who do
not belong to the Church or have difficulty in accepting her outlook or
messages, at the same time you must loyally take on the Church's
fundamental duty to remain faithful to her mandate and to adhere
totally to the Word of God and to the Magisterium's task of preserving
the integral truth and unity of Catholic doctrine. This not only
applies to the personal commitment of individual Jesuits: since you are
working as members of an apostolic body, you must also take care that
your work and institutions always maintain a clear and explicit
identity, so that the goal of your apostolic activity is neither
ambiguous nor obscure and that many others may share in your ideals and
join you effectively and enthusiastically, collaborating in your
commitment to serve God and man.
As you are well aware, since in the Spiritual Exercises you have
undertaken meditation on "the two flags" under St Ignatius' guidance,
our world is the theatre of a battle between good and evil where
powerful negative forces are at work. These are what cause the dramatic
situations of spiritual and material enslavement of our contemporaries
which you have several times declared you wished to combat, committing
yourselves to the service of faith and the promotion of justice. These
forces are manifest today in many ways but are especially evident in
such overriding cultural trends as subjectivism, relativism, hedonism
and practical materialism. This is the reason why I asked you for a
renewed commitment to promoting and defending Catholic doctrine,
"especially... its key points, under severe attack today by the secular
culture" (Letter to Fr Kolvenbach, 10 January 2008), of which I gave
some examples in my Letter. The themes, continuously discussed and
called into question today, of the salvation of all humanity in Christ,
of sexual morality, of marriage and the family, must be explored and
illumined in the context of contemporary reality but preserving that
harmony with the Magisterium which avoids causing confusion and dismay
among the People of God.
I know and understand well that this is a particularly sensitive
demanding point for you and for some of your confreres, especially
those involved in theological research, interreligious dialogue and
dialogue with contemporary cultures. For this very reason I have
invited you and also invite you today to reflect in order to rediscover
the fullest meaning of your characteristic "fourth vow" of obedience to
the Successor of Peter, which does not only involve the readiness to be
sent on mission to distant lands but also -- in the most genuine
Ignatian spirit of "feeling with the Church and in the Church" -- "to
love and serve" the Vicar of Christ on earth with that "effective and
affective devotion" which must make you his invaluable and
irreplaceable collaborators in his service for the universal Church.
At the same time, I encourage you to continue and to renew your
among the poor and with the poor. Unfortunately, new causes of poverty
and marginalization are not absent in a world marked by grave financial
and environmental imbalances, from globalization processes prompted by
selfishness rather than solidarity and by devastating and senseless
armed conflicts. As I was able to reaffirm to the Latin American
Bishops gathered at the Shrine of Aparecida, "the preferential option
for the poor is implicit in the Christological faith in the God who
became poor for us, so as to enrich us with his poverty (cf. II Cor 8:
9)". It is therefore natural that those who truly want to be a
companion of Jesus really share in his love for the poor. For us, the
option for the poor is not ideological but is born from the Gospel.
Situations of injustice and poverty in today's world are numerous
tragic, and if it is necessary to seek to understand them and fight
their structural causes, it is also necessary to penetrate to the very
heart of man, to extirpate the deep roots of evil and sin that cut him
off from God, without forgetting to meet people's most urgent needs in
the spirit of Christ's charity. Gathering and developing one of Fr
Arrupe's last far-sighted intuitions, your Society continues to do
praiseworthy work in the service for refugees, who are often the
poorest of the poor and in need not only of material aid but also of
the deeper spiritual, human and psychological closeness that is very
much a part of your service.
Lastly, I ask you to focus special attention on that ministry of
Spiritual Exercises which has been a characteristic feature of your
Society from the outset. The Exercises are not only the source of your
spirituality and the matrix of your Constitutions but also a gift which
the Spirit of the Lord has made to the entire Church. It is your task
to continue to make them a valuable and effective means for the
spiritual growth of souls, for their initiation to prayer, to
meditation in this secularized world where God seems to be absent. Only
last week I myself benefited from the Spiritual Exercises, together
with my closest collaborators of the Roman Curia, under the guidance of
a distinguished confrere of yours, Cardinal Albert Vanhoye. In a time
like ours when the confusion and multiplicity of messages and the speed
of changes and situations makes it particularly difficult for our
contemporaries to put order into their lives and respond with
determination and joy to the call the Lord addresses to each one of us,
the Spiritual Exercises are a particularly precious means and method
with which to seek God, within us, around us and in all things, to know
his will and to put it into practice.
In this spirit of obedience to God's will, to Jesus Christ, which
becomes humble obedience to the Church, I ask you to continue carrying
out your Congregation's work and I join you in the prayer St Ignatius
taught us at the end of the Exercises - a prayer which to me always
seems too sublime in the sense that I hardly dare to say it, yet we
must always be able to return to it: "Lord Jesus Christ, take all my
freedom. My memory, my understanding and my will. All that I have and
cherish you have given me. I surrender it all to be guided by your
will. Your grace and your love are wealth enough for me. Give me these,
Lord Jesus, and I ask for nothing more" (n. 234).
Papal Address on World Day for Consecrated
"Nourish Your Day With Prayer, Meditation and Listening to the Word of
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 8, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered
Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the 12th World
Day of Consecrated Life. The Pope spoke after a Eucharistic celebration
in St. Peter's Basilica, presided over by Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect
of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of
Apostolic Life, and attended by thousands of consecrated men and women.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am very pleased to meet you on the occasion of the World Day of
Consecrated Life, a traditional gathering whose significance is
enhanced by the liturgical context of the Feast of the Presentation of
the Lord. I thank Cardinal Franc Rodé, who has celebrated the
for you, and with him the Secretary and the other collaborators of the
Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of
Apostolic Life. With great affection I greet the Superiors General
present and all of you who form this unique assembly, an expression of
the varied richness of the Consecrated Life in the Church.
In his account of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, at least
three times the Evangelist Luke emphasizes that Mary and Joseph acted
in accordance with "the Law of the Lord" (cf. Lk 2: 22, 23, 39),
moreover they always appear to be listening attentively to the Word of
God. This attitude is an eloquent example for you, men and women
religious; and for you, members of Secular Institutes and of other
forms of Consecrated Life. The next Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of
Bishops will be dedicated to The Word of God in the Life and Mission of
the Church: dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to make your
contribution to this ecclesial commitment, witnessing to the
importance, especially for those who like you, the Lord calls to a more
intimate "sequela", of placing the Word of God at the centre of all
things. In fact, the Consecrated Life is rooted in the Gospel. Down the
centuries, the Gospel - as it were, its supreme rule - has continued to
inspire it and the Consecrated Life is called to refer constantly to
the Gospel, to remain alive and fertile, bearing fruit for the
salvation of souls.
At the root of the different expressions of Consecrated Life there is
always a strong Gospel inspiration. I think of St Anthony Abbot who was
moved by listening to Christ's words: "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) (cf. Vita Antonii, 2, 4).
Anthony listened to these words as if they were addressed to him
personally by the Lord. St Francis of Assisi in his turn affirmed that
it was God who revealed to him that he should live according to the
form of the holy Gospel (Testament, 17; Franciscan Omnibus 116).
"Francis", wrote Thomas of Celano, "who heard that Christ's disciples
were supposed to possess neither gold, nor silver, nor money, nor
purse; were to have neither bread nor staff, were to have neither shoes
nor two tunics... rejoicing in the Holy Spirit said: "This is what I
want! This is what I ask! This is what I want to do from the bottom of
my heart!'" (I Celano 83; Franciscan Omnibus 670, 672).
The Instruction Starting Afresh from Christ recalls: "It was the Holy
Spirit who sparked the Word of God with new light for the Founders and
Foundresses. Every charism and every Rule springs from it and seeks to
be an expression of it" (n. 24). And indeed, the Holy Spirit attracts
some people to live the Gospel in a radical way and translate it into a
style of more generous following. So it is that a work, a religious
family, is born which with its very presence becomes in turn a living
"exegisis" of the Word of God. The Second Vatican Council says that the
succession of charisms in the Consecrated Life can therefore be read as
an unfolding of Christ down the ages, as a living Gospel that is
actualized in ever new forms (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium,
n. 46). The mystery of Christ is reflected in the works of Foundresses
and Founders, a word of his, an illuminating ray of his radiant Face,
the splendour of the Father (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Vita Consecrata, n. 16).
In the course of the centuries the proposal of the following of Christ
without compromise, as it is presented to us in the Gospel, has
therefore constituted the ultimate and supreme rule for religious life
(cf. Perfectae Caritatis, n. 2). In his Rule St Benedict refers to
Scripture as the "most exact rule of human life" (n. 73: 2-5). St
Dominic, whose words and works proclaimed him a man of the Gospel at
all times (cf. Libellus de Principiis Ordinis Praedicatorum, 104: in P.
