Papal Comments at Conclusion of Lenten
"We Must Walk With Jesus"
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 8, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the comments made by Benedict XVI at the conclusion of the retreat on the theme "The Priest Meets Jesus and Follows Him," given to the Roman curia by Cardinal Francis Arinze, retired prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
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Your Eminence, My Dear Venerable Brothers,
Saying "thank you" is one of the wonderful tasks of the Pope. At this time I would like, in the name of all of us and all of you, to say thank you, Eminence, from the heart, for these meditations which you have given us. You have led, enlightened, helped and renewed us in our priesthood. Yours has not been a theological acrobatic act. You have not given us theological acrobatics, but you have given us sound doctrine, the good bread of our faith.
Listening to your words, there came to my mind a prophecy of the prophet Ezekiel, on which St. Augustine comments. In the Book of Ezekiel the Lord, God the Shepherd, says to the people: I will lead my sheep upon the hills of Israel, to green pastures. And St. Augustine asks: Where are these hills of Israel? What are these green pastures? And he answers: the hills of Israel, the green pastures are the Sacred Scriptures, the Word of God that gives us true nourishment.
Your preaching has been permeated with Sacred Scripture, with a great familiarity with the Word of God read in the context of the living Church, from the Fathers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, always contextualized in the reading, in the liturgy. Precisely in this way Scripture has been presented in its complete relevance. Your theology, as you told us, was not an abstract theology but one marked by healthy realism. I admired and enjoyed this concrete experience of your 50 years in the priesthood that you spoke to us about and in the light of which you helped us concretize our faith. What you said to us was sound, concrete for our life, for our comportment as priests. I hope that many will read these words and take them to heart.
You first began with this always fascinating and beautiful account of the first disciples who followed Jesus. Still a little uncertain and timid they ask: Master, where do you live? And the answer, which you commented on, is: "Come and see." To see we must come, we must walk with Jesus, who always precedes us. Only in walking with and following Jesus can we see. You have showed us where Jesus lives, where his dwelling is: in the Church, in his Word, in the most holy Eucharist.
Thank you, Your Eminence, for this guidance. With a new spirit and new joy we will set out on the way to Easter. I wish everyone a good Lent and a good Easter.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
1. Lenten Retreat to Pope and Roman Curia 2006, preached by Cardinal Marco Ce.
What Benedict XVI Liked About Lenten Retreat
"You Have Made Us Attentive to the Inner Teacher"
VATICAN CITY, MARCH 30, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at the end of the Roman Curia's spiritual exercises on March 11. The Pope delivered the address in the Redemptoris Mater chapel in the Apostolic Palace.
Cardinal Marco Cé, retired patriarch of Venice, had preached the retreat.
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At the end of these days of grace it is right and beautiful for the Pope to say: Thank you! Thank you first and foremost to the Lord, who has granted us this physical and spiritual break, and also thank you to you, Your Eminence, for guiding us in St. Mark's footsteps on the road to Jerusalem with Jesus.
At the outset, you immediately made us understand the profound ecclesial nature of this "sacramentum exercitii." You made us realize that it was not a question of an individual or private retreat. With the "sacramentum exercitii" we express our solidarity with the Church in the common sacramental "exercitum," and thus respond to our responsibility as pastors.
We cannot bring to the world the Good News which is Christ himself in person if we ourselves are not deeply united with Christ, if we do not know him profoundly, personally, if we do not live on his Words.
Together with the ecclesiastical and ecclesial nature of these exercises, you have also shown us their Christological dimension. You have made us attentive to the inner Teacher; you have helped us to listen to the Teacher who speaks with us and within us; you have helped us to respond to and speak with the Lord, listening to his words. You have led us on this "catechumenal" journey which is the Gospel according to Mark, on a common pilgrimage together with the disciples bound for Jerusalem.
You have also restored to us the certainty that in our Bark, despite all the storms of history, is Christ. You have taught us to see anew on the suffering face of Christ, on the face crowned with thorns, the glory of the Risen One.
We are grateful to you for this, Your Eminence, and we can journey on toward Easter, together with Christ and the disciples, with new strength and new joy.
