Preacher Tells of 2 Ways to Express Relationship With God

Bishop Corti's Meditations at Pope's Spiritual Exercises  (John Paul II, 2005)

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Our relationship with God needs to be expressed through prayer and through the transmission of the faith, says the preacher of the Spiritual Exercises being attended by John Paul II.

Bishop Renato Corti of Novara delivered that message today, the second full day of the weeklong retreat also being attended by officials of the Roman Curia.

When introducing these retreat days, Bishop Corti already mentioned the need for prayer to make the Spiritual Exercises well.

"Today I wished to make evident that if faith is a relationship, this relationship needs to be expressed," the preacher explained on Vatican Radio, summarizing today's first meditation.

"God speaks to man who responds, and prayer expresses this resonance of the tones of God's grace," the bishop said. "And I tried to highlight that, for the Christian, the relationship is one with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."

Reflecting on the specific theme of the Exercises -- "The Church at the Service of the New and Eternal Covenant" -- the prelate in today's second meditation made use of the "essential pages of sacred Scripture that recount God's steps toward humanity, beginning with the promises made to Abraham, the celebration of the Covenant made with Moses, and ending later with Jesus Christ and, in particular, the mystery of the incarnation, the institution of the Eucharist, the passion and death on the cross, and the resurrection."

"In all this long journey the key word is 'promise,' which means: 'Behold, before you seek God, it is God who is seeking you,'" Bishop Corti said.

"It is God who even before creation had a plan for us -- as St. Paul says in the Letter to the Ephesians -- to make us his adopted children in his only-begotten Son, the Word made flesh," he said.

Bishop Corti focused on the "crucial importance of the reference to Jesus Christ," in his meditations on Monday afternoon.

"Given that we are in a climate of Spiritual Exercises," he told Vatican Radio, "I said that each one of us, at this moment, would do well to review his own personal relationship with the Lord or, better still, his own response to the relationship that the Lord wishes to establish with us."

Bishop Corti suggested some pages of the Gospel that narrate different encounters with Jesus, "but very different among themselves."

"The Apostles themselves say through St. Peter: 'Lord, you are the Messiah,'" but Peter later betrays the Lord, the preacher observed.

"This shows that the journey of faith is never finished once and for all, but must be renewed day by day," he said. "The highest and most profound truth is that this journey which leads to the encounter with the Lord Jesus, in reality is a journey together with Christ to the encounter with the Father.

"In the Last Supper, Christ said: 'The Father and I are one.' Jesus, therefore, emerges as the Son who places himself next to us to guide us in living the experience of sons to put us in communion with the Father."

From this truth, stemmed the question in the bishop's second meditation today: "And we, what responsibility do we have in regard to the service of faith to our brothers?"

The bishop of Novara recalled that "before the Jubilee, in the apostolic letter 'Tertio Millennio Adveniente,' the Pope posed some questions which, in essence, were: In rereading the history of these centuries, have we, as Christians, always upheld the Christian faith? Or have we not, at times, been the cause of scandal or even difficulty? Or, perhaps, given a very pale testimony?"

And "the Pope, during the Jubilee, carried out that gesture that so impressed the world: March 12, 2000, the Day of Forgiveness, opened a commitment for the future," recalled the Italian prelate.

The apostolic letter "'Novo Millennio Ineunte' expresses the guidelines that enable the Church to witness the light of Christ for generations that will follow," he said.

In this connection, the preacher said it seemed "opportune to say that the task called the New Evangelization is a great invitation to be at the service of faith, seeking to communicate with humanity of our time, allowing ourselves to be addressed, to later receive with love and great human richness the truth that the Lord must say to the man of today."

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Jesus' Suffering as Summit of Man's Union With God, Says Preacher
Bishop Corti's Meditations on 3rd Full Day of Retreat

Jesus' passion and death are the summit of man's union with God, says the preacher of the Spiritual Exercises being attended by John Paul II.

On the third full day of the weeklong retreat, Bishop Renato Corti of Novara dedicated the first meditation to reflect on the meaning of what Christians call the "New Covenant."

Moving on from the Old Testament -- in particular Moses, who on Sinai was the witness of the covenant offered by God and, because of this, offered a sacrifice -- to the New Testament, the preacher reminded his audience today that in this case the sacrifice was offered by Jesus Christ. His audience included officials of the Roman Curia.

"He it is whom, in his Passion and Death, lived the experience of the body given up and the blood poured out. In this way, the unity between God and humanity attained its highest fulfillment," said Bishop Corti.

"When we celebrate the Eucharist, the passion and death of Christ, at that moment we celebrate the grace that comes to every man through Jesus Christ: the grace of being able to relive this communion of life with God," he later said on Vatican Radio.