Lippini, San Domenico visto dai suoi contemporanei, Ed. Studio Dom.,
Bologna, 1982, 110) desired his brother preachers also to be "men of
the Gospel" (First Constitutions or Consuetudines, 31). St Clare of
Assisi imitated Francis' experience to the full: "The form of life of
the Order of the Poor Sisters", she wrote, "is this: to observe the
Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rule, I, 1-2; Franciscan
Omnibus, n. 2750). St Vincent Pallotti said: "Since the life of Jesus
Christ is the fundamental rule of our small Congregation... we must aim
at what is most perfect always and in everything" (cf. Complete Works,
II, 541-546; VIII, 63, 67, 253, 254, 466). And St Luigi Orione wrote:
"Our first Rule and life is to observe the holy Gospel, in great
humility and in loving sweetness and on fire with God" (Letters of Don
Orione, Rome, 1969, Vol. II, 278).
This rich tradition attests that Consecrated Life is "deeply rooted in
the example and teaching of Christ the Lord" (Vita Consecrata, n. 1)
and can be compared to "a plant with many branches which sinks its
roots into the Gospel and brings forth abundant fruit in every season
of the Church's life" (ibid., n. 5). Its mission is to recall that all
Christians are brought together by the Word, to live of the Word and to
remain under its lordship. It is therefore the special duty of men and
women religious "to remind the baptized of the fundamental values of
the Gospel" (Vita Consecrata, n. 33). By so doing their witness imbues
the Church with "a much-needed incentive towards ever greater fidelity
to the Gospel" (ibid., n. 3) and indeed, we might say, is an "eloquent,
albeit often silent, proclamation of the Gospel" (ibid., n. 25). This
is why, in my two Encyclicals as on other occasions, I have not failed
to cite the example set by Saints and Blesseds belonging to Institutes
of Consecrated Life.
Dear brothers and sisters, nourish your day with prayer, meditation and
listening to the Word of God. May you, who are familiar with the
ancient practice of lectio divina, help the faithful to appreciate it
in their daily lives too. And may you know how to express what the Word
suggests, letting yourself be formed by it so that you bring forth
abundant fruit, like a seed that has fallen into good soil. Thus, you
will be ever docile to the Spirit and you will grow in union with God,
you will cultivate fraternal communion among yourselves and will be
ready to serve your brethren generously, especially those in need. May
people see your good works, a fruit of the Word of God that lives in
you, and glorify your Heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5: 16)! In entrusting
these reflections to you, I thank you for the precious service you
render to the Church and, as I invoke the protection of Mary and of the
Saints and Blesseds, Founders of your Institutes, I wholeheartedly
impart the Apostolic Blessing to you and to your respective religious
families, with a special thought for the young men and women in
formation and for your brothers and sisters who are sick, elderly or in
difficulty. To all, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer.
© Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Pope's Letter to Jesuits' 35th General Congregation
"Evangelization Demands a Total
and Faithful Adhesion to the Word of God"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 18, 2007 - Here is a translation of the
letter Benedict XVI sent to the outgoing superior general of the
Society of Jesus, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, on the occasion of the
35th General Congregation of the order.
* * *
To the Reverend Father
Superior General of the Society of Jesus
On the occasion of the 35th General Congregation of the
Society of Jesus, it is my fervent desire to extend to you and to all
those taking part in the Assembly my most cordial greetings, together
with an assurance of my affection and of my constant spiritual nearness
to you. I know how important for the life of the Society is this event
that you are celebrating, and I further know that, consequently, it has
been prepared with great care. This is a providential occasion for
impressing upon the Society of Jesus that renewed ascetic and apostolic
impulse which is wished by all, so that Jesuits might fulfill
completely their mission and confront the challenges of the modern
world with that faith to Christ and to the Church which distinguished
the prophetic action of St. Ignatius of Loyola and his first companions.
The Apostle writes to the faithful of Thessalonica of
having announced to them the Gospel of God, "encouraging you and
imploring you" -- Paul specifies -- "to comport yourselves in a manner
worthy of God who calls you to his kingdom and to his glory" (1
Thessalonians 2:12), and he adds: "Indeed on account of this we
continually thank God because, having received the divine word preached
by us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, as
the word of God, which works in you who believe" (1 Thessalonians
2:13). The word of God therefore is first "received," i.e., heard, and
then -- penetrating all the way to the heart -- it is "welcomed," and
who receives it recognizes that God speaks through the agent sent to
deliver it: In this way the word acts in believers.
As then, so even today evangelization demands a total and
faithful adhesion to the word of God: adhesion first of all to Christ
and to attentive listening to his Spirit which guides the Church;
humble obedience to the pastors whom God has placed to guide his
people; and prudent and frank dialogue with the social, cultural and
religious appeals of our time. All this presupposes, as we know, an
intimate communion with him who calls us to be friends and disciples, a
unity of life and of action which is fed by listening to his word, by
contemplation and by prayer, by detachment from the mentality of the
world and by unceasing conversion toward his love so that it may be he,
the Christ, who lives and works in each of us. Here is the secret of
authentic success for the apostolic and missionary commitment of every
Christian, and even more of all those called to a more direct service
of the Gospel.
Such an awareness is certainly well present among those
taking part in the General Congregation, and I am eager to honor the
great work already completed by the preparatory commission which in the
course of 2007 has examined the postulates sent by provinces and
indicated the themes to be faced. I would like to direct my thoughts of
gratitude in the first place to you, dear and venerated Father superior
general, who since 1983 has guided the Society of Jesus in an
enlightened, wise and prudent manner, seeking in every way to maintain
it in the channel of its founding charism.
For objective reasons, you have at various times asked to
be relieved of so heavy a post, assumed with a great sense of
responsibility at a moment in your order's history which was not easy.
I express to you my most heartfelt gratitude for the service you have
rendered to the Society of Jesus and, more generally, to the Church. My
sentiments of gratitude extend to your closest collaborators, to the
participants of the General Congregation, and to all Jesuits scattered
in every part of the world. To all and to each should arrive this
greeting from the Successor of Peter, who follows with affection and
esteem the multiple and appreciated apostolic works of the Jesuits, and
who encourages all to continue in the path opened by your holy founder
and walked by innumerable hosts of your brothers dedicated to the cause
of Christ, many of whom are inscribed by the Church among its saints
and blessed. From heaven, may they protect and sustain the Society of
Jesus in the mission which it carries out in this our current age,
marked by numerous and complex social, cultural and religious
Indeed regarding this theme, how can one not recognize the
valid contribution that the Society offers to the Church's activity in
various fields and in many ways? Truly a great and meritorious
contribution, one that only the Lord will be able to rightly reward! As
did my venerated predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI and John
Paul II, I too gladly wish to take this opportunity of a General
Congregation to bring such a contribution to light and, at the same
time, to offer for your common reflection some considerations which
might be of encouragement for you and a stimulus to implement ever
better the ideal of the Society, in full fidelity to the magisterium of
the Church, such as described in the following formula which is well
familiar to you: "To serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of
the Cross and to serve the Lord alone and the Church, his spouse, under
the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth" ("Apostolic Letter
Exposcit Debitum," July, 21, 1550).
One treats here of a "peculiar" fidelity confirmed also,
by not a few among you, in a vow of immediate obedience to the
Successor of Peter "perinde ac cadaver." The Church has even more need
today of this fidelity of yours, which constitutes a distinctive sign
of your order, in this era which warns of the urgency of transmitting
in an integral manner to our contemporaries -- distracted by many
discordant voices -- the unique and immutable message of salvation
which is the Gospel, "not as the word of men, but as it truly is, as
the word of God," which works in those who believe.
That this might come to pass, it is indispensable -- as
earlier the beloved John Paul II reminded participants of the 34th
General Congregation -- that the life of the members of the Society of
Jesus, as also their doctrinal research, be always animated by a true
spirit of faith and communion in "humble fidelity to the teachings of
the magisterium" (Insegnamenti, vol. I, pp. 25-32). I heartily hope
that the present Congregation affirms with clarity the authentic
charism of the founder so as to encourage all Jesuits to promote true
and healthy Catholic doctrine.