In all these days, my gaze has necessarily focused on this depiction of the Annunciation of Mary. What fascinated me is this: The Archangel Gabriel holds a scroll in his hand, which I believe is the symbol of Scripture, of the Word of God. And Mary is kneeling within the scroll; that is, she lives her whole life in the Word of God. It is as though she were steeped in the Word. Thus, all her thoughts, her will and her actions are imbued with and formed by the Word. Since she herself dwells in the Word, she can also become the new "Dwelling Place" of the Word in the world.
Silently, with these points alone, Your Eminence, you have guided us on a Marian path. This Marian route calls us to be integrated into the Word of God, to place our lives within the Word of God and thereby let our being be imbued with this Word, so that we may be witnesses in our time of the living Word, of Christ himself.
Thus, with new courage and new joy, we journey on toward Easter, toward the celebration of the Mystery of Christ that is always more than a celebration or rite: It is Presence and Truth. And let us pray the Lord to help us return to him and thus also to be guides and pastors of the flock entrusted to our care.
Thank you, Your Eminence!
Thank you, dear confreres!
Pope in 1st Full Day of Lenten Retreat (March 6, 2006)
The spiritual exercises that Benedict XVI and his aides in the Roman Curia began on Sunday is a moment of encounter with God, says the retreat's preacher.
Cardinal Marco Cé, retired patriarch of Venice, proposed in the presence of the Pope, and to the cardinals, bishops, priests and religious on hand in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel, that they undertake an "interior pilgrimage to him who is the source of mercy," Jesus.
The cardinal said that Christ "accompanies us through the wilderness of our poverty, supporting us on the way to the intense joy of Easter," the fruit of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, "heart of our faith."
Cardinal Cé explained that this encounter takes place because Christ first came in search of each of us.
"If the grace of the Risen Crucified did not call us and did not seek us, we would never come out of our sloth and sin. Who will deliver me from this body of death?" asked the cardinal rhetorically. "The grace of God through Jesus Christ."
If the spiritual exercises become an encounter with Christ, this meeting will also be "an act of love for the Church and for so many brothers who walk on remote paths" whom "Jesus wants to save," the retired patriarch said.
"The Gospel calls us to be involved, to feel questioned, and not to be mere spectators enclosed in the fortress of our rationality, but to react as those who find Jesus and let themselves be enveloped by his light. This is the meaning of Jesus' heartfelt desire when he said: 'Believe in me,'" noted the preacher.
To take the Gospel seriously, always means "an encounter" in which the strength is found to be converted, "to orient one's life again to God, opening the heart wide to him in faith," he added.
In the second meditation this morning, Cardinal Cé left this message with the Pope and his collaborators: "We must have only one ambition: that despite our limitations, people see in us persons who really love the Lord, who are in love with him; where there is no gap between what they say and what they really are."
Lent is "the time of grace to decide for the Lord," he said. It is beautiful "to think that God comes to seek us;" we must "let him find us in Lent."
On the second day of the papal spiritual exercises (March 7):
The retreatants were reminded that Jesus calls poor and sinful disciples to follow him.
Cardinal Marco Cé, delivered two meditations this morning that were focused on Christ's calling of the Twelve Apostles.
According to the preacher, Christ's calling to his disciples is one of the symbolic images of the life of faith, as it shows characteristic elements of the call to every Christian to follow Our Lord: "radical conversion," "detachment," and the fact that, above all, it is an "initiative of Jesus."
Referring to the calling of the apostles, Cardinal Cé described the setting: Galilee, land of poor people.
Humility, as opposed to the wisdom men boast about, is a constant in Christ's life, said the preacher.
Christ's chosen ones are fishermen, people who see how the simplicity of their ordinary lives is disconcerted by three terms: "repent," "believe" and "good news."
"The most radical meaning of the conversion to which Lent invites us is the following of Christ," the cardinal said.
Giving one’s life
According to Cardinal Cé, "To be converted is not above all a moral change of life: It is a reorientation of the latter to the person of the Lord Jesus; it is a radical opening of life to Christ, to give one's life to him."
Cardinal Cé noted that it was Jesus who approached Peter and his future fellow travelers; this overturned the custom of the time, since the rabbis of the period did not normally go to find their followers.