In the light of this reality, in the second meditation the preacher reflected on the meaning of Jesus as the "Good Shepherd" -- "he gives up his Body and pours out his Blood" -- and what this implies for the pastors of the Church.

"What are the features of a priest, or of a bishop, who wishes to be like Christ, the Good Shepherd?" the prelate asked.

"In reality, only with caution can we say that, as priests, as bishops, we are pastors, as, in reality, already in the Book of Ezekiel and later in chapter 21 of the Gospel of John, it is stated that there is only one pastor," he said.

At the Sea of Tiberias, when Jesus asks Peter three times, "Do you love me?" he makes it understood "that he [Christ] is the only pastor and that Peter can be so in the measure that he recognizes that he is one with Jesus," Bishop Corti explained.

"If salvation comes from God, those who are ministers of salvation are nothing on their own," the bishop said during the meditation this afternoon.

"It is a very important truth, as it encourages interiority in the ministers of the Word and of God's salvation with words and attitudes which make constant reference to the one who is the only hope and salvation for man," he added. "We priests and bishops are happy because of God, and not for any other reason.

"At the same time, from this perspective, we understand that the way we should look upon others should be the way that God looks upon humanity. The promise of salvation is for all men. And, therefore, there must be an openness of heart for all, keeping in mind that God's blessing is on all."

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Love Must Shape Pastoral Styles, Says Preacher

Meditation on 4th Full Day of Pope's Annual Retreat

 Jesus' new commandment of love must characterize the face of the Church and Christians' personal lives, says the preacher of this year's papal Spiritual Exercises.

Today, the fourth day of the retreat being attended by John Paul II and officials of the Roman Curia, Bishop Renato Corti of Novara dedicated a meditation to the concept of "Giving the Church a Fraternal Face."

He explained that the commandment of love left by Jesus must also be the pastoral style of bishops and priests.

"The new commandment is that of charity and love; therefore, it is important to analyze the life of the Church again in the light of the question: 'Are we giving witness of all this? How?" asked the preacher in words broadcast on Vatican Radio.

The vice president of the Italian episcopal conference suggested a passage from the apostolic letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte," in which John Paul II proposes a "spirituality of communion" to the Church, and the characteristics it should have.

"One is a reference to the mystery of the Trinity, mystery of communion. Another is a reference to Jesus Christ, whose members we are, the mystical body of Christ," he said.

The apostolic letter offers, in addition, indications of an "anthropological and pedagogical character," Bishop Corti continued.

"For example, the one which states that if one wishes to witness an experience of communion, one must learn to see in the other not only that which is mistaken, but also that which is good; one must learn to appreciate him," the preacher said.

"If one wishes to live an experience of communion, one is certainly asked one thing: to bear others' burdens," he continued. "This is the way to live communion and -- in a certain sense, as we are very limited -- the way to live the central commandment of the New Covenant, which is the commandment of love."

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For Many, Hope Is Very Difficult, Says Preacher

Papal-Retreat Director Focuses on a Key Task for Christians

Christians must transmit hope to the world, a preacher said on the last full day of the Spiritual Exercises being attended by John Paul II.

Bishop Renato Corti of Novara, Italy, who is preaching the retreat for the Pope and officials of the Roman Curia, dedicated his first meditation today to the resurrection of Jesus and his apparition to the disciples of Emmaus, in which he presented Christ as "man's hope."

In a summary on Vatican Radio, the prelate said that it is necessary to reflect on the "meaning of hope today."

"In the first place, hope today is very difficult. Many people say: 'I don't have it,'" said Bishop Corti. "In the second place, therefore, the mission of the Church is commitment to be the first to cherish hope.

"The Church must cherish hope which is Jesus, and faith in the risen Christ becomes a reason to cherish a hope that is not only human, but that involves the whole of existence until it reaches eschatology and eternal life."

"And, at the same time," he added, "Christians must ask how they can help to build a world in which there are signs of hope and that will enable people -- those who suffer, who are alone -- to have reasons for consolation, encouragement, for overcoming difficulties.

"The service of hope is a service characteristic of those who believe in Jesus Christ, living, today."

Bishop Corti dedicated today's second meditation to the Holy Spirit. He referred to the Acts of the Apostles, which speaks repeatedly of the Spirit's action in the "extraordinary gestures" carried out by Jesus' first disciples.

"It is possible to meditate on the Holy Spirit in different ways, but the simplest and most direct is to contemplate him in the experience of the early Church, as Jesus promised," the prelate added.

The Spiritual Exercises will end Saturday morning after a final meditation preached by Bishop Corti. A Mass in St. Peter's Basilica will close out the retreat. Everyone who works in the Holy See, Vatican City, and the Diocese of Rome, has been invited to the Mass.

The Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for adoration after the Mass, followed later by Benediction. This new conclusion to the Spiritual Exercises takes place in the context of the Year of the Eucharist.

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Retreat a "Providential Opportunity," Says Pope
Thanks Preacher for His Meditations

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II did not participate in the closing Mass of the annual Spiritual Exercises he attended, but he personally thanked the preacher for the retreat.

"The Spiritual Exercises were for me and for many of my collaborators of the Roman Curia a providential opportunity of prolonged thanksgiving," the Pope said in a message to Bishop Renato Corti of Novara during an audience after the Mass and adoration Saturday that closed out the weeklong retreat at the Vatican.

Bishop Corti preached the annual retreat on the theme of "The Church at the Service of the New and Eternal Covenant."

The Holy Father said in his message to the bishop: "You reflections have helped us to put ourselves in docile and attentive listening to the Spirit who today speaks to the Church."

The Pope said that he appreciated in particular the "spiritual depth and pastoral wisdom" of the meditations given by the bishop.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, substituted for the Pope at the closing Mass on Saturday in St. Peter's Basilica.

Bishop Corti delivered the homily and addressed a particular greeting to the Pope: "Together with all of you, who so love him, I wish that his health will support him to carry forward the great and marvelous task that God has entrusted to him."

The Eucharist, said the bishop, is "the root and secret of the spiritual life of the faithful, as well as of all initiatives of the various local Churches spread throughout the world."

Prayers were recited for the Holy Father during the Mass, so that he would be "a lively image of the goodness and mercy of the heavenly Father and so that he will be loved and listened to by all with filial affection."

The Pope requested that Eucharistic adoration take place after the Mass. It was accompanied by hymns and readings from Scripture.

In statements on Vatican Radio, Bishop Corti said at the end of the retreat that he delivered his meditations with great "tranquility." Spiritual Exercises, he said, "are not a series of specialized conferences, or a study seminar."

They are, he added, "simply a time dedicated to God in which the one who carries out the task of preacher must offer a little help so that each one will listen to the Holy Spirit and, in relation with what the Holy Spirit suggests, revise his own life and come to conclusions of renewal of his life."

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POPE PIUS XI INITIATED SPIRITUAL EXERCISES IN THE  VATICAN

VATICAN CITY, FEB 15, 2005 (VIS) - Annual retreats for the Pope and Roman Curia trace their origins to Pope Pius XI who, on December 20, 1929, marked the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination by publishing the Encyclical "'Mens nostra,' On The Promotion of Spiritual Exercises" which he addressed to "Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and Other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See."

  In that encyclical, the Pope informed the faithful that he had arranged to hold spiritual exercises every year in the Vatican, a custom still practiced by the Holy Father and ranking members of the Roman Curia. In the early years this retreat was held during the first week in Advent but now takes place in the first full week of Lent.

  Cardinal Achille Ratti, archbishop of Milan, was elected to the papacy on February 6, 1922, and took the name of Pius XI. He died on February 10, 1939.

  On January 6, 1929, feast of the Epiphany, Pius XI declared a Jubilee Year to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of his ordination and asked the faithful to "share in the joy of their common father and to join with us in rendering thanks to the Supreme Giver of all good."

  At the end of that year, in the Encyclical "Mens nostra," he looked back at the "many and rich fruits" of the Jubilee and wrote that, as a way to "express our heartfelt gratitude, ... we have deemed it fitting ... to establish something most excellent which will, we trust, prove a source of many advantages to the Christian people. We are speaking of the practice of Spiritual Exercises, which we earnestly desire to see daily extended more widely, not only among the clergy, both secular and regular, but also among the multitudes of the Catholic laity."

  Pius XI then wrote at length on the history of "Sacred Retreats," citing the words on this subject of his predecessors, of Doctors of the Church and founders of religious orders such as Don Bosco of the Salesians and, most especially St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, "whom we are pleased to call the chief and peculiar Master of Spiritual Exercises." The Pope in fact, on July 22, 1922,  had "declared and constituted St. Ignatius of Loyola the heavenly Patron of all Spiritual Exercises and, therefore, of institutes, sodalities and bodies of every kind assisting those who are making the Spiritual Exercises."

  He underscored the "joy" and consolation" he found in Spiritual Exercises and  announced: "And in order that we may secure this joy and consolation, both for ourselves and for others who are near us, We have already made arrangements for holding the Spiritual Exercises every year in the Vatican." While highlighting the value of retreats, he admonished: "Nor should the priests of the Clergy, secular and regular, think that the time spent on the Spiritual Exercises tends to the detriment of the apostolic ministry."

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