As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, I had the opportunity to appreciate the valid collaboration of
Jesuit consultors and experts, who, in full fidelity to their charism,
contributed in a considerable way to the faithful promotion and
reception of the magisterium. Certainly this is not a simple
undertaking, especially when called to announce the Gospel in very
different social and cultural contexts and when having to deal with
different mentalities. I therefore sincerely appreciate such labor
placed at the service of Christ, labor which is fruitful for the true
good of souls in the measure in which one lets oneself be guided by the
Spirit, remaining humble as regard the teachings of the magisterium,
having reference to those key principles of the ecclesial vocation of
the theologian which are delineated in the instruction "Donum
The evangelizing work of the Church very much counts on
the formative responsibility that the Society has in the areas of
theology, of spirituality and of mission. And, really so as to offer
the entire Society of Jesus a clear orientation which might be a
support for generous and faithful apostolic dedication, it could prove
extremely useful that the General Congregation reaffirm, in the spirit
of St. Ignatius, its own total adhesion to Catholic doctrine, in
particular on those neuralgic points which today are strongly attacked
by secular culture, as for example the relationship between Christ and
religions; some aspects of the theology of liberation; and various
points of sexual morality, especially as regards the indissolubility of
marriage and the pastoral care of homosexual persons.
Reverend and dear Father, I am convinced that the Society
senses the historic importance of this General Congregation and, guided
by the Holy Spirit, wants once again -- as the beloved John Paul II
said in January 1995 -- to reaffirm "unequivocally and without any
hesitation its specific way to God, which St. Ignatius sketched in the
'Formula Instituti': loving fidelity to your charism will be the
certain source of renewed effectiveness" (Insegnamenti, vol. XVIII/1,
1995, p. 26).
Furthermore, the words my venerated Predecessor Paul VI
directed to the Society in another analogous circumstance appear so
very current: "All of us must be vigilant so that the necessary
adaptation will not be accomplished to the detriment of the fundamental
identity or essential character of the role of the Jesuit as is
described in the 'Formula Instituti' as the history and particular
spirituality of the Order propose it, and as the authentic
interpretation of the very needs of the times seem still to require it.
This image must not be altered; it must not be distorted."
(Insegnamenti, vol. XII, 1974, pp. 1181-1182)
The continuity of the teachings of the Successors of Peter
stands to demonstrate the great attention and care which they show
toward the Jesuits, their esteem for you and the desire to be able to
count always on the precious contribution of the Society to the life of
the Church and to the evangelization of the world. I entrust the
General Congregation and the entire Society of Jesus to the
intercession of your holy founder and the saints of your Order, and to
the maternal protection of Mary, so that every spiritual son of St.
Ignatius might be able to keep before his eyes "first of all God and
then the nature of this his institute" ("Formula Instituti," 1). With
such sentiments, I assure you of a constant remembrance in prayer and
in a heartfelt way I impart to you, Reverend Father, and to the fathers
of the General Congregation and to the entire Society of Jesus, a
special apostolic blessing.
Vatican, Jan. 10, 2008
Benedict PP XVI
Message to Franciscan General Chapter
"To Everyone Take Peace,
Received and Given"
VATICAN CITY, JULY 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a
Vatican translation of the June 17 message Benedict XVI addressed to
the participants of the general chapter of the Order of Friars Minor
Conventual during the Pope's trip to Assisi.
* * *
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO ASSISI
ON THE EIGHTH CENTENARY OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT FRANCIS
MEETING WITH THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE GENERAL CHAPTER
OF THE FRIARS MINOR CONVENTUAL
AND THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRO CONVENTO
IN THE UPPER BASILICA OF ST FRANCIS
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
To Reverend Fr Marco Tasca
Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual
I greet you with great joy, Most Reverend Father, and all
the Friars Minor Conventual gathered in Assisi for the 199th General
Chapter. I am pleased to do so in this Papal Basilica in which splendid
works of art tell of the marvels of grace that the Lord wrought in St
I find it providential that this should happen in the
context of the Eighth Centenary of the conversion of St Francis. With
my Visit today, in fact, I wished to emphasize the meaning of this
event to which we must always refer if we are to understand Francis and
Francis himself, as if to sum up his inner experience in a
single word, found no concept more pregnant with meaning than that of
"penance". "Thus did the Lord grant to me, Friar Francis, to begin to
do penance" (Testament, 1).
So it was that he saw himself essentially as a "penitent",
as it were, in a permanent state of conversion. Abandoning himself to
the Holy Spirit's action, Francis was converted ever more closely to
Christ, transformed into a living image of him on the paths of poverty,
love and mission.
Thus, it is your task to witness to his message with
enthusiasm and coherency! You are called to do so with that ecclesial
harmony which distinguished Francis in his relationship with the Vicar
of Christ and with all the Church's Bishops.
In this regard, I am grateful to you for the prompt
obedience with which, together with the Friars Minor and complying with
the special ties of affection which have always bound you to the
Apostolic See, you accepted the measures of the "Motu Proprio" Totius
Orbis concerning the new relationship of the two Papal Basilicas, St
Francis and St Mary of the Angels, with this particular Church which
gave birth to the "Poverello" and played such an important part in his
I address a special greeting to you, Friar Marco Tasca,
whom the trust of your Confreres has called to the demanding office of
May the event of the 750th anniversary of St Bonaventure's
election as Minister of the Order also be a good omen for you.
After the examples of St Francis and St Bonaventure,
together with the elected Definitors, may you guide the great Family of
the Order with wise prudence, faithful to the origins of the Franciscan
experience and with attention to the "signs of the times".
The General Chapter gathers together Friars from many
countries and different cultures to listen and speak to one another in
the one language of the Spirit, thereby reviving the memory of Francis'
holiness. This is truly an extraordinary opportunity to share the
"marvellous things" that the Lord still works today through the sons of
the "Poverello" scattered across the world.
I therefore hope that while the Chapter Fathers thank God
for the growth of the Order, especially in the mission countries, they
will make the most of this meeting to question themselves on all that
the Spirit is asking of them, so that they may continue to proclaim
passionately, in the footsteps of their Seraphic Father, the Kingdom of
God in this first part of the Third Christian Millennium.
I learned with interest that "Formation for the mission"
has been chosen as the principal theme for reflection during the
Chapter Meeting, stressing that this formation is never imparted once
and for all, but rather must be considered as an ongoing journey. In
fact, it is a process with multiple dimensions but is centred on the
ability to let oneself be moulded by the Spirit, to be ready to go
wherever he calls you.
It cannot be based on anything except listening to the
Word in an atmosphere of intense and ceaseless prayer. Only on this
condition is it possible to understand the true needs of the men and
women of our time and offer them responses drawn from God's wisdom,
proclaiming what one has experienced profoundly in one's own life.
The large Family of Friars Minor Conventual must continue
to let itself be inspired by the words that Francis heard from the
Crucifix in San Damiano: "Go and repair my house" (2 Cel I, 6, 10).
It is therefore necessary for every Friar to be a true
contemplative, his eyes fixed on the eyes of Christ. Like St Francis
when he came face to face with the leper, the Friar must be able to see
the Face of Christ in the suffering brethren, bringing to them all the
proclamation of peace.
To this end, he must make his own the process of
conformation to the Lord Jesus which Francis lived out in the various
symbolic places on his journey of holiness: from San Damiano to
Rivotorto, from St Mary of the Angels to La Verna.
Thus, for every son of St Francis may the firm principle
be what the "Poverello" said with simple words: "The Rule and life of
the Friars Minor is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus
Christ" (Reg. B. I, 1).
In this regard, I am pleased to know that the Minors
Conventual too, together with the whole large Franciscan Family, are
engaged in reliving the stages which led Francis to formulate his
"propositum vitae", approved by Innocent III in about 1209.
Called to live "according to the form of the Holy Gospel"
(Test. 21), the "Poverello" completely understood himself in the light
of the Gospel.
It was precisely this that gave birth to the perennial
timeliness of his witness.
His "prophecy" teaches us how to make the Gospel the
criterion for dealing with the challenges of every epoch, including our
own, resisting the deceptive fascination of fleeting fashions, to be
rooted in God's plan and thus to discern the true needs of humanity.
My hope is that the Friars will be able to accept this
"programme" with renewed impetus and courage, trusting in the power
that comes from on high.
The Minors Conventual are called in the first place to be
heralds of Christ. May they approach everyone with gentleness and trust
in the attitude of dialogue, but always bearing a passionate witness to
the one Saviour.
May they be witnesses of God's "beauty", which Francis
praised as he contemplated the marvels of creation. Among the wonderful
pictorial cycles which decorate this Basilica and in every other corner
of that marvellous temple which is nature, may they have on their lips
the prayer that Francis uttered after his mystical ecstasy on Mount La
Verna, which made him exclaim twice: "You are beauty!" (The Praises of
God Most High, 4, 6).