This style shows the "totally new" announcement of the Kingdom of God that Christ is about to proclaim, and the "totally new" character of the lordship of Jesus over his disciples, Cardinal Cé explained. Christ does not oppress but liberates his disciples, soliciting a complete response to his invitation to follow him.
The setting of the morning's second meditation was the fishermen's village of Capernaum, in the Apostle Peter's home, where Jesus healed the paralytic who was lowered through the ceiling by four people carrying the pallet, impressing Jesus himself with their faith.
The solidarity of these four people with the paralytic, the patriarch explained, is an image of the vocation of persons who have consecrated their lives to God in the Church.
"Sometimes we think that our role in the Church is very different from the one we dreamed of when we were ordained priests," he said to his audience, which included cardinals, bishops, priests and religious who work in the Roman Curia.
"It might be that age and sickness remove us from active pastoral involvement," the cardinal said. "It is then that we must think of the communion that unites us all in the Church and makes us necessary stretcher-bearers for the salvation of brothers.
"Then our work makes sense, even if it is hidden or gives us little satisfaction; then exhaustion and even the difficulties of the situations that must be faced; then, I now believe, sickness and old age with its greater frailty, with the consequent diminution of strength -- make sense."
"At the same time," he added, "in these situations, spaces of interior freedom are also opened, when weakness becomes strength for those who work in the difficult areas of the proclamation of the Gospel."
Third day of meditations at Pope's Retreat (March 8)
To preach the Gospel implies difficulties and failures, as it did for Jesus himself, says the preacher of the spiritual exercises being attended by Benedict XVI this week. Cardinal Marco Cé, the retired patriarch of Venice, dedicated this morning's two meditations to faith in Christ, particularly in the trials the Church and its ministers are undergoing.
In the first meditation, the preacher said that Mark's Gospel "does not at all hide the fact that Jesus, after a first moment of enthusiasm and success in Galilee, had to face growing indifference and the distancing of many people, ever more numerous."
"On several occasions" Jesus laments the exhaustion he feels "in trying to make his message understood," said the retired patriarch, according to a Vatican Radio report.
"Therefore, we must not let ourselves be disturbed by our littleness," he told the retreatants, who include officials of the Roman Curia.
Referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the cardinal added: "She was no more than the handmaid of the Lord, but the Almighty made use precisely of her, of her silence and prayer, to realize the greatest things in history."
Storm proof faith
In the second meditation, the cardinal commented on the passage of Mark's Gospel in which Jesus and his disciples are in the boat in the midst of a violent storm.
He noted that Christ's reprimand might seem exaggerated, when counterpoised to the humanly understandable fear of the apostles, who were about to drown.
However, what the Gospel passage is meant to highlight is Jesus' desire to find in the apostles' hearts a faith that remains firm even in a storm, continued Cardinal Céé.
This episode is "a parable of the life of the Church," he said. "The latter lives in history, is marked by our weakness, and at times must face storms. In the century that just ended, the Church went through terrible storms and the century that has just begun appears very threatening."
"In times of trial, the Church must believe above all in her Lord, but one cannot remain under the cross without the strength of grace."
"Faith is the total giving of ourselves to God. It is a gift," the cardinal concluded. "But we love God," thanks to faith, even when "we cannot see anything, when we cannot hear anything."
"Our only guarantee is the love of the Father and the mercy of Jesus",
Cardinal Marco Cé concluded in a meditation delivered in the Apostolic Palace this morning. (March 9)
"Jesus asks us to trust unconditionally in his infinite mercy," added the cardinal, according to a report on Vatican Radio.
The three Gospel passages the patriarch used in his meditations this morning were Jesus' transfiguration, and the healings of the epileptic child and the blind beggar near Jericho.
The Transfiguration reveals "the intrinsic unity between the cross and glory," a relationship that the disciples had not understood, noted the preacher.
On Mount Tabor "the glorious reality of his person and of his relationship with the Father appeared. It was an anticipation of the Resurrection," he explained, commenting on Mark 9:1-9.
The presence of Moses and Elias with the Father indicated that in Jesus all the promises of the Old Covenant are fulfilled, Cardinal Céé said.