Yes, Francis was a great teacher of the "via
pulchritudinis". May the Friars imitate him in radiating the beauty
that saves; may they do so in particular in this stupendous Basilica,
not only by means of the art treasures preserved here, but also and
above all in the intensity and decorum of the liturgy and fervent
proclamation of the Christian mystery.
I express to the Chapter Religious the hope that they will
return to their respective communities with the freshness and
timeliness of the Franciscan message. I say to you all: take back to
your Confreres the experience of brotherhood of these days as light and
strength that can illumine the horizon which is not always clear of the
clouds of daily life; to everyone take peace, received and given.
Thinking of the Immaculate Virgin, the "Tota pulchra", and
imploring the intercession of St Francis and of St Clare, to whom I
entrust the success of the work of this General Chapter, I impart as a
pledge of my special affection to you, Most Reverend Father, to the
Chapter Fathers and to all the members of the Order my Apostolic
Assisi, 17 June 2007
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO THE INTERNATIONAL UNION OF SUPERIORS
Hall of Blessings
Monday, 7 May 2007
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
I am pleased to meet you on the occasion of the Plenary
Assembly of the International Union of Superiors General. I greet and
thank Cardinal Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for the
Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, for the
cordial words addressed to me.
I extend my thanks to the President of your Union, Sr
Therezinha Rasera, who has been the interpreter not only of your
affectionate sentiments but also of the women religious of the entire
Then, I greet each one of you, dear Superiors General, who
represent 794 female religious families working in 85 countries on the
five continents. And I thank you for the immense army of witnesses of
Christ's love, who work on the frontiers of evangelization, education
and social charity.
As your President recalled, the theme of the Plenary
Assembly, which is being held in these days, is particularly
interesting: "Called to weave a new spirituality that generates hope
and life for all of humanity". The topic you have chosen is the fruit
of an ample reflection on the following question: "In contemplating our
world, listening to its cries, its needs, its thirst and its
aspirations, what thread are we Religious, responsible for our
Congregations, called to weave in this moment in order to become
prophetic and mystic "weavers of God'?".
The careful analysis of the responses received have helped
your Union's Executive Council to understand that the chosen symbol of
"weaving" is a typically feminine image used in all cultures, and it
responds to what the Superiors General felt to be a spiritual and
apostolic urgency of the present moment.
In the same responses some "threads" have been emphasized
-- the woman, migrants, the earth and its sacredness, laity, dialogue
with the religions of the world -- that you deem useful in order to
"weave" in this, our age, a renewed spirituality of Consecrated Life
and to launch an apostolic approach that corresponds more to people's
longings. And it is exactly on these themes that you have been
reflecting during the work of your Plenary.
You are aware that each Superior General is called to be
an animator and promoter, as your President opportunely emphasized, of
a "mystic and prophetic" Consecrated Life, strongly committed to the
realization of the Kingdom of God.
These are the "threads" with which the Lord urges you
today, dear women Religious, to "weave" the living fabric of a useful
service to the Church and to an eloquent Gospel witness, "ever ancient
and ever new" in its fidelity to the radicalness of the Gospel and
courageously incarnated in contemporary reality, especially where there
is greater human and spiritual poverty.
Certainly, the social, economic and religious challenges
that Consecrated Life in our day must face are not few! The five
pastoral areas that you emphasized constitute other "threads" to be
woven and inserted into the complex web of daily life, interpersonal
relationships and apostolate.
Often, it means taking unexplored missionary and spiritual
paths, yet always maintaining solid interior relations with Christ. In
fact, only from this union with God can that "prophetic" role of your
mission flow and be nourished, which consists of "proclaiming the
Kingdom of heaven", an indispensable announcement in every age and in
Never cede, therefore, to the temptation to distance
yourself from intimacy with your Heavenly Spouse by allowing yourselves
to be overly attracted by the interests and problems of daily life.
The Founders and Foundresses of your Institutes have been
"prophetic pioneers" in the Church because they never lost the acute
awareness of being in the world, but not of the world, according to the
clear teaching of Jesus (cf. John 17:14). Following his example they
tried to communicate God's love with words and concrete gestures
through the total gift of themselves, always keeping their gaze and
their heart fixed on him.
Dear Religious Sisters, if you want to walk faithfully in
the footsteps of your Founders and Foundresses to help your own Sisters
to follow their examples, cultivate the "mystical" dimension of
Consecrated Life, that is, always keeping your soul united to God
As the Scriptures teach, the "prophet" first listens and
contemplates, then speaks, allowing himself to be totally permeated by
that love for God which fears nothing and is even stronger than death.
The authentic prophet, therefore, is not concerned so much
to accomplish works, which undoubtedly are important but never
essential. Above all, he tries to be a witness of God's love, seeking
to live it among the realities of the world, even if his presence can
sometimes be "uncomfortable" because he offers and incarnates
May it be your prime concern, therefore, to help your own
Sisters to seek Christ above all else and to place themselves
generously at the service of the Gospel. Never tire of taking every
possible care in the human, cultural and spiritual formation of the
persons entrusted to you, so that they are able to respond to today's
cultural and social challenges.
Be the first to set an example by fleeing commodities,
comforts, convenience in order to bring your mission to fulfilment.
Share the richness of your charisms with those who are committed to the
one mission of the Church, which is to build the Kingdom.
For this purpose establish a serene and cordial
collaboration with priests, the lay faithful and especially families in
order to meet the suffering, the needs, the material and above all the
spiritual poverty of many of our contemporaries.
In addition, cultivate a sincere communion and a genuine
collaboration with Bishops, the first to be responsible for
evangelization in the particular Churches.
Dear Sisters, your General Assembly is taking place during
the Easter Season, when the liturgy invites us to proclaim with
constant exultance: "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us
rejoice and be glad!".
May the joy and peace of Easter accompany you and always
dwell in you and in each of your communities.
In every circumstance be messengers of this Easter joy
like the women who went to the tomb, found it empty and had the gift of
meeting the Risen Christ. Happily, then, they ran to give the news to
May Mary, Queen of Virgins, and your Saints and blessed
Founders and Foundresses watch over you and your respective Religious
In entrusting yourselves to their intercession, I assure
you from my heart of a prayerful remembrance and willingly impart to
all a special Apostolic Blessing.
Papal Address for Symposium
of Secular Institutes
"God Is All and Will Be All In
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the
address Benedict XVI gave at the Vatican to the participants in the
International Symposium of Secular Institutes on Feb. 3.
* * *
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO THE PARTICIPANTS
INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM OF SECULAR INSTITUTES
Saturday, 3 February 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters
I am pleased to be with you today, members of Secular
Institutes whom I am meeting for the first time since my election to
the Chair of the Apostle Peter. I greet you all with affection. I greet
Cardinal Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes
Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and I thank him for
his words of filial devotion and spiritual closeness, also on your
behalf. I greet Cardinal Cottier and the Secretary of your Congregation.
I greet the President of the World Conference of Secular
Institutes, who has expressed the sentiments and expectations of all of
you who have gathered here from different countries, from all the
continents, to celebrate an International Symposium on the Apostolic
Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia.
Sixty years have passed, as has already been said, since
that 2 February 1947, when my Predecessor Pius XII promulgated this
Apostolic Constitution, thereby giving a theological and juridical
basis to an experience that matured in the previous decades and
recognizing in Secular Institutes one of the innumerable gifts with
which the Holy Spirit accompanies the Church on her journey and renews
her down through all the ages.
That juridical act was not the goal but rather the
starting point of a process that aimed to outline a new form of
consecration: the consecration of faithful lay people and diocesan
priests, called to live with Gospel radicalism precisely that
secularity in which they are immersed by virtue of their state of life
or pastoral ministry.
You are here today to continue to mark out that path
plotted 60 years ago, which sees you as increasingly impassioned
messengers in Jesus Christ of the meaning of the world and of history.
Your fervor is born from having discovered the beauty of
Christ and of his unique way of loving, healing and meeting the needs
of life and of enlivening and comforting it. And your lives aim to sing
the praise of this beauty so that your being in the world may be a sign
of your being in Christ.
Indeed, it is the mystery of the Incarnation that makes
your integration in human events a place of theology: ("God so loved
the world that he gave his only Son", Jn 3:16). The work of salvation
was not wrought in opposition to the history of humankind but rather in
and through it.
In this regard, the Letter to the Hebrews notes: "In many
and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but
in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son" (1:1-2a).
This redeeming act was itself brought about in the context
of time and history, and implies obedience to the plan of God inscribed
in the work that came from his hands.