On the other hand, people were awaiting a powerful and glorious Messiah, who would liberate Israel from Roman oppression. Jesus shows that "the Father's plan is very different," said the preacher.
Speaking of the epileptic child, the patriarch recalled that the disciples were unable to free the child from his evil and that Christ acted in response to the father's faith: "Jesus asks us to trust unconditionally in his infinite mercy."
"Faithless generation," lamented Jesus addressing the disciples who were prey to the worldly conception of messianism. Christ explained to them that evil can only be expelled with prayer, confirming "the absolute primacy of divine action."
Cardinal Cé commented on the blind beggar from Jericho, in whose case faith was also decisive in recovering his sight. The blind man heard the Lord's arrival -- "faith comes from hearing" -- and his most profound desire was to see Jesus, the preacher said.
This is a very important lesson for today, said Cardinal Cé: "Faith is not only, or above all, information; faith is self-giving; it is communion with Jesus who gives himself.
"Let us ask the Lord for the grace to cure our blindness. Let us ask him to give us the truth, the only one that makes us truly free, and, at the same time, let us ask for the strength to make it concrete in our lives, following him on the path that leads to Jerusalem, certain that glory is already in the cross."
The cardinal added: "Spiritual exercises are a way to renew our baptismal faith. The object of Lent is to believe in Jesus, opening our life wide to him."
Last Full Day of Papal Spiritual Exercises: Jesus' Adherence to the Father's Will
MARCH 10, 2006 - Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane, his death on Calvary, and his resurrection were the focus of a pair of meditations on the last full day of the papal spiritual exercises.
Cardinal Marco Cé, the retired patriarch of Venice, continued today leading the meditations at the spiritual retreat in the Vatican attended by Benedict XVI and his aides in the Roman Curia.
This morning the cardinal began by reflecting on the solitude Jesus experienced in the Garden of Olives and his adherence to the Father's will.
"The agony of Gethsemane enables us to enter 'within' the mystery of the Passion, to understand the core and the core is this: He willingly gave himself up to death," indicated the preacher, as reported by Vatican Radio.
"The features that characterize Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane are the overwhelming psychological suffering, Jesus' total solitude, the collapse of all his work and, at the same time, the total and radical conformity of his will with the Father's," continued the cardinal.
Jesus remained "tragically alone" in Gethsemane as death approached, added the preacher. Jesus asks that he not have to drink the "cup" of the passion but accepts without reservations the Father's decision, the cardinal noted.
"There is no more human and painful prayer than this," Cardinal Cé said. "But at the same time there is no more filial act of abandonment than this."
"Jesus' death out of love realizes fully the plan of salvation willed by the Father from eternity," he said.
Light of Easter
The preacher noted that the centurion who was before the Crucified, seeing him die in this way, said: "'Truly he was the Son of God.' In the centurion's confession of faith one can already see the light of Easter shine."
In the second meditation, the preacher reflected on the first eight verses of the last chapter of Matthew's Gospel, in which is described the surprise of the women before the empty tomb.
The young man announced to them the resurrection of Christ and told them that he awaited his disciples in Galilee.
"This conclusion of Mark is undoubtedly surprising," the cardinal said. "The sending to Galilee, where the proclamation of the Gospel had begun, seems to make reference to a new beginning, that of the Church which leads the mystery of Jesus to fulfillment in time."
In this Gospel page "is the act of faith that makes us Christians," said the preacher.
The Gospel -- "good news" -- takes its name precisely from this moment: "that Jesus Christ, Son of God, is 'good news' depends precisely on the fact that the Crucified did not remain in the tomb but, on the contrary, rose," Cardinal Cé said.
"He whom all considered a failure is truly the Son of God, as he said," he added. "The whole Gospel of Mark is understood from the event of the Resurrection. … Evil is conquered and with it death, which is its seal."
Two thousand years later, every Christian should relive the women's surprise before the empty tomb, exhorted the cardinal.
"If faith in the resurrection of the Crucified is obfuscated, our hope collapses immediately. Evil remains as lord of history and we remain in the hands of despair," he stressed.
2. 2007 Papal Retreat Focuses on Sense of Sin, preached by Cardinal Biffi