It is once again this same text from the Letter to the
Hebrews, an inspired text, which points out: "When he said, "You have
neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and
burnt offerings and sin offerings' -- these are offered according to
the law --, he then added, "Lo I have come to do your will'" (Heb 10:
These words of the Psalm and the Letter to the Hebrews,
expressed through intra-Trinitarian dialogue, are words of the Son who
says to the Father: "I have come to do your will". Thus, the
Incarnation comes about: "Lo, I have come to do your will". The Lord
involves us in his words which become our own: here I am, Lord, with
the Son, to do your will.
In this way, the process of your sanctification is clearly
marked out: self-sacrificing adherence to the saving plan manifested in
the revealed Word, solidarity with history, the search for the Lord's
will inscribed in human events governed by his Providence.
And at the same time, the characteristics of the secular
mission are outlined: the witness to human virtues such as
"righteousness and peace and joy" (Rom 14:17), the "good conduct" of
which Peter speaks in his First Letter (cf. 2:12), echoing the
Teacher's words: "Let your light so shine before men that they may see
your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven" (Mt
Also part of the secular mission is the commitment to
build a society that recognizes in the various environments the dignity
of the person and the indispensable values for its total fulfilment:
from politics to the economy, from education to the commitment to
public health, from the management of services to scientific research.
The aim of every specific reality proper to and lived by
the Christian, his own work and his own material interests that retain
their relative consistency, is found in their being embraced by the
same purpose for which the Son of God came into the world.
Therefore, may you feel challenged by every suffering,
every injustice and every search for truth, beauty and goodness. This
is not because you can come up with the solution to all problems;
rather, it is because every circumstance in which human beings live and
die is an opportunity for you to witness to God's saving work. This is
On the one hand, your consecration highlights the special
grace that comes to you from the Spirit for the fulfilment of your
vocation, and on the other, it commits you to total docility of mind,
heart and will to the project of God the Father revealed in Jesus
Christ, whom you have been called to follow radically.
Every encounter with Christ demands a profound change of
attitude, but for some, as it was for you, the Lord's request is
particularly demanding: you are asked to leave everything, because God
is all and will be all in your lives. It is not merely a question of a
different way of relating to Christ and of expressing your attachment
to him, but of an option for God that requires of you constant,
absolute and total trust in him.
Conforming your own lives to the life of Christ by
entering into this words, conforming your own life to the life of
Christ through the practice of the evangelical counsels, is a
fundamental and binding feature which, in its specificity, demands the
concrete and binding commitment of "mountaineers of the spirit", as
venerable Pope Paul VI called you (Address to Participants in the First
International Congress of Secular Institutes, 26 September 1970;
L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 8 October, p. 5).
The secular nature of your consecration brings to the
fore, on the one hand, the means you use to fulfil it, that is, the
means proper to every man and woman who live in ordinary conditions in
the world, and on the other, the form of its development, that is, a
profound relationship with the signs of the times which you are called
to discern personally and as a community in the light of the Gospel.
Your charism has been authoritatively recognized several
times precisely in this discernment in order for you to be a workshop
of dialogue with the world, that "experimental workshop in which the
Church ascertains practical ways for her relations with the world"
(Pope Paul VI, Address to the Council of the Sacred Congregation for
Religious and the International Union of Male and Female Superiors
General, 6 November 1976; cf. ORE, 18 November, p. 3).
The enduring timeliness of your charism derives precisely
from this, for this discernment must not take place from outside
reality but from within it, through full involvement. This takes place
in the daily relationships that you can weave in family and social
relations, in professional activity, in the fabric of the civil and
The encounter with Christ and the act of following him,
which impels and opens people, "must necessarily be reflected "ad
extra' and expand naturally" in an encounter with one and all, for if
God fulfils himself only in communion, it is also only in Trinitarian
communion that human beings are fulfilled.
You are not called to establish special forms of living,
of apostolic commitment or social intervention, but rather, forms that
can come into being through personal relations, a source of prophetic
riches. May your lives be like the yeast that leavens all the dough
(cf. Mt 13:33), sometimes silent and hidden, but always with a positive
and encouraging outreach capable of generating hope.
The place of your apostolate is therefore the whole human
being, not only within the Christian community -- where the
relationship materializes in listening to the Word and in sacramental
life from which you draw to sustain your baptismal identity -- I say
the place of your apostolate is the human being in his entirety, both
within the Christian community and in the civil community, where
relationships are formed in the search for the common good, in dialogue
with all, called to witness to that Christian anthropology which
constitutes a sensible proposal in a society bewildered and confused by
its multicultural and multireligious profile.
You come from different countries and the cultural,
political and even religious situations in which you live, work and
grow old are different. In all of these situations, may you be seekers
of the Truth, of the human revelation of God in life. We know it is a
long journey, distressing at the present time, but its outcome is
certain. Proclaim the beauty of God and of his creation.
Following Christ's example, be obedient to love, be men
and women of gentleness and mercy, capable of taking to the highways of
the world, doing only good. May yours be a life that is focused on the
Beatitudes, that contradicts human logic to express unconditional trust
in God, who wants human beings to be happy.
The Church also needs you to give completeness to her
mission. Be seeds of holiness scattered by the handful in the furrows
of history. Rooted in the freely given and effective action with which
the Lord's Spirit guides human events, may you bear fruits of genuine
faith, writing with your life and your witness trajectories of hope,
writing them with the actions suggested by "creativity' in charity"
(John Paul II, Apostolic Letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte," n. 50).
With these hopes, as I assure you of my constant prayers
in support of your apostolic and charitable projects, I impart a
special Apostolic Blessing to you.
Papal Address on
of Consecrated Life
"That God Reign in Our Will, in
Our Hearts, in the World"
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the
Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave in St. Peter's
Basilica on the World Day of Consecrated Life, Feb. 2.
* * *
FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD
11th WORLD DAY OF CONSECRATED LIFE
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO CONSECRATED MEN
Friday, 2 February 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am glad to meet you at the end of the Eucharistic
Celebration that has gathered you in this Basilica this year too, on an
occasion so meaningful for you who belong to Congregations, Institutes,
Societies of Apostolic Life and New Forms of Consecrated Life; you
constitute a particularly important element of the Mystical Body of
Today's liturgy recalls the Presentation of the Lord in
the Temple, the feast chosen by my venerable Predecessor, John Paul II,
as the "Day of Consecrated Life".
With great pleasure I address my cordial greetings to each
one of you present here, beginning with Cardinal Franc
of your Dicastery, to whom I am grateful for his kind words on your
behalf. I then greet the Secretary and all the members of the
Congregation which looks after a vital sector of the Church. Today's
celebration is especially appropriate for asking the Lord for the gift
of an ever more consistent and incisive presence of men and women
religious and consecrated persons in the Church journeying along the
roads of the world.
Dear brothers and sisters, the Feast day we are
celebrating reminds us that your Gospel witness, to be truly effective,
must stem from a response without reserve to the initiative of God who
has consecrated you to him with a special act of love.
Just as the elderly Simeon and Anna longed to see the
Messiah before they died and spoke of him "to all who were looking for
the redemption of Jerusalem" (cf. Lk 2:26,38) so also in our time,
especially among young people, there is a widespread need to encounter
Those who are chosen by God for the consecrated life make
this spiritual longing their own in a definitive way. In it, in fact,
they have one expectation: the Kingdom of God: that God reign in our
will, in our hearts, in the world. In them burns a unique thirst for
love which can be quenched by the Eternal One alone.
By their example they proclaim to a world which is often
bewildered but, in fact, increasingly in search of meaning, that God is
the Lord of life and that his "steadfast love is better than life" (Ps
By choosing obedience, poverty and chastity for the
Kingdom of Heaven, they demonstrate that any attachment or love for
people and things is incapable of definitively satisfying the heart;
that earthly existence is a longer or shorter period of waiting for the
"face-to-face" encounter with the divine Bridegroom, an expectation to
be lived with an ever vigilant heart, to be ready to recognize and
welcome him when he comes.
Consecrated life, therefore, is by its nature a total and
definitive, unconditional and passionate response to God (cf. "Vita
Consecrata," n. 17). And so, when one renounces everything to follow
Christ, when one gives to him all that one holds most dear, braving
every sacrifice as did the divine Teacher, the consecrated person who
follows in Christ's footsteps necessarily also becomes "a sign of
contradiction", because his/her way of thinking and living is often in
opposition to the logic of the world, as it is almost always presented
in the media.
Indeed, in choosing Christ we let ourselves be "conquered"
by him without reserve. How many people thirsting for the truth are
struck by this courage and attracted by those who do not hesitate to
give their life, their own life, for their belief.
Is not this the radical evangelical fidelity to which
every consecrated person is called in our time too? Let us give thanks
to the Lord so that many Religious men and women in all the corners of
the earth may continue to offer a supreme and faithful witness of love
to God and to the brethren, a witness that is often marked by the blood
of martyrdom. Let us also thank God so that these examples may continue
to inspire in the souls of many young people the desire to follow
Christ always in an intimate and total way.
Dear brothers and sisters, never forget that the
consecrated life is a divine gift and that it is the Lord in the first
place who ensures its success in accordance with his plans. This
certainty that the Lord leads us to a successful conclusion despite our
weakness; this certainty must be a comfort to you, protecting you from
the temptation of discouragement in the face of the inevitable
difficulties of life and the many challenges of the modern epoch.
Indeed, in the difficult period in which we live many Institutes may
feel a sense of dismay at the failings they discover within them and
the many obstacles they encounter in carrying out their mission.
Today that Child Jesus who is presented at the Temple is
alive among us and invisibly supports us so that we may cooperate
faithfully with him in the work of salvation, and he does not abandon
Today's liturgy is particularly evocative because it is
marked by the symbol of light. The solemn procession with candles which
you made at the beginning of the celebration points to Christ, the true
light of the world who shines in the night of history and illumines
every seeker of the truth. Dear consecrated men and women, burn with
this flame and make it radiant with your life so that a gleam of the
brightness that shone from Jesus, the splendour of the truth, may shine
By dedicating yourselves exclusively to him (cf. "Vita
Consecrata," n. 15), you witness to the fascination of the truth of
Christ and the joy that derives from love for him. In contemplation and
in activity, in solitude and in fraternity, in service to the poor and
the lowly, in personal guidance and in the modern areopaghi, be ready
to proclaim and to witness that God is Love and that to love him is
May Mary, the Tota Pulchra, teach you to transmit to men
and women today this divine fascination that must transpire from your
words and actions. As I express to you my grateful appreciation for the
service you render to the Church, I assure you of my constant
remembrance in prayer and I warmly bless you all.
Pope's May 22
"Service of Authority Demands a Persevering Presence"
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 8, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation
of the address Benedict XVI gave May 22 in Paul VI Hall to superiors
general of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic
* * *
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is a great joy for me to meet with you, superiors general,
representatives and those responsible for consecrated life. I address
my cordial greeting to all.
With fraternal affection I greet in particular Cardinal Franc
Rodé, and I thank him for interpreting -- together with your
other representatives -- your sentiments. I greet the secretary and
collaborators of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life
and Societies of Apostolic Life, grateful for the service that this
dicastery offers to the Church in the important sector of consecrated
In this moment, my thought goes with lively gratitude to all of the men
and women religious, consecrated persons and members of the societies
of apostolic life who spread in the Church and the world the "bonus
odor Christi" (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:15).
I ask that you, major superiors, transmit a word of special kindness to
those who are in difficulty, the elderly and sick, to those who are
living moments of crisis and solitude, to those who suffer and feel
lost, and also to the young men and women who still today are knocking
at the door of your houses, asking to be able to give themselves to
Jesus Christ in the radicalness of the Gospel.
I wish that this moment of meeting and of profound communion with the
Pope may be for each of you one of encouragement and comfort in the
fulfillment of a duty that is evermore demanding and at times opposed.
The service of authority demands a persevering presence, able to
enliven and take initiative, to recall the raison d'être of
consecrated life, to help the persons entrusted to you to correspond
with ever-renewed fidelity to the call of the Spirit.
Your duty is often accompanied by the cross and sometimes by a solitude
that requires a profound sense of responsibility, a generosity that
does not falter, and continual self-denial. You are called to sustain
and to guide your brothers and sisters in a difficult epoch, one marked
by numerous temptations.
Consecrated men and women of today have the duty to be witnesses of the
transfiguring presence of God in a world that is evermore disoriented
and confused, a world where toning down has substituted sharp and
The ability to look at our time with the gaze of faith means to be able
to look at men and women, the world and history in the light of the
crucified and risen Christ, the only One able to direct "men and women
as they strive to make their way amid the pressures of an immanentist
habit of mind and the constrictions of a technocratic logic"
(encyclical letter "Fides et Ratio," No. 15).
In these last years, consecrated life has been re-examined with a more
evangelical, ecclesial and apostolic spirit; but we cannot ignore that
some concrete choices have not offered to the world the authentic and
vivifying face of Christ.
In fact, the secularized culture has penetrated the mind and heart of
not a few consecrated persons, who understand it as a way to enter
modernity and a modality of approach to the contemporary world.
As a result, in addition to an undoubted thrust of generosity capable
of witness and of total giving, consecrated life today knows the
temptation of mediocrity, of middle-class ways and of a consumeristic
In the Gospel, Jesus warned us that there are two ways: One is the
narrow way that leads to life, the other is wide that leads to
destruction (cf. Matthew 7:13-14). The true alternative is, and will
always be, the acceptance of the living God through obedient, faithful
service, or the rejection of him.
One priority condition to the following of Christ, therefore, is
abnegation, detachment from all that is not him. The Lord wants men and
women who are free, not bound, able to give up everything to follow him
and to find in him alone their very all.
Courageous choices must be made, both at the personal and communal
levels, which give a new discipline to the life of consecrated persons
and bring them to rediscover the all-encompassing dimension of the
Belonging to the Lord means to be on fire with his incandescent love,
to be transformed into the splendor of his beauty: Our littleness is
offered to him as a sacrifice of sweet fragrance so that it becomes a
witness of the greatness of his presence for our epoch, which has great
need to be inebriated by the richness of his grace.
Belonging to the Lord: This is the mission of the men and women who
have chosen to follow Christ -- chaste, poor and obedient -- so that
the world may believe and be saved. To belong completely to Christ so
as to become a permanent confession of faith, an unequivocal
proclamation of truth that frees us from the seduction of the false
idols that deceive the world.
To belong to Christ means to keep the flame of love always burning in
our heart, continually fed by the richness of faith, not only when this
brings with it interior joy but also when it is joined to difficulty,
aridity and suffering. Prayer is the nourishment for the interior life,
intimate conversation of the consecrated soul with the divine Spouse.
Even richer nourishment is daily participation in the ineffable mystery
of the divine Eucharist, where the Risen Christ makes himself
continually present in his corporeal reality.
To belong completely to the Lord, consecrated persons embrace a chaste
lifestyle. Consecrated virginity cannot be inscribed in the framework
of worldly logic; it is the most "nonsensical" of Christian paradoxes
and it is not given to all to understand and to live it (cf. Matthew
To live a chaste life also means to give up the need to belong, to take
on a lifestyle that is sober and modest. Men and women religious are
called to show this also in the choice of habit, a simple habit that is
a sign of poverty lived in union with the One who, rich as he was,
became poor to make us rich with his poverty (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9).
In this way, and only in this way, can one follow Christ crucified and
poor without reserve, immersing oneself in his mystery and making his
choices of humility, poverty and meekness one's own.
The theme of the last plenary meeting of the Congregation for
Institutes of Religious Life and Societies of Apostolic Life was "The
Service of Authority." Dear superiors general, it is an occasion to
deepen reflection on the exercise of authority and obedience so that it
will be evermore inspired by the Gospel.
The burden of one who is called to accomplish the delicate task of
superior at all levels will be much easier the more consecrated persons
know how to rediscover the value of professed obedience -- which has
Abraham, our father in the faith, as its model -- and even more so that
of Christ. It is necessary to take refuge from voluntarism and
spontaneity to embrace the logic of the cross.
In conclusion, consecrated men and women are called to be credible and
luminous signs of the Gospel and its paradoxes in the world without
conforming to the mentality of this world, but to continually transform
and renew one's own duty, to be able to discern God's will, what is
good, acceptable and perfect to him (cf. Romans 12:2).
This is precisely my wish, dear brothers and sisters; it is a wish upon
which I invoke the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary,
unsurpassable model of every consecrated life. With these sentiments, I
affectionately impart the apostolic blessing, willingly extending it to
all who belong to your numerous spiritual families.
Pontiff's Address to Jesuits
"A Precious Spiritual Legacy That Must Not Be Lost"
VATICAN CITY, MAY 5, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation
of the address Benedict XVI delivered April 22 in St. Peter's Basilica
to the Jesuits on pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter.
* * *
Dear Fathers and Brothers of the Society of Jesus,
I meet you with great joy in this historical Basilica of St. Peter's
after the holy Mass celebrated for you by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, my
secretary of state, on the occasion of combined jubilees of the
Ignatian Family. I address my cordial greeting to you all.
I greet in the first place the superior general, Father Peter-Hans
Kolvenbach, and thank him for his courteous words expressing your
common sentiments to me. I greet the cardinals with the bishops and
priests and all those who have desired to participate in this event.
Together with the Fathers and Brothers, I also greet the friends of the
Society of Jesus present here, and among them, the many men and women
religious, members of the Communities of Christian Life and of the
Apostolate of Prayer, the students and alumnae with their families from
Rome, from Italy and from Stonyhurst in England, the teachers and
students of the academic institutions and the many collaborators.
Your visit today gives me the opportunity to thank the Lord with you
for having granted your Society the gift of men of extraordinary
holiness and exceptional apostolic zeal, such as St. Ignatius of
Loyola, St. Francis Xavier and Blessed Peter Faber. For you they are
the fathers and founders: It is therefore appropriate that in this
centenary year you commemorate them with gratitude and look to them as
enlightened and reliable guides on your spiritual journey and in your
St. Ignatius of Loyola was first and foremost a man of God who in his
life put God, his greatest glory and his greatest service, first. He
was a profoundly prayerful man for whom the daily celebration of the
Eucharist was the heart and crowning point of his day.
Thus, he left his followers a precious spiritual legacy that must not
be lost or forgotten. Precisely because he was a man of God, St.
Ignatius was a faithful servant of the Church, in which he saw and
venerated the Bride of the Lord and the Mother of Christians. And the
special vow of obedience to the Pope, which he himself describes as
"our first and principal foundation" (MI, Series III, I., p. 162), was
born from his desire to serve the Church in the most beneficial way
This ecclesial characteristic, so specific to the Society of Jesus,
lives on in you and in your apostolic activities, dear Jesuits, so that
you may faithfully meet the urgent needs of the Church today.
Among these, it is important in my opinion to point out your cultural
commitment in the areas of theology and philosophy in which the Society
of Jesus has traditionally been present, as well as the dialogue with
modern culture, which, if it boasts on the one hand of the marvelous
progress in the scientific field, remains heavily marked by positivist
and materialist scientism.
Naturally, the effort to promote a culture inspired by Gospel values in
cordial collaboration with the other ecclesial realities demands an
intense spiritual and cultural training. For this very reason, St.
Ignatius wanted young Jesuits to be formed for many years in spiritual
life and in study. It is good that this tradition be maintained and
reinforced, also given the growing complexity and vastness of modern
Another of his great concerns was the Christian education and cultural
formation of young people: hence, the impetus he gave to the foundation
of "colleges," which after his death spread in Europe and throughout
the world. Continue, dear Jesuits, this important apostolate, keeping
the spirit of your founder unchanged.
In speaking of St. Ignatius, I cannot overlook the fact that the fifth
centenary of St. Francis Xavier's birth was celebrated last April 7.
Not only is their history interwoven through long years in Paris and
Rome, but a single aspiration -- one might say, a single passion --
stirred and sustained them, even in their different human situations:
the passion for working for the ever greater glory of God-the-Trinity
and for the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ to the peoples who did
not know him.
St. Francis Xavier, whom my Predecessor Pius XI, of venerable memory,
proclaimed the "Patron of Catholic Missions," saw as his own mission
"opening new ways of access" to the Gospel "in the immense continent of
Asia." His apostolate in the Orient lasted barely 10 years, but in the
four and half centuries that the Society of Jesus has existed it has
proven wonderfully fruitful, for his example inspired a multitude of
missionary vocations among young Jesuits and he remains a reference
point for the continuation of missionary activity in the great
countries of the Asian continent.
If St. Francis Xavier worked in the countries of the Orient, his
confrere and friend since the years in Paris, Blessed Peter Faber, a
Savoiard who was born on April 13, 1506, worked in the European
countries where the Christian faithful aspired to a true reform of the
He was a modest, sensitive man with a profound inner life. He was
endowed with the gift of making friends with people from every walk of
life and consequently attracted many young men to the Society.
Blessed Faber spent his short life in various European countries,
especially Germany, where, at the order of Paul III, he took part in
the Diets of Worms, Ratisbon and Speyer and in conversations with the
leaders of the Reformation. He consequently had an exceptional
opportunity to practice the special vow of obedience to the Pope
"regarding the missions" and became a model to follow for all future
Dear Fathers and Brothers of the Society, today you look with special
devotion at the Blessed Virgin Mary, remembering that on April 22,
1541, St. Ignatius and his first companions made their solemn vows
before the image of Mary in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
May Mary continue to watch over the Society of Jesus so that every
member may carry in his person the "image" of the crucified Christ, in
order to share in his resurrection. I assure you of my remembrance in
prayer for this, as I willingly impart my blessing to each of you
present here and to your entire spiritual family, which I also extend
to all the other religious and consecrated persons who are present at
Pope's Homily on World Day of
"An Eloquent Sign of the Presence of God's Kingdom"
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 17, 2006 (ZENIT.org).- Here is a translation of the
homily Benedict XVI gave Feb. 2, World Day of Consecrated Life, in St.
Peter's Basilica. The Pope spoke at an evening Mass for religious on
the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today's Feast of Jesus' Presentation at the temple 40 days after his
birth places before our eyes a special moment in the life of the Holy
Family: Mary and Joseph, in accordance with Mosaic law, took the tiny
Jesus to the temple of Jerusalem to offer him to the Lord (cf. Luke
2:22). Simeon and Anna, inspired by God, recognized that Child as the
long-awaited Messiah and prophesied about him. We are in the presence
of a mystery, both simple and solemn, in which Holy Church celebrates
Christ, the Anointed One of the Father, the firstborn of the new
The evocative candlelight procession at the beginning of our
celebration has made us relive the majestic entrance, as we sang in the
Responsorial Psalm, of the One who is "the King of glory," "the Lord,
mighty in battle" (Psalm 24:7,8). But who is the powerful God who
enters the temple? It is a Child; it is the Infant Jesus in the arms of
his Mother, the Virgin Mary. The Holy Family was complying with what
the Law prescribed: the purification of the mother, the offering of the
firstborn child to God and his redemption through a sacrifice.
In the First Reading the Liturgy speaks of the oracle of the Prophet
Malachi: "The Lord ... will suddenly come to his temple" (Malachi 3:1).
These words communicated the full intensity of the desire that had
given life to the expectation of the Jewish People down the centuries.
"The angel of the Covenant" at last entered his house and submitted to
the Law: He came to Jerusalem to enter God's house in an attitude of
The meaning of this act acquires a broader perspective in the passage
from the Letter to the Hebrews, proclaimed as the Second Reading today.
Christ, the mediator who unites God and man, abolishing distances,
eliminating every division and tearing down every wall of separation,
is presented to us here.
Christ comes as a new "merciful and faithful high priest in the service
of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:17).
Thus, we note that mediation with God no longer takes place in the
holiness-separation of the ancient priesthood, but in liberating
solidarity with human beings.
While yet a Child, he sets out on the path of obedience that he was to
follow to the very end.
The Letter to the Hebrews highlights this clearly when it says: "In the
days of his earthly life Jesus offered up prayers and supplications ...
to him who was able to save him from death .... Although he was a Son,
he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect
he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (cf.
The first person to be associated with Christ on the path of obedience,
proven faith and shared suffering was his Mother, Mary. The Gospel text
portrays her in the act of offering her Son: an unconditional offering
that involves her in the first person.
Mary is the Mother of the One who is "the glory of [his] people Israel"
and a "light for revelation to the Gentiles," but also "a sign that is
spoken against" (cf. Luke 2:32,34). And in her immaculate soul, she
herself was to be pierced by the sword of sorrow, thus showing that her
role in the history of salvation did not end in the mystery of the
Incarnation but was completed in loving and sorrowful participation in
the death and Resurrection of her Son.
Bringing her Son to Jerusalem, the Virgin Mother offered him to God as
a true Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. She held him out to
Simeon and Anna as the proclamation of redemption; she presented him to
all as a light for a safe journey on the path of truth and love.
The words that came to the lips of the elderly Simeon: "My eyes have
seen your salvation" (Luke 2:30), are echoed in the heart of the
prophetess Anna. These good and devout people, enveloped in Christ's
light, were able to see in the Child Jesus "the consolation of Israel"
(Luke 2:25). So it was that their expectation was transformed into a
light that illuminates history.
Simeon was the bearer of an ancient hope and the Spirit of the Lord
spoke to his heart: for this reason he could contemplate the One whom
numerous prophets and kings had desired to see: Christ, light of
revelation for the Gentiles.
He recognized that Child as the Savior, but he foresaw in the Spirit
that the destinies of humanity would be played out around him and that
he would have to suffer deeply from those who rejected him; he
proclaimed the identity and mission of the Messiah with words that form
one of the hymns of the newborn Church, radiant with the full
communitarian and eschatological exultation of the fulfillment of the
expectation of salvation. The enthusiasm was so great that to live and
to die were one and the same, and the "light" and "glory" became a
Anna is a "prophetess," a wise and pious woman who interpreted the deep
meaning of historical events and of God's message concealed within
them. Consequently, she could "give thanks to God" and "[speak of the
Child] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke
Her long widowhood devoted to worship in the temple, fidelity to weekly
fasting and participation in the expectation of those who yearned for
the redemption of Israel culminated in her meeting with the Child Jesus.
Dear brothers and sisters, on this feast of the Presentation of the
Lord the Church is celebrating the Day of Consecrated Life. This is an
appropriate occasion to praise the Lord and thank him for the precious
gift represented by the consecrated life in its different forms; at the
same time it is an incentive to encourage in all the People of God
knowledge and esteem for those who are totally consecrated to God.
Indeed, just as Jesus' life in his obedience and dedication to the
Father is a living parable of the "God-with-us," so the concrete
dedication of consecrated persons to God and to their brethren becomes
an eloquent sign for today's world of the presence of God's Kingdom.
Your way of living and working can vividly express full belonging to
the one Lord; placing yourselves without reserve in the hands of Christ
and of the Church is a strong and clear proclamation of God's presence
in a language understandable to our contemporaries. This is the first
service that the consecrated life offers to the Church and to the world.
Consecrated persons are like watchmen among the People of God who
perceive and proclaim the new life already present in our history.
I now address you in a special way, dear brothers and sisters who have
embraced the vocation of special consecration, to greet you with
affection and thank you warmly for your presence.
I extend a special greeting to Archbishop Franc Rodéé,
prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and
Societies of Apostolic Life, and to his collaborators who are
concelebrating with me at this Holy Mass.
May the Lord renew in you and in all consecrated people each day the
joyful response to his freely given and faithful love. Dear brothers
and sisters, like lighted candles, always and everywhere shine with the
love of Christ, Light of the world. May Mary Most Holy, the consecrated
Woman, help you to live to the full your special vocation and mission
in the Church for the world's salvation.
Benedict XVI's Letter on
"Live in Complete Conformity With the Gospel"
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- Here is translation of the
letter sent to participants in the plenary assembly of the Vatican
Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of
Apostolic Life, held Sept. 26-27.
* * *
To my Venerable Brother
Archbishop Franc Rodéé, C.M.
Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of
Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
On the occasion of this Congregation's Plenary Assembly, I very gladly
address my cordial greeting to all the participants. In particular, I
greet you, the Secretary and all who work in the Dicastery that you
With my greetings, I also express my gratitude and joy: gratitude
because you share with me attention and service to consecrated persons;
joy, because through you I know I am addressing the world of
consecrated women and men who follow Christ on the path of the
evangelical counsels and of their respective charism, inspired by the
The Church's history is marked by interventions of the Holy Spirit, who
has not only enriched her with his gifts of wisdom, prophecy and
holiness, but has endowed her with ever new forms of evangelical life
through the work of the founders and foundresses who have passed on
their charism to the family of their spiritual sons and daughters.
This has meant that today, in monasteries and spirituality centers,
monks, religious and consecrated persons can offer the faithful oases
of contemplation and schools of prayer, education in the faith and of
Above all, however, consecrated persons continue the great work of
evangelization and witness on all the continents, even on the front
lines of the faith, with generosity and often with the sacrifice of
their lives, even to the point of martyrdom.
Many of them are totally dedicated to catechesis, education, teaching,
the advancement of culture and the ministry of communications. They are
close to young people and their families, the poor, the elderly, the
sick and lonely people.
There is no human or ecclesial context where they are not present,
frequently silent but always effective and creative, a continuation as
it were of the presence of Jesus who went about doing good works to all
(cf. Acts 10: 38).
The Church is grateful for the witness of fidelity and holiness borne
by so many of the members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life, for
the ceaseless prayers of praise and intercession raised by their
communities, and for their life spent at the service of the People of
Today, the consecrated life, like other sectors of ecclesial life,
certainly has no lack of trials and problems. "The great treasure of
the gift of God", you recalled at the end of your last Plenary
Assembly, "is held in fragile earthen vessels (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7),
and the mystery of evil also threatens those who dedicate their whole
lives to God" (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and
Societies of Apostolic Life, "Starting Afresh from Christ," n. 11).
Rather than listing the difficulties that consecrated life encounters
today, I would like to confirm to all consecrated men and women the
closeness, concern and love for them of the whole Church.
At the beginning of the new millennium, the consecrated life is facing
formidable challenges that it can only confront in communion with the
whole People of God, their Pastors and all the faithful. The attention
of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of
Apostolic Life fits into this context at your Plenary Assembly, which
is addressing three very precise themes.
The first theme concerns the exercise of authority.
To assure an authentically fraternal life in the search for God's will,
this is a precious and necessary service. In fact, it is the Risen Lord
himself, newly present among the brothers and sisters gathered in his
name (cf. "Perfectae Caritatis," n. 15), who points out the path to
Only if the Superior himself or herself lives in obedience to Christ
and sincerely observes the rule can the community members clearly see
not only that their obedience to the Superior is not contrary to the
freedom of God's children but that it leads them to maturity in
conformity with Christ, obedient to the Father (cf. ibid., n. 14).
The other theme chosen for the Plenary Meeting concerns the criteria
for the discernment and approval of new forms of consecrated life.
"Those who have charge over the Church should judge the genuineness and
proper use of these gifts through their office", the Dogmatic
Constitution "Lumen Gentium" recalls, speaking of charisms in general,
"not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold
fast to what is good" (n. 12).
And this is what you too are seeking to do in these days, not
forgetting that you must carry out your precious and delicate work in a
context of gratitude to God, who continues still today to enrich his
Church with ever new charisms with the creativity and generosity of his
The third theme you have addressed concerns monastic life.
Starting with the contingent situations that also require wise and
effective practical interventions, you mean to survey the vast horizon
of this reality which has been and still is so important in the
Church's history. You seek appropriate ways to relaunch in the new
millennium the monastic experience of which the Church today stands in
so great a need, for she recognizes in it an eloquent witness to the
primacy of God, constantly praised, adored, served and loved with the
whole heart, the whole soul and the whole mind (cf. Mt 22: 37).
Lastly, I am pleased to note that the Plenary Meeting is taking place
within the framework of the solemn celebration that the Dicastery has
organized on the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the conciliar
Decree "Perfectae Caritatis" on the renewal of religious life.
I hope that the fundamental guidelines offered by the Council Fathers
at that time for the progress of the consecrated life will also be a
source of inspiration today for all who dedicate their lives to the
service of the Kingdom of God.
I am referring primarily to what the Decree "Perfectae Caritatis"
describes as "vitae religiosae ultima norma," "the final norm of the
religious life," that is, the "sequela Christi." A genuine recovery of
religious life is impossible without seeking to live in complete
conformity with the Gospel, without putting anything before the one
Love, but finding in Christ and in his words the essence that is deeper
than any Founder's or Foundress' charism.
Another basic directive of the Council was to give oneself generously
and creatively to one's brothers and sisters, never giving in to the
temptation of withdrawal into self, never being content with past
achievement and never indulging in pessimism or weariness.
The flame of love that the Spirit kindles in hearts is an incentive to
questioning oneself constantly on humanity's needs and on how to
respond to them, knowing well that only those who recognize and live
the primacy of God can truly respond to the real needs of men and
women, made in the image of God.
I would like to take up yet another of the very important directives
presented by the Council Fathers in the Decree Perfectae Caritatis: the
consecrated person's constant commitment to cultivate a sincere life of
communion (cf. n. 15), not only in the individual communities but with
the whole Church, because charisms should always be safeguarded,
deepened and constantly developed "in harmony with the Body of Christ
continually in the process of growth" ("Mutuae Relationes," n. 11).
These are the thoughts on the themes treated at your Plenary Assembly
which I am eager to entrust to you for reflection. I accompany you with
my prayers, and as I invoke God's help and the protection of the Most
Holy Virgin upon you and your activity, I impart my Blessing to each
one of you as a pledge of my affection.
From Castel Gandolfo, Sept. 27, 2005, Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul.