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Facebook   HOMILIES, ANGELUS, AND OTHER SPIRITUAL TEXTSLast Update: 4/26/2009 7:14 PM
1/9/2008 5:06 PM
 
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Pope Benedict XVI today gave the first in what he announced to be a series of catecheses on St. Augustine. The Pope has been introducing the Fathers of the Church - eminent figures of the Church in the first centuries following the Apostles - in his weekly general audiences. Here is a translation of today's catechesis:



Dear brothers and sisters:

After the major Christmas festivities, I wish to return to our meditations on the Fathers of the Church and speak today of the greatest Father of the Latin Church, Saint Augustine.

A man of passion and faith, of supreme intelligence and tireless pastoral concern, this great saint and doctor of the Church is quite known, at least by fame, even to those who know nothing of Christianity or have not been exposed to it, because he has left a most profound imprint on the cultural life of the West and of all the world.

For his singular relevance, St. Augustine has had a vast influence. It can be said, on the one hand, that all the roads of Christian literature in Latin led to Hippo (today Annaba, on the coast of Algiers), the place where he was bishop; and on the other, that from that city of Roman Africa, where he was bishop from 395 until he died in 430, many other roads of Christianity and of Western culture itself branched out successively.

Often a civilization finds a spirit so great that embodies its values and exalts its intrinsic riches, inventing ideas and forms that would nourish posterity, as Paul VI underscored once: "One can say that all the thought of antiquity converged in his work and from it came currents of thinking that pervade all the doctrinal tradition of succeeding centuries" (AAS, 62, 1970, p. 26).

Augustine is also the Father of the Church who has left us the greatest number of works. His biographer Possidius said it was impossible to think that one man could write so much in one lifetime.
We will speak about these different works in future meetings.

Today, our attention shall be on his life, which can be reconstructed very well from his writings, especially from his Confessions, that extraordinary spiritual autobiography, written in praise of God, which is his most famous work.

Rightly so, because the Augustinian Confessions, with their attention to interiority and psychology, constituting a unique model in Western literature, is not only Western, and not even merely religious, but is also quite modern.

This attention to the spiritual life, to the mystery of the ego, the mystery of God which is hidden in that I, is extraordinary and unprecedented, and which will always remain, so to speak, a spiritual 'summit'.

But to get back to his life: Augustine was born in Tagaste - in the province of Numidia, Roman Africa - on November 13, 354, to Patricius, a pagan who later became a catechumen, and Monica, a fervent Christian.

This passionate woman, venerated as a saint, exercised a very great influence on her son whom she educated in the Christian faith. Augustine received the salt that was a sign of acceptance to the catechumenate [those preparing for baptism].

He was always fascinated by the figure of Jesus. In fact, he says he had always loved Jesus, but that he grew ever farther away from the ecclesial faith, from ecclesial practice, which happens to many young people today.

Augustine had a brother, Navigius, and a sister whose name we do not know and who, after she was widowed, became the head of a female monastery.

The young Augustine, with a lively intelligence, received a good education, even if he was not always an exemplary student. Nonetheless, he studied grammar well, first in his native city, then in Madaura, and from 370, he studied rhetoric in Carthage, capital of Roman Africa.

He came to have perfect mastery of the Latin language, although he did not manage to gain the same mastery of Greek, and he never learned Punic, the language of his homeland.

It was in Carthage that he first read Hortensius, written by Cicero but since lost, which started Augustine on his road to conversion. The Ciceronian text awakened in him a love for wisdom, as he would write, as Bishop, in Confessions: "That book truly changed my way of thinking", such that "suddenly every vain hope lost value and I desired, with incredible ardor, the immortality of wisdom" (III, 4,7).

But since he was convinced that without Jesus, one cannot say that one has really found the truth, and because in that fascinating book (Hortensius), Jesus was lacking, immediately after reading it, he started to read Scriptures, the Bible.

But he was disappointed. Not only because he found the Latin translation inadequate, but also because he found the contents themselves unsatisfactory. The Scripture narratives on wars and other human events did not reach the heights of philosophy nor have the splendor of the search for truth which he thought was appropriate.

Nevertheless, he did not wish to live without God, and so he looked for a religion that would answer his desire for truth and his desire to come close to Jesus.

And so he fell into the net of the Manichaeans, who presented themselves as Christians and promised a completely rational religion. They affirmed that the world is divided into two principles, good and evil, and that this explained all the complexities of human history.

Augustine liked the dualistic morality because it demanded very high morals of the 'elect'- and for those who, like him, allowed a life that was very appropriate to the times, especially for a young man. So he became a Manichaean, convinced at the time that he had found the synthesis of reason, search for truth and love of Jesus Christ.

It even had a concrete advantage for his own life: belonging to the Manichaeans opened up easy career prospects. To belong to a religion which counted with many influential personages also allowed him to continue a relationship he had started with a woman and to advance in his career.

With the lady, he had a son, Adeodatus, whom he loved very much, was highly intelligent, and would later be present a Augustine's preparation for baptism near Lake Como, taking part in those Dialogues that St. Augustine has left us. The boy, unfortunately, died early.

After teaching grammar for almost 20 years in his native city, Augustine returned to Carthage where he became a brilliant and celebrated teacher of rhetoric. In time, he started to grow away from Manichaeism, which disillusioned him precisely from the intellectual point of view, since it was unable to resolve his doubts.

He therefore went to Rome and later Milan, where the imperial court resided then, and where he obtained a prestigious post thanks to the interest and recommendation of the Prefect of Rome, the pagan
Simmacus, who was hostile to the Bishop of Milan, Ambrose.

In Milan, Augustine developed the habit of listening - initially, with the goal of enriching his own rhetorical lore - to the beautiful preachings of Bishop Ambrose, who was the imperial representative for northern Italy. The African rhetoric master was fascinated by the great Milanese prelate - not only for his rhetoric, but above all, because what he said touched him to the heart more and more.

A major problem with the Old Testament - its lack of rhetorical beauty and of philosophical elevation - was resolved in Ambrose's preaching, thanks to his typological interpretation. Augustine understood then that the Old Testament is a way to Jesus Christ.

So he found the key to perceive the philosophical beauty and profundity of the Old Testament and understood the unity of the mystery of Christ with history, and even that synthesis of philosophy, reason and faith in the Logos, Christ the eternal Word made flesh.

Before long, Augustine realized that the allegorical reading of Scriptures and the neo-Platonic philosophy practised by the Bishop of Milan allowed him to resolve the intellectual difficulties which, when he first approached the Biblical texts when he was younger, seemed to be insurmountable.

Thus, Augustine followed up his readings of the philosophers with a rereading of Scriptures, especially the Pauline letters. His conversion to Christianity, on August 15, 386, was therefore the culmination of a long and tormented interior itinerary, about which we shall talk further in a future catechesis.

The African had moved to the countryside north of Milan, near Lake Como - with his mother Monica, his son Adeodatus, and a small group of friends - to prepare himself for baptism. At age 32, Augustine was baptized by Ambrose on April 24, 387, during the Easter vigil, at the Cathedral of Mulan.

After his baptism, Augustine decided to return to Africa with his friends, with the idea of living a monastic communal life in the service of God.

But at Ostia [port of Rome], while waiting to sail for Africa, his mother suddenly took ill and died shortly afterwards, breaking her son's heart.

Back in his homeland, the convert settled down in Hippo to set up a monastery as planned. But in this North African coastal city, despite his resistances, he was ordained a priest in 391 and then started with some friends the monastic life he had been thinking about, dividing his time between prayer, study and preaching.

All he wanted was to serve the truth, he did not feel a calling to pastoral work, but later he understood that his calling from God was to be a shepherd of others, and thus to offer the gift of truth to others.

In Hippo, four years later, in 395, he was consecrated Bishop. Continuing to deepen his study of Scriptures and of the traditional Cristian texts, Augustine was an exemplary bishop in his tireless pastoral commitment.

He preached several times a week to the faithful, helped orphans and poor people, attended to the formation of the clergy and to organizing female and male monasteries.

In short, the former rhetoretician affirmed himself as one of the most important Christian leaders of his time. Very active in the governance of his diocese - with remarkable civilian consequences even - during more than 35 years in the episcopate, the Bishop of Hippo, in fact, exercised a vast influence in the leadership of the Church in Roman Africa, and more generally, in the Christianity of his time, confronting religious tendencies and tenacious, disintegrative heresies like Manichaeism, Donatism and Pelagianism, which threatened Christian faith in the one God rich with mercy.

And Augustine entrusted himself to God every day, to the very end of his life. Seized with a fever, while Hippo was besieged for almost three months by barbarian invaders, the Bishop - we are told by his friend and biogrpaher Possidius in Vita Augustini - asked to have the penitential psalms written in large letters and "had the pages posted on the walls of his room so that he could read them from his sickbed, crying uninterruptedly" (31,2).

Thus passed the last days in the life of Augustine, who died on August 28, 430, before he turned 76. Our next meetings will be dedicated to his works, his message and his interior development.



This is the synthesis the Pope gave in English:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our weekly catechesis, we now turn to the towering figure of Saint Augustine of Hippo.

The great intellectual heritage of antiquity found expression in Augustine’s many writings, which then became a rich source of inspiration and teaching for centuries to come.

Augustine’s spiritual autobiography – The Confessions – tells the story of his Christian upbringing, his secular education, his decision to devote his life to the pursuit of truth, and his eventual abandonment of the faith.

Attracted at first by Manichean dualism, he gradually recovered the faith of his childhood, thanks to the prayers of his mother, Saint Monica, and the brilliant teaching of Saint Ambrose, then Bishop of Milan.

The Confessions recount the tormented interior journey which led to his moral and intellectual conversion, culminating in his baptism by Ambrose. Returning to Africa to lead a monastic life, Augustine became a priest and then the Bishop of Hippo.

In his thirty years as Bishop, he proved himself an exemplary pastor, an assiduous preacher and an influential champion of the Catholic faith. In coming weeks, we will turn our attention to the writings and the thought of this great Doctor of the Church.

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, especially the student groups from Australia and the United States. I greet the group of deacons from the Archdiocese of Dubuque, and I thank the choir for their praise of God in song. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings of joy and peace.


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1/13/2008 4:21 PM
 
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ANGELUS OF 1/13/08

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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the noonday Angelus today:

Today's feast of the Baptism of Jesus closes the liturgical season of Christmas. We now meet the Baby, whom the Magi from the East came to adore in Bethlehem, offering him their symbolic gifts, as an adult, at the time when he came to be baptized on the river Jordan by the great prophet John (cfr Mt 3,13).

The Gospel notes that when Jesus, having received baptism, emerged from the water, the heavens opened and the Holy spirit descended on him like a dove (cfr Mt 3,16). A voice from heaven was heard then, saying: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3,17).

That was Jesus's first public manifestation, after 30 years of a hidden life in Nazareth. Besides the Baptist, eyewitnesses of this singular event were John's disciples, some of whom later became followers of Christ (cfr Jn 1,35-40).

The event was simultaneously a Christophany and a theophany: First of all, Jesus manifested himself as the Christ, the Greek term for the Jewish Messiah, which means 'the anointed'. He was not anointed with oil in the manner of the kings and high priests of Israel, but with the Holy Spirit.

At the same time, together with the Son of God, there appeared the signs of the heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit.

What is the significance of this act, which jesus wanted to fulfill - over the objection of the Baptist - to obey the will of God (cfr Mt 3, 14-15)? The profound meaning of it would emerge only at the end of Christ's earthly existence, in his death and resurrection.

By having himself baptized by John together with sinners, Jesus started to take upon himself the weight of all mankind's sins, as the Lamb of God who 'takes away' the sins of the world (cfr Jn 1,29). A task which he brought to fulfillment on the Cross, when he received another Baptism (cfr Lk 12,50).

In dying, he 'immersed' himself in the love of God and effused the Holy Spirit so that believers in him could be reborn from that inexhaustible spring of new and eternal life.

All of Christ's mission is summed up in this: to baptize us in the Holy Spirit to free us from slavery to death and 'open the heavens to us', that is, access to true and full living, which shall be "a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy" (Spe salvi, 12).

This is what happened, too, for the 13 babies to whom I administered the sacrament of Baptism this morning in the Sistine Chapel. For them and for their families, let us invoke the maternal protection of the Most Blessed Mary. and let us pray for all Christians, so that they may understand ever more the gift of Baptism and commit themselves to living it with consistency, bearing witness to the love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.


After the Angelus prayers, the Holy Father had a special message:

Today, we celebrate the World Day for Migrants and Refugees, which this year focuses on young migrants. Indeed, there are numerous young people who are impelled by various reasons to live far from their families and countries.

Children and minors are particularly at risk. Some children and adolescents have grown up in refugee camps, and even they have a right to a future.

I express my appreciation for all those who are committed to work for the benefit of these young persons, their families asnd for their integration into schools and work.

I invite church communities to welcome these young people and their parents, seeking to understand their stories and to help them find their place.

Dear young people who are 'displaced', be involved in constructing with your contemporaries a more just and fraternal society, by complying with your duties, respecting the law and not allowing yourself to be carried away by violence.

I entrust you all to Mary, Mother of all mankind.


Later, he said in English:

To all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims here today, I extend affectionate greetings.

On this feast of the Lord’s Baptism, Jesus descends into the waters of the Jordan, taking upon himself the weight of our sins; then he rises from the water, as the Spirit comes down upon him and the Father’s voice declares: "This is my beloved Son".

Let us rejoice that the Son of God came to share our human condition, so that we might rise with him to everlasting life.

Upon all who are here today, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.



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1/16/2008 3:42 PM
 
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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis today at the General Audience held in Aula Paolo VI.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, as last Wednesday, I wish to speak of the great Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine.

Four years before he died, he wanted to name his successor. So on Sept. 26, 426, he assembled the faithful in the Basilica of Peace in Hippo, to present his choice to the faithful.

He said: "In this life we are all mortal, but the last day of life for anyone is always uncertain. Nevertheless, in our childhood, we expect to reach adolescence; in adolescence, young age; in young age, adulthood; in adulthood, maturity; in maturity, old age. We are not sure of reaching all these stages, but we hope. Old age, on the other hand, has nothing more to look forward to, and its own length is uncertain... By the will of God, I came to this city in the vigor of my life, but now my youth has passed, and I am an old man" (Ep 213,1).

At this point, Augustine gave the name of his designated successor, the priest Heraclius. The assembly erupted in approving applause, repeating twenty times, "Thanks be to God! Praise be to Christ!"

With other acclamations, the faithful greeted what Augustine said about his intentions for his future: he wanted to dedicate the years left to him to a more intense study of Sacred Scriptures (cfr Ep 213, 6).

In fact, there followed four years of extraordinary intellectual activity. He was able to finish important works, he undertook some more which were less demanding, and he held public debates with heretics - he always sought dialog - and intervened to promote peace in the African provinces besieged by barbarian tribes from the south.

This is the context in which he wrote to the Count Darius, who had come to Africa to repair a dispute between Count Boniface and the imperial court, which the Mauritanian tribes were taking advantage of to make their incursions.

"The greatest title of glory," he wrote, "is to kill war itself with words, instead of killing men by the sword, and to obtain and maintain peace with peace, and not through war. Certainly. even those who fight wars, if they are good men, want peace, but at the cost of spilling blood. You, on the contrary, have been sent here precisely to prevent that anyone should seek to shed the blood of others" (Ep 229,2).

Unfortunately, the hope for a pacification of the African territories was destined to be disappointed: in May 429, the Vandals, invited to Africa by Boniface himself out of spite, went beyond the Strait of Gibraltar and poured into Mauritania. The invasion quickly spread through the other rich provinces of Africa.

In May and June 430, "the destroyers of the Roman Empire" as Possidius described the barbarians (Vita, 30, 1), had surrounded Hippo, which they besieged.

Boniface had sought refuge in Hippo, having reconciled too late with the court, and now he tried in vain to keep the barbarians at bay. Possidius describes the sorrow of Augustine: "More than usual, tears became his bread day and night, and having now reached the end of his days, bitterness and mourning marked his old age" (Vita 28,6).

He explained: "In fact, he saw, this man of God, the massacres and destruction in the city; the houses in the countryside levelled and their inhabitants killed by the enemy, or forced to flee in confusion; the churches deprived of priests and ministers; the sacred virgins and the religious dispersed all over - some of them placed under torture, others killed with the sword, others made prisoner, losing the integrity of body and soul and even their faith, reduced to a long and sorrowful slavery at the hands of the enemy" (ibid., 28,8).

Even if he was old and tired, Augustine nevertheless stayed on the job, comforting himself and others with prayer and meditation on the mysterious designs of Providence. He spoke at this time about the "aging of the world' - and the Roman world at that time was old - he spoke of this aging, as he did years earlier to comfort the refugees who had come from Italy, when the Goths under Alaric invaded Rome in 410.

In old age, he said, ailments abound: coughing, colds, blindness, anxiety, exhaustion. But if the world grows old, Christ is perpetually young. Thus, his invitation: "Do not refuse to be rejuvenated in union with Christ, even in an old world. He tells you, Do not be afraid, your youth will be renewed as that of the eagle" (cfr Serm. 81,8).

Therefore, the Christian should not allow himself to be knocked down even in difficult situations, but to adapt himself in order to help those who are in need. It is what the great Doctor suggested, responding to the Bishop of Tiabe, Honoratus, who had asked him if, under pressure from the barbarian invasions, a bishop, a priest or any man of the Church could flee to save his life: "When the danger is common for all - for bishops, clergy and laymen - those who have need of others should not be abandoned by those whom they need. In this case, they should all transfer to safer places. But if anyone has to remain, they should not be abandoned by those who have the duty to assist them with the sacred ministry, in such a way that either they are saved together, or together suffer what our Father wills them to do" (Ep. 228,2).

He concluded: "This is the supreme test of charity" (ibid.,3). How can we not recognize in these words the heroic message that so many priests, in the course of centuries, have grasped and made their own?

Meanwhile, the city of Hippo resisted. The monastery-house of Augustine had opened its doors to welcome his fellow bishops who had asked for hospitality. Among them was Possidius himself, who was already one of his disciples, and therefore he was able to leave us his eyewitness account of Augustine's last tragic days.

"In the third month of that siege," he wrote, "he was laid up in bed with a fever. It was his last ailment" (Vita, 29,3).

The sainted old man used his finally free time to dedicate himself more intensely to prayer. He used to say that no one - bishop, religious or layman - no matter how irrepressible in life, could face death without adequate penance. That is why, weeping, he always repeated the penitential psalms that he had recited so many times with his flock" (cfr ibid., 31,2).

The more his condition worsened, the more the dying bishop felt the need for solitude and prayer: "In order not to be disturbed during his meditations, he asked - about 10 days before his soul finally left his body - not to let anyone enter his room outside of the times the doctors came to visit him or when his meals were brought in. His wishes were followed to the letter, asnd all that time, he spent in prayer" (ibid., 31,3).

His life ended on August 26, 430. His great heart finally rested in God. "For the deposition of his body," Possidius tells us, "the Sacrifice was offered to God, which we attended, and then he was buried" (Vita 31,5).

His body, at an unknown date, was transferred to Sardinia, and from there, around 725, to Pavia, at the Basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d'oro, where he rests today.

His first biographer had this concluding judgment of him: "He left the Church a numerous clergy, as well as monasteries for men and women that were full of persons who had vowed chastity and obedience to their superiors; and libraries filled with books and the discourses by himself and other saints - from which we can see his merit and greatness, by the grace of God, in the service of the Church, and in which the faithful will always find him alive" (Possidius, Vita, 31,8).

It is a verdict we can share: in his writings, even we can "find him alive'. When I read the writings of St. Augustine, I do not have the impression that this is a man who has been dead 1600 years, but I feel him as a man of today: a friend, a contemporary who speaks to me, who speaks to us, with a faith that is always fresh and actual.

In St. Augustine who speaks to us, who speaks to me, in his writings, we see the permanent actuality of his faith, the faith that comes from Christ, eternal word incarnate, Son of God and son of man.

We can see that this faith is not a thing of the past, even if it was preached in the past. It is always of today, because Christ is - yesterday, today and always. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

In this way, St. Augustine encourages us to entrust ourselves to this Christ who is ever living and to find thereby the way of life.


Later, he synthesized the catechesis in English:


Our catechesis this week is again centred on the life and writings of the great Doctor of the Church, Saint Augustine.

Some four years before he died, Augustine designated his successor in the See of Hippo, desiring to devote the rest of his life to the study of the Scriptures. Nevertheless, those proved to be years of extraordinary activity, as the aged Bishop sought to reconcile divided Christians and to bring peace to the troubled African provinces of the Empire.

During the Vandal invasion of Africa, Augustine found solace in reflection on the mystery of God’s providence. The world, he said, is growing old and failing, yet Christ remains eternally young and brings renewed youth to those who put their faith in him.

Amid the calamities of the time, he encouraged the clergy not to abandon their flock, but to offer the supreme witness of Christian charity. Augustine died in 431, during the siege of Hippo, having devoted his last days to penance and prayer. At last his great heart found its rest in God.

Today, as in past centuries, may Augustine’s example and the rich treasury of his writings be a source of instruction, inspiration and strength as the Church makes her pilgrim way to the fullness of God’s Kingdom.


At the end, he delivered this special message:

The day after tomorrow, January 18, begins the usual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which has a singular value this year because it has been 100 years since it was first celebrated.

The theme is St. Paul's invitation to the Thessalonians: "Pray without ceasing" (Thes 5,17) - an invitation which I gladly make my own and address to the whole church.

Yes, it is necessary to pray without let-up, asking God insistently for the great gift of unity among all the disciples of the Lord.

May the inexhaustible power of the Holy Spirit stimulate us to a sincere commitment towards this unity, so that we may all profess together that Jesus is the only Savior of the world.

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1/23/2008 2:52 PM
 
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ANGELUS OF 1/20/08
Sorry - I had translated this as soon as the text became available that day, and then , it got lost when I punched the Reply button - then since I had to go back to the NEWS... thread for the coverage, I forgot I never did post the full translation. which I will do when I can. I think ZENIT posted one.


Translating today's catechesis now.


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/23/2008 2:52 PM]
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1/23/2008 4:25 PM
 
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AUDIENCE OF 1/23/08

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis today. He interrupted the cycle on the Fathers of the Church [currently, abotu St. Augustine] to speak about Christian unity.



Dear brothers and sisters,

We are celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which ends on Friday, January 25, feast of the conversion of the Apostle Paul.

Christians from various Churches and ecclesial communities are gathering together these days in a concerted invocation to ask the Lord Jesus for the re-establishment of full unity among all his disciples.

It is a concerted plea, made with one soul and one heart, responding to the desire of the Redeemer himself, who at the Last Supper, addressed the Father with these words: "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me" (Jn 17,20-21).

Asking for the grace of unity, Christians join themselves in the prayer of Christ himself and are committed to work actively so that all of mankind may welcome and recognize him as the only Shepherd and unique Lord, and thus experience the joy of his love.

This year, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity takes on a particular value and significance because it has been 100 years since it was first observed.

It began as a truly fertile intuition. In 1908, Fr. Paul Wattson, an American Anglican, who later entered the Catholic Church, founder of the Society of the Atonement (community of the Brothers and Sisters of Atonement), together with an Episcopalian, Fr. Spencer Jones, launched the prophetic idea of an octave of prayers for Christian unity. The idea was welcomed by the Archbishop of New York and the Apostolic Nuncio.

The appeal to pray for Christian unity was extended in 1916 to the entire Catholic Church, thanks to my predecessor Benedict XV, with the Papal Brief Ad perpetuam rei memoriam.

The initiative, which had meanwhile aroused not little interest, took hold progressively everywhere, and with time, developed its own structure, owing most of its evolution to the contributions of the Abbe Coutourier (1936).

Later, with the prophetic winds of Vatican-II, awareness grew even more of the urgency for Christian unity. The Conciliar sessions have been followed by a journey of patient quest for full communion among all Christians - an ecumenical journey which, from year to year, has found in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, one of its most defining and profitable moments.

A hundred years since the first appeal to pray together for unity, this Week of Prayer has been consolidated into a tradition, conserving the spirit as well as the dates chosen at the beginning by Fr. Wattson.

In fact, he chose the dates for their symbolic character. In the liturgical calendar at the time, January 18 was the feast of Peter's Chair, which is the firm foundation and sure guarantee of unity among the entire People of God, while on January 25, then as now, the liturgy celebrates the feast of the conversion of St. Paul.

While we give thanks to the Lord for these 100 years of prayer and common commitment among so many disciples of Christ, let us remember with gratitude the man who conceived this providential spiritual initiative, Fr. Wattson, and together with him, all those who have promoted and enriched the practice with their contributions, making it a common patrimony for all Christians.

Recently, I recalled that Vatican-II had dedicated great attention to the issue of Christian unity, especially with its decree on ecumenism (Unitatis redintegratio), which, among others, underscored forcefully the role and the importance of praying for unity.

Prayer, the Council noted, is at the very heart of the ecumenical journey. "This conversion of the heart and this sanctity of living, together with private and public prayers for the unity of Christians, should be considered the soul of the entire ecumenical movement" (UR,8).

Thanks, in fact, to this spiritual ecumenism - sanctity of living, conversion of the heart, private and public prayers - the common quest for unity has registered in the past decades a great development, diversified in multiple initiatives: from reciprocal recognition to fraternal contacts among the members of the various Churches and ecclesial communities, with ever more friendly conversations and collaboration in various fields, and theological dialog in search of concrete forms of communion and collaboration.

But what has animated and continues to give life to this journey towards full communion among all Christians is prayer above all.

"Pray without ceasing" (1 Thes 5,17) is the theme of the Week this year. It is also the invitation that never ceases to echo in our communities, so that prayer may be light, strength, and orientation for our steps, in an attitude of humble and obedient listening to our one Lord.

In the second place, Vatican-II placed emphasis on common prayer, that which is jointly raised by Catholics and other Christians to our one heavenly Father. The decree on ecumenism says in this regard: "These prayers offered in common are doubtless a very effective means to beseech for Christian unity" (UR, 8).

And this is because, in praying together, the Christian communities place themselves together before the Lord, and aware of the contradictions generated by the divisions among them, they manifest the will to obey his will in having recourse to his omnipotent help. The decree adds that such prayers are "a genuine manifestation of the links with which Catholics continue to be joined to their separated brothers" (ibid.)

Praying together is therefore not a voluntaristic or purely sociologic act, but an expression of the faith that unites all the disciples of Christ.

In the course of years, a fecund collaboration has been established in this field, and since 1968, the former Secretariat for Christian Unity, which became the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Unity among Christians, and the Ecumenical Council of Churches have been raising together funding for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, to be spread jointly around the world to help zones which would never be able to do it on their own.

The Conciliar decree on ecumenism refers to the prayer for unity towards the end when it affirms that the Council is aware that "this holy proposition to reconcile all Christians in the unity of the Church of Christ, the one and only, surpasses all human forces and gifts. Therefore, it places all its hope in the Christ's prayer for the Church" (Ur 24).

It is this awareness of our human limitations which impels us to trustful abandon in the hands of the Lord. The profound sense of this Week of Prayer is precisely that of relying firmly on the prayer of Christ, that in his Church, everyone continues to pray that "all may be one ... so that the world may believe.." (Jn 17,21).

Today we feel very strongly the realism of these words. The world suffers from the absence of God, for the inaccessibility of God, it has a desire to know the face of God. But could men today know this face of God in the face of Jesus Christ if we Christians are divided, if we preach against one another, if we are against each other?

Only in unity can we truly show this world - which needs it - the face of God, the face of Christ.

It is also evident that we will not obtain this unity with our own strategies, with dialog and all that we do - even if all that is necessary. What we can obtain is our willingness and ability to welcome this unity when the Lord grants it. And that is the sense of praying: to open our hearts, to create in us that availability which opens the way to Christ.

In the liturgy of the early Church, after the homily, the Bishop or the principal celebrant would say: Conversi ad Dominum - turn to the Lord. Upon which he himself and everyone else would stand up and 'face East'. Everyone facing towards Christ. Only if we convert, only if we turn towards Christ, in this common looking to Christ, can we find the gift of unity.

We can say that it was the prayer for unity that animated and accompanied the various stages of the ecumenical movement, especially since Vatican-II. In this time, the Catholic Church has entered in contact with the various Churches and ecclesial communities of the East and the West through different forms of dialog, facing with each of them those theological and historical problems that emerged in the course of centuries and had become established as elements of division.

Indeed, the Lord has granted that such friendly relations have improved our reciprocal knowledge and intensified communion, while at the same time, clarifying the perception of the problems which remain open and which foment division.

During this Week, let us give thanks to God who has supported and illumined the path we have taken so far, a fecund undertaking that the conciliar decree on ecumenism says "emerged by the grace of the Holy Spirit" and "growing more ample every day" (UR 1).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us welcome the invitation to 'pray without ceasing' that the Apostle Paul addressed to the first Christians of Thessalonia, a community that he himself had founded. Precisely because he was aware that dissensions had arisen, he wanted to ask them to be patient with everyone, to guard against answering evil with evil, instead looking always for what is good among them and in everyone, remaining joyful in very circumstance, joyful because the Lord is near.

May the advice from St. Paul to the Thessalonians inspire today the behavior of Christians in the field of ecumenical relations. Above all, he told them: "Live in peace among yourselves" and then, "Pray without ceasing, and in all circumstances, give thanks" (cfr 1 Thes 5,13-18).

Let us ourselves welcome this urgent exhortation by the Apostle, both to thank the Lord for the progress that has been achieved in the ecumenical movement, and to implore him for full unity.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, obtain for all the disciples of her divine Son that they may live together in peace and reciprocal charity as before, in order to render a convincing testimony of reconciliation before the entire world, to make the face of God accessible in the face of Christ, who is God-with-us, the God of peace and unity.



Later, for English-speaking pilgrims, he said:


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This week, Christians throughout the world celebrate the Hundredth Anniversary of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, initiated by Father Paul Wattson, founder of the Society of the Atonement.

The theme chosen for this year is Saint Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians to "pray always" (1 Thes 5:17). According to the Second Vatican Council, prayer and holiness of life are "the soul of the whole ecumenical movement" (Unitatis Redintegratio, 8).

When Christians from various communities come together to pray in common, they acknowledge that unity cannot be achieved by human strength alone. Only by relying on God’s grace can they live according to Jesus’s prayer that "they may all be one" (Jn 17:20-21).

I therefore invite all Christians to render fitting thanks to Almighty God for the progress achieved thus far along the path of ecumenism, and to persevere as they strive toward unity so that "the world may believe" (Jn 17:21) that Jesus is the only Son sent by the Father.

I extend a cordial welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s audience, including students and staff from Saint Mary’s High School in Sydney, and members of a delegation from the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders. May God bestow abundant blessings upon all of you!


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1/23/2008 4:25 PM
 
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AUDIENCE OF 1/23/08

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis today. He interrupted the cycle on the Fathers of the Church [currently, abotu St. Augustine] to speak about Christian unity.



Dear brothers and sisters,

We are celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which ends on Friday, January 25, feast of the conversion of the Apostle Paul.

Christians from various Churches and ecclesial communities are gathering together these days in a concerted invocation to ask the Lord Jesus for the re-establishment of full unity among all his disciples.

It is a concerted plea, made with one soul and one heart, responding to the desire of the Redeemer himself, who at the Last Supper, addressed the Father with these words: "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me" (Jn 17,20-21).

Asking for the grace of unity, Christians join themselves in the prayer of Christ himself and are committed to work actively so that all of mankind may welcome and recognize him as the only Shepherd and unique Lord, and thus experience the joy of his love.

This year, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity takes on a particular value and significance because it has been 100 years since it was first observed.

It began as a truly fertile intuition. In 1908, Fr. Paul Wattson, an American Anglican, who later entered the Catholic Church, founder of the Society of the Atonement (community of the Brothers and Sisters of Atonement), together with an Episcopalian, Fr. Spencer Jones, launched the prophetic idea of an octave of prayers for Christian unity. The idea was welcomed by the Archbishop of New York and the Apostolic Nuncio.

The appeal to pray for Christian unity was extended in 1916 to the entire Catholic Church, thanks to my predecessor Benedict XV, with the Papal Brief Ad perpetuam rei memoriam.

The initiative, which had meanwhile aroused not little interest, took hold progressively everywhere, and with time, developed its own structure, owing most of its evolution to the contributions of the Abbe Coutourier (1936).

Later, with the prophetic winds of Vatican-II, awareness grew even more of the urgency for Christian unity. The Conciliar sessions have been followed by a journey of patient quest for full communion among all Christians - an ecumenical journey which, from year to year, has found in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, one of its most defining and profitable moments.

A hundred years since the first appeal to pray together for unity, this Week of Prayer has been consolidated into a tradition, conserving the spirit as well as the dates chosen at the beginning by Fr. Wattson.

In fact, he chose the dates for their symbolic character. In the liturgical calendar at the time, January 18 was the feast of Peter's Chair, which is the firm foundation and sure guarantee of unity among the entire People of God, while on January 25, then as now, the liturgy celebrates the feast of the conversion of St. Paul.

While we give thanks to the Lord for these 100 years of prayer and common commitment among so many disciples of Christ, let us remember with gratitude the man who conceived this providential spiritual initiative, Fr. Wattson, and together with him, all those who have promoted and enriched the practice with their contributions, making it a common patrimony for all Christians.

Recently, I recalled that Vatican-II had dedicated great attention to the issue of Christian unity, especially with its decree on ecumenism (Unitatis redintegratio), which, among others, underscored forcefully the role and the importance of praying for unity.

Prayer, the Council noted, is at the very heart of the ecumenical journey. "This conversion of the heart and this sanctity of living, together with private and public prayers for the unity of Christians, should be considered the soul of the entire ecumenical movement" (UR,8).

Thanks, in fact, to this spiritual ecumenism - sanctity of living, conversion of the heart, private and public prayers - the common quest for unity has registered in the past decades a great development, diversified in multiple initiatives: from reciprocal recognition to fraternal contacts among the members of the various Churches and ecclesial communities, with ever more friendly conversations and collaboration in various fields, and theological dialog in search of concrete forms of communion and collaboration.

But what has animated and continues to give life to this journey towards full communion among all Christians is prayer above all.

"Pray without ceasing" (1 Thes 5,17) is the theme of the Week this year. It is also the invitation that never ceases to echo in our communities, so that prayer may be light, strength, and orientation for our steps, in an attitude of humble and obedient listening to our one Lord.

In the second place, Vatican-II placed emphasis on common prayer, that which is jointly raised by Catholics and other Christians to our one heavenly Father. The decree on ecumenism says in this regard: "These prayers offered in common are doubtless a very effective means to beseech for Christian unity" (UR, 8).

And this is because, in praying together, the Christian communities place themselves together before the Lord, and aware of the contradictions generated by the divisions among them, they manifest the will to obey his will in having recourse to his omnipotent help. The decree adds that such prayers are "a genuine manifestation of the links with which Catholics continue to be joined to their separated brothers" (ibid.)

Praying together is therefore not a voluntaristic or purely sociologic act, but an expression of the faith that unites all the disciples of Christ.

In the course of years, a fecund collaboration has been established in this field, and since 1968, the former Secretariat for Christian Unity, which became the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Unity among Christians, and the Ecumenical Council of Churches have been raising together funding for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, to be spread jointly around the world to help zones which would never be able to do it on their own.

The Conciliar decree on ecumenism refers to the prayer for unity towards the end when it affirms that the Council is aware that "this holy proposition to reconcile all Christians in the unity of the Church of Christ, the one and only, surpasses all human forces and gifts. Therefore, it places all its hope in the Christ's prayer for the Church" (Ur 24).

It is this awareness of our human limitations which impels us to trustful abandon in the hands of the Lord. The profound sense of this Week of Prayer is precisely that of relying firmly on the prayer of Christ, that in his Church, everyone continues to pray that "all may be one ... so that the world may believe.." (Jn 17,21).

Today we feel very strongly the realism of these words. The world suffers from the absence of God, for the inaccessibility of God, it has a desire to know the face of God. But could men today know this face of God in the face of Jesus Christ if we Christians are divided, if we preach against one another, if we are against each other?

Only in unity can we truly show this world - which needs it - the face of God, the face of Christ.

It is also evident that we will not obtain this unity with our own strategies, with dialog and all that we do - even if all that is necessary. What we can obtain is our willingness and ability to welcome this unity when the Lord grants it. And that is the sense of praying: to open our hearts, to create in us that availability which opens the way to Christ.

In the liturgy of the early Church, after the homily, the Bishop or the principal celebrant would say: Conversi ad Dominum - turn to the Lord. Upon which he himself and everyone else would stand up and 'face East'. Everyone facing towards Christ. *. Only if we convert, only if we turn towards Christ, in this common looking to Christ, can we find the gift of unity.

[Fr. Z on his blog notes that in the actual recording of the Pope's words, he uses the present tense in this sentence, where the printed text used the past. Because of the context, and without having heard the actual delivery, I translated it as a 'habitual [past' - 'would stand up...' - continuing to the present - 'Everyone facing....' - which, I thought, convey the sense of both continuing relevance and actuality.

Fr. Z's translation: "Then he himself and all there rise [text: rose] up and turn [text: turned] themselves toward the East. They all want [text: wanted] to gaze toward Christ."
]



We can say that it was the prayer for unity that animated and accompanied the various stages of the ecumenical movement, especially since Vatican-II. In this time, the Catholic Church has entered in contact with the various Churches and ecclesial communities of the East and the West through different forms of dialog, facing with each of them those theological and historical problems that emerged in the course of centuries and had become established as elements of division.

Indeed, the Lord has granted that such friendly relations have improved our reciprocal knowledge and intensified communion, while at the same time, clarifying the perception of the problems which remain open and which foment division.

During this Week, let us give thanks to God who has supported and illumined the path we have taken so far, a fecund undertaking that the conciliar decree on ecumenism says "emerged by the grace of the Holy Spirit" and "growing more ample every day" (UR 1).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us welcome the invitation to 'pray without ceasing' that the Apostle Paul addressed to the first Christians of Thessalonia, a community that he himself had founded. Precisely because he was aware that dissensions had arisen, he wanted to ask them to be patient with everyone, to guard against answering evil with evil, instead looking always for what is good among them and in everyone, remaining joyful in very circumstance, joyful because the Lord is near.

May the advice from St. Paul to the Thessalonians inspire today the behavior of Christians in the field of ecumenical relations. Above all, he told them: "Live in peace among yourselves" and then, "Pray without ceasing, and in all circumstances, give thanks" (cfr 1 Thes 5,13-18).

Let us ourselves welcome this urgent exhortation by the Apostle, both to thank the Lord for the progress that has been achieved in the ecumenical movement, and to implore him for full unity.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, obtain for all the disciples of her divine Son that they may live together in peace and reciprocal charity as before, in order to render a convincing testimony of reconciliation before the entire world, to make the face of God accessible in the face of Christ, who is God-with-us, the God of peace and unity.



Later, for English-speaking pilgrims, he said:


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This week, Christians throughout the world celebrate the Hundredth Anniversary of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, initiated by Father Paul Wattson, founder of the Society of the Atonement.

The theme chosen for this year is Saint Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonians to "pray always" (1 Thes 5:17). According to the Second Vatican Council, prayer and holiness of life are "the soul of the whole ecumenical movement" (Unitatis Redintegratio, 8).

When Christians from various communities come together to pray in common, they acknowledge that unity cannot be achieved by human strength alone. Only by relying on God’s grace can they live according to Jesus’s prayer that "they may all be one" (Jn 17:20-21).

I therefore invite all Christians to render fitting thanks to Almighty God for the progress achieved thus far along the path of ecumenism, and to persevere as they strive toward unity so that "the world may believe" (Jn 17:21) that Jesus is the only Son sent by the Father.

I extend a cordial welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s audience, including students and staff from Saint Mary’s High School in Sydney, and members of a delegation from the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders. May God bestow abundant blessings upon all of you!


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 2/5/2008 1:59 AM]
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1/27/2008 3:16 PM
 
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ANGELUS OF 1/27/08

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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the Angelus today.


Dear brothers and sisters,

In today's liturgy, the evangelist Matthew, who will accompany us throughout this liturgical year, presents the start of Christ's public miistry.

It consisted essentially of preaching the Kingdom of God and the healing of the sick, showing that this Kingdom was brought close, or rather, that it had come into our midst.

Jesus started to preach in Galilee, the region where he grew up, a 'peripheral' territory with respect to the center of the Jewish nation, which was Judea, where Jerusalem is located.

But the prophet Isaiah had pre-anounced that Galilee, the land assigned to the tribe of Zebulon and Naphthali, would have a glorious future: the people immersed in shadows would see a great light (cfr Is 8,23-9,1), the light of Christ and his Gospel (cfr Mt 4,12-16).

The term "Gospel", at the time of Jesus, was used by the Roman emperors for their proclamations. Independent of content, they were defined as "good news", that is, an announcement of salvation, brcause the emperor was considered the lord of the world, and every word of his, a harbinger of something good.

To apply this word to the preaching of Jesus therefore had a strongly critical sense, as if to say: God, not the emperor, is the Lord of the world, and the true Gospel is that of Jesus Christ.

The 'good news' that Jesus proclaimed may be summarized in these words: "The kingdom of God - or the kingdopm of the heavens - is near" (Mt 4,17; Mk 1,15).

What does this mean? It certainly does not indicate an earthly terrain delimited in space and time, but it announces that it is God who reigns, it is God who is the Lord, and his lordship is present, actual, is being realized.

The novelty of Christ's message therefore was that in him God came to us, he reigns in our midst, as shown by the miracles and healings he performed.

God reigns in the world through his Son made man, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, who is 'the finger of God' (cfr Lk 11,20). Where Jesus is, the creator Spirit brings life, and men are healed of their ailments in the body and the spirit. God's lordship is manifested in the integral healing of man.

This way, Jesus wanted to reveal the true face of God, the God who is near, full of mercy for every human being; the God who gives us the gift of life in abundance, of his own life.

The Kingdom of God is life which affirms itself over death, the light of truth that disperses the shadows of ignorance and lies.

Let us pray to the Most Holy Mother so that she may obtain for the Church the same passion for the Kingdom of God that animated the mission of Jesus Christ: passion for God, for his lordship of love and life; passion for our fellowman, whom we encounter in truth with the desire of giving him the most precious treasure: the love of God, his Creator and Father.


After the Angelus prayers, he had these special messages:

I greet with great affection the children and youth of the Catholic Action of Rome who are here today, as they are every year, after the Mass for Peace, accompanied by the Cardinal Vicar, their parents and teachers.

Two of them are here with me. They have presented me with a message, and shortly, they will help me to release two doves, symbols of peace.

My dear young friends, I know that you are committed in behalf of other people your age who suffer because of war and poverty. Continue along the way that Jesus has shown us to cnstruct true peace.

Today is also the World Day for Lepers, an observance started 55 years ago by Raoul Follereau. To all who suffer from this illness, I extend my affectionate greeting, assuring you of special prayers, which I extend to those who, in various ways, are engaged alongside them, particularly to the volunteers of the Frriends of Raoul Follereau Association.

Last Monday, January 21, I addressed a letter to the Diocese and City of Rome on the urgent task of education. In that way, I wish to offer my particular contribution to the formation of new generations, a difficult and crucial task for the future of our city.

On Saturday, Febr. 23, I shall have a special audience at the Vatican for all those who, as educators or as children, adolescents and youths in formation, are the most direct participants in this great educative challenge, and I will symbolically present them with my letter.


To English-speaking pilgrims, he said:

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Angelus.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear how Jesus called his first apostles. At once they left everything and followed him. We too are called to be disciples of Jesus. Let us be ready to offer ourselves generously and whole-heartedly in his service.

Upon all of you here today, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

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1/30/2008 3:40 PM
 
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AUDIENCE OF 1/30/08

The Holy Father today resumed his catechetical cycle on the Fathers of the Church with his third catechesis on St.Augustine, before some 6,000 people at Aula Paolo VI.

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Dear friends,

After the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we return today to reflect on the great figure of St. Augustine.

In 1986, my dear Predecessor John Paul II dedicated to Augustine, on the 1600th anniversary of his conversion, a long and dense document in the form of the Apostolic Letter Augustinum Hipponensen(Augustine of Hippo).

The Pope himself defined the text as "an act of thanksgiving to God for his gift to the Church, and through it, to all of mankind, with that miraculous conversion" (AAS, 74, 1992, p. 802).

I wish to return to the topic of Augustine's conversion in a future audience. It was a fundamental theme not only for Augustine's life, but also for ours. In last Sunday's Gospel, the Lord himself summarized his preaching in the words, "Convert yourselves".

Following the path of St. Augustine, we can meditate on what this conversion means: it is something definitive, decisive, but the fundamental decision must be developed and must be realized throughout our whole life.

The catechesis today will be dedicated instead to the theme of faith and reason, which was a determinative theme, or better still, the detrminative theme in the biography of St. Augustine.

As a child, he learned the Catholic faith from his mother Monica. But as an adolescent, he abandoned this faith because he could no longer see its reasonableness, and he did not want a religion that could not be, for him, also an expression of reason, and therefore, of truth. His thirst for truth was radical and led him to distance himself from the Catholic faith.

But his radicality was such that he could not content himself with philosophies which did not arrive at truth itself, which did not arrive at God. To a God who was not just the ultimate cosmological hypothesis, but the true God, the God who gives life and who enters our own life.

Thus all of St. Augustine's intellectual and spiritual itinerary constitutes a model valid even today for the relationship between faith and reason, a theme not only for believers but for every man who searches for the truth, a central theme for the equilibrium and destiny of every human being.

These two dimensions, faith and reason, are not to be separated nor to be opposed to each other, but should always go together. As Augustine himself wrote after his conversion, faith and reason are "the two forces that bring us to knowing" (Contra Academicos, III, 20, 43).

In this respect, two Augustinian formulations (from Sermons, 43,9) remain rightly celebrated for expressing this coherent synthesis between faith and reason: Crede ut intelligas (I believe in order to understand) - belief opens the way to get to the threshold of truth - and, inseparably, Intellige ut credas (I understand in order to believe): to scrutinize truth in order to find God and believe.

Those two statements by Augustine express with effective immediacy and with profundity the synthesis of this issue, in which the Catholic Church sees the expression of its way.

Historically, this synthesis had been taking shape, even before the coming of Christ, in the encounter between the Jewish faith and Greek thought that resulted in Hellenistic Judaism. Successively, this synthesis was recovered and developed throughout history by many Christian thinkers.

The harmony between faith and reason means, above all, that God is not far: he is not far from our reason and our life; he is close to every human being, close to our heart and close to our reason, if we really put ourselves on the right way.

It was precisely this closeness of God to man that Augustine experienced with extraordinary intensity. The presence of God in man is profound and at the same time, mysterious, but we can discover and recognize it in our most intimate being.

Do not go out, the convert says: "but go back into yourself - truth resides in the interior man, and if you find that your nature is changeable, transcend yourself. But remember, when you transcend yourself, that you transcend a soul which reasons. Then reach beyond - to where the light of reason is lit" (De vera religione, 39, 72).

As Augustine himself underscored with that most famous statement at the start of Confessions, his spiritual autobiography written in praise of God: "You made us for you, and our heart is restless until it rests in you" (I,1,1).

Distance from God is equivalent therefore to distance from our selves: "Indeed, you," Augustine writes (Confessions, III, 6,11), addressing himself to God, “are more intimately present to me than my inmost being and higher than the highest element in me” - interior intimo meo et superior summo meo - such that, he adds in another passage, recalling the time before his conversion, "you were in front of me, but I, instead, had gone far from myself and could not find myself again, and even less could I find you again" (Confessions, V, 2, 2).

Precisely because Augustine had lived firsthand this intellectual and spiritual itinerary, he knew how to render it with such immediacy, profundity and wisdom in his works, recognizing in two other famous passages from Confessions (IV, 4, 9 e 14, 22) that man is 'a great enigma' (magna quaestio) and 'a great abyss' (grande profundum) - enigma and abyss that only Christ illuminates and saves.

This is important: a man who is far from God is also far from himself, alienated from himself, and can recover himself only if he meets God, and thus, he will also arrive at himself, his true I, his true identity.

The human being, Augustine then underscores in De civitate Dei (The City of God, XII, 27) – is social by nature but anti-social by fault, and is saved by Christ, the only mediator between God and mankind and the "universal way of freedom and salvation", as my predecessor John Paul II repeated (Augustinum Hipponensem, 21): Outside this way, which has never failed humanity, Augustine says in the same work, "no one was ever liberated, no one can be liberated, no one will be liberated" (De civitate Dei, X, 32, 2).

As the only mediator of salvation, Christ is the head of the Church and is mystically united to it, to the point that Augustine could say: "We have become Christ. Indeed, if he is the head, and we are the members (limbs), the total man is he and us" (In Iohannis evangelium tractatus, 21, 8).

People of God and house of God, the Church in the Augustinian vision is thus closely linked to the concept of the Body of Christ, based on the Christologic re-reading of the Old Testament, and on sacramental life centered in the Eucharist, in which the Lord gives us his Body and transforms us into his Body.

It is therefore fundamental that the Church - the People of God in the Christologic and not the sociological sense - should be truly in Christ, who, Augustine says in a very beautiful test, "prays for us, prays in us, is prayed to by us: he prays for us as our priest, he prays in us as our head, he is prayed to by us as our God - so we recognize in him our voice, and in ours, his" (Enarrationes in Psalmos, 85, 1).

At the conclusion of the apostolic letter Augustinum Hipponensem, John Paul II asked whatthe saint has to say to men today, and responded with the words that Augustine dictated in a letter shortly after his conversion: "It seems to me that man should be led back to the hope of finding the truth" (Epistulae, 1, 1): that truth which is Christ himself, true God, to whom one of the most beautiful and famous prayers in Confessions (X, 27,38) is addressed:

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new,
late have I loved you!
You were within me, but I was outside,
and it was there that I searched for you.
In my unloveliness
I plunged into the lovely things which you created.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
Created things kept me from you;
yet if they had not been in you
they would have not been at all.
You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.
You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.
You breathed your fragrance on me;
I drew in breath and now I pant for you.
I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.
You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

So it was! Augustine had encountered God and all his life experienced him to the point that this reality - which was above all an encounter with a Person, Jesus - changed his life, as he has changed that of so many men and women in every age who have had the grace to encounter him.

Let us pray that the Lord may give us this grace and to make us find his peace by doing so.



Later, he said this for English-speaking pilgrims:


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we continue our catechesis on Saint Augustine of Hippo, I wish today to consider some of the teachings of this great Doctor of the Church.

A passionate believer, he recognized the importance of bringing together faith and reason. It was he who taught that we should believe in order to understand, and understand in order to believe.

God makes himself known to our reason, although he always transcends what we can know through reason alone. As Augustine beautifully expressed it, God is “more intimately present to me than my inmost being” and “higher than the highest element in me.”

Saint Augustine taught that by belonging to the Church, we are so closely united to Christ that we “become” Christ, the head whose members we are. As our head, Christ prays in us, yet he also prays for us as our priest, and we pray to him as our God.

If we ask what particular message Saint Augustine has for the men and women of today, it is perhaps his emphasis on our need for truth.

Listen to the way he describes his own search for God’s truth: “You were within me and I sought you outside, in the beautiful things that you had made. You were with me, but I was not with you. You called me, you cried out and broke open my deafness. I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for you.”

Let us pray that we too may discover the joy of knowing God’s truth.

I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including groups from England, Scotland, Hong Kong and the United States of America. I greet especially the representatives of the Pontifical Mission Societies and the group who are preparing to be ordained deacons. Upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones, I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/30/2008 3:40 PM]
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2/3/2008 3:14 PM
 
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ANGELUS OF 2/3/08

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at Angelus today.


Dear brothers and sisters!

Today I wish to count on your prayers for various intentions. In the first place, remembering that yesterday, the liturgical feast of the Presentation of the Lord, we celebrated the Day for Consecrated Life, I invite you to pray for those whom Christ has called to follow him more closely by special consecration.

Our gratitude goes to these brothers and sisters of ours, who dedicate themselves totally in service to God and to the Church with vows of poverty, obedience and chastity, May the Holy Virgin obtain many more holy vocations to the consecrated life, which constitutes an invaluable wealth for the Church and for the world.

Another prayer intention is offered us by the Day for Life, which is celebrated today in Italy, with the theme "Serve life". I greet and thank all those who are gathered here in St. Peter's Square today to bear witness to their commitment to the defense and promotion of life and to reaffirm that "the civilization of a people is measured by its capacity to serve life" (Message of the Italian bishops conference for the XXX National Day for Life).

In fact, it is the commitment of everyone to welcome human life as a gift to respect, protect and promote, more so when it is fragile and most needful of attention and care, as before birth or in its terminal stage.

I join the Italian bishops in encouraging all those who, with great effort but with joy, without publicity but with great dedication, devote themselves to helping aged and disabled family members, and those who regularly consecrate part of their time to help people of every age whose lives are sorely afflicted by so many various forms of poverty.

Let us pray also that Lent, which will start on Wednesday with the Rite of the Ashes - that I will celebrate as I do yearly at the Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine - may be a time of authentic conversion and penitence for all Christians, who are called to an ever more authentic and courageous testimony of their own faith.

Let us entrust these prayer intentions to Our Lady.

Starting yesterday, up to the entire day of February 11 - commemorating the Holy Virgin of Lourdes and the 150th anniversary of her apparitions - it will be possible to receive a plenary indulgence applicable to the deceased with the customary conditions - Confession, Communion and praying with the intentions of the Pope, as well as praying before an blessed image of Our Lady of Lourdes that is exposed for public veneration. For older people and the sick, thus will be possible through the desire in their hearts.

Mary, Mother and Star of Hope, light our steps and make us ever more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.


After the Angelus prayers, the Pope had several more special messages. In Italian, he said:

I invite you all to join our brothers and sisters in Kenya - some of them present today at this Piazza - in praying for reconciliation, justice and peace. Assuring everyone of my closeness, I hope that the mediation efforts now under way may be successful and lead - thanks to the goodwill and collaboration of everyone - to a rapid solution of the conflict which has already claimed too many victims.

Evil, with its weight of sorrow and pain, does not seem to know limits in Iraq, as the very sad news these days tells us. Once again, I raise my voice i behalf of that people who have been severely tried and invoke for them the peace of God.

In Spanish, he continued:

I continue to offer fervent pleas to God for Colombia, where for some time now, many sons and daughters of that beloved nation have suffered extortion, abduction and the violent loss of their dear ones. I ask the Lord to put an end to such inhuman suffering and that ways may be found towards reconciliation, mutual respect and sincere agreement, thus restoring fraternity and solidarity which are the solid basis for obtaining a just progress and constructing a stable peace.

Resuming in Italian, he said:

In my message for the recent World Day for Peace, I underscored the fact that it is in the family where the vocabulary for civil coexistence is learned and where human values are first discovered.

The festivities for the Lunar New Year in the next few days will see the families of the various Asian nations of the East reunited in joy. I wish them all every good and prosperity, and I hope that they may conserve and value their beautiful and fruitful traditions of family life for the benefit of their respective nations and the other countries where they now live.

In the Diocese of Rome, the Diocesan Week for Life and the Family begins today and will end next Sunday at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love, with the celebration of the Diocesan Feast of the Family.

I encourage all parents to rediscover the greatness and beauty of the educative mission. Yes, to educate is very demanding but it is also exciting.

Let your children experience, from the most tender age, that nearness which shows love, give yourselves to them, so that in their turn, they may open up to others and to the world with serenity and with generosity. May the spirit of education always be trust in God who 'gives hope to our future'.


In English, he said:

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer.

In a few days we will celebrate Ash Wednesday, the beginning of our annual Lenten journey towards Easter. May this season of spiritual renewal be for all Christians an occasion to draw nearer to the Lord in prayer, penance and the pursuit of holiness.

Upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

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2/6/2008 4:55 PM
 
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AUDIENCE OF 2/6/08

The Holy Father today interrupted his catechetical series on St. Augustine to speak about Lent, today being Ash Wednesday. Here is a translation of his words at the GA held in the Aula Paolo VI.


Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, Ash Wednesday, we take up, as we do every year, the Lenten journey, inspired by a more intense spirit of prayer and reflection, of penitence and fasting.

We are entering a formidable liturgical period because while we prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter - the heart and center of the liturgical year and our entire existence - we are invited, I might even say provoked, to give a more decisive impulse to our Christian existence.

Inasmuch as the commitments, the worries and the concerns which make us fall into a routine expose us to the risk of forgetting how extraordinary the adventure is in which Jesus has involved us, we need to begin everyday our demanding itinerary of the evangelical life, going back into ourselves through restorative pauses for the spirit.

With the ancient rite of imposing ashes, the Church introduces us to Lent as a great spiritual retreat which lasts 40 days.

We thus enter the Lenten season, which helps us to rediscover the gift of faith we received in Baptism, and urges us to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, placing our commitment to penance under the sign of divine mercy.

Originally, in the early Church, Lent was the time favored for the preparation of catechumens for the sacrament of Baptism and the Eucharist, which would be celebrated on the eve of Easter. Lent came to be considered as the time to become Christian, which did not happen in a single moment but required a long period of conversion and renewal.

In this preparation, even the baptized took part, reactivating their memories of the Sacrament they had received, and preparing themselves for a renewed communion with Christ in the joyous celebration of Easter.

Thus, Lend had - and keeps to this day - the character of a baptismal itinerary, in the sense that it helps to keep alive the awareness that to be a Christian always means continually becoming Christian anew: It is never a done thing, which we can leave behind, but a journey that always demands new effort.

In placing ashes on the head of the faithful, the celebrant says: "Remember that you are dust and, to dust you will return" (cfr Gen 3,19), or repeats Jesus's exhortation: "Repent and believe in the Gospel" (cfr Mk 1,15).

Both formulas are reminders of the truth of human existence: we are creatures with limitations, sinners who always need penance and conversion.

How important it is to listen and welcome this reminder in our time! when contemporary man proclaims his autonomy from God, he becomes a slave of himself and often finds himself in a state of disconsolate solitude.

The invitation to penitence is therefore a stimulus to return to the arms of God, kind and merciful Father, to trust in him, to entrust ourselves to him as adoptive children, regenerated by his love.


With wise teaching, the Church repeats that penitence is above all a grace, a gift which opens the heart to the infinite goodness of God. He himself, through this grace, anticipates our desire for penitence and accompanies our efforts towards full adherence to his saving will. To repent means to allow oneself to be conquered by Jesus (cfr Phil 3,12), and with him, to 'return' to the Father.

Penitence therefore entails placing oneself humbly in the school of jesus, and walk obediently in his footsteps. In this respect, the words which he himself indicated as the conditions for being his true disciples are indeed illuminating: "He who wishes to save his own life will lose it; but he who loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel, will save it" (Mk 8,35-36).

Do the conquest of success, the yearning for prestige and the search for comfort - when these totally absorb life to the point of excluding God from the horizon - truly lead to happiness? Can there be authentic happiness in doing without God?

Experience shows that one is not made happy only because expectations and material demands are satisfied. In reality, the only joy which can fill the human heart is that which comes from God: and indeed, we need this infinite joy. Neither daily concerns nor the difficulties of life can extinguish the joy that comes from friendship with God.

Jesus's invitation to take up our own Cross and follow him may seem initially severe and contrary to what we wish, mortifying to our desire for personal fulfillment. But looking at it more closely, we see that is not so: the testimony of the saints shows that in the Cross of Christ, in the love he gives us, renouncing our self-possession, we find that profound serenity which is the spring for generous dedication to our brothers, especially to the poor and the needy. This makes us joyous ourselves.

The Lenten journey of penitence, which we undertake with the whole Church today, is therefore the propitious occasion, 'the favorable moment' (cfr 2Cor 6,2) to renew our filial abandonment into the hands of God and to put into practice what Jesus continues to remind us: "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Mk 8,34), going forward on the road of love and true happiness.

In the Lenten season, the Church, echoing the Gospel, proposes some specific tasks for the faithful during this itinerary of interior renewal: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

In my Lenten Message for this year, published recently, I dwelt on "the practice of almsgiving, which represents a concrete way of coming to the aid of the needy and is, at the same time, an ascetic exercise to free oneself from attachment to earthly goods" (No. 1). Unfortunately, we know that the temptation of material wealth profoundly pervades modern society.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called not to idolize earthly goods, but to use them as a means of living and to help others who are in need. In recommending the practice of almsgiving, the Church teaches us to go forward to 'meet' our neighbor's need, imitating Jesus, who, as St. Paul notes, made himself poor to enrich us with his poverty (cfr 2Cor 8,9).

"In his school," I wrote in the Lenten message, "we can learn to make of our lives a total gift. Imitating Christ, we are able to make ourselves available, not so much in giving a part of what we possess, but our very selves."

I added; "Cannot the entire Gospel be summarized perhaps in the one commandment of love? The Lenten practice of almsgiving thus becomes a means to deepen our Christian vocation. In gratuitously offering himself, the Christian bears witness that it is love and not material richness that determines the laws of his existence" (No. 5).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask Our Lady, Mother of God and of the Church, to accompany us on our Lenten journey, so that it may be the way of true penitence. Let us allow ourselves to be led by her so we may arrive, renewed interiorly, at the celebration of the great mystery of Christ's Paschal Resurrection, the supreme revelation of God's merciful love.

I wish everyone a good Lenten season.



Later, he said in English:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of our annual Lenten journey of prayer and penance.

In the early Church, Lent was the time when catechumens prepared for Baptism, accompanied by the prayers of the whole Christian community. Today, too, the Lenten season is a privileged moment of conversion and spiritual renewal for the whole Church.

The rite of the imposition of ashes is a summons to return to God and, in doing so, to discover authentic freedom and joy. Jesus reminds us that only by "losing" our life will we truly "find" it. Our ultimate fulfilment is found in God alone, who satisfies our deepest longings.

By taking up our cross and following the Lord, we experience redemption, inner peace and loving solidarity with our brothers and sisters.

During Lent, in addition to prayer and fasting, the Church invites us to practice almsgiving as an expression of our desire to imitate Christ’s own self-giving and his generous concern for others.

As we set out once again on this journey of spiritual renewal, may Mary, Mother of the Church, guide us to a fruitful celebration of Easter. A Blessed Lent to all of you!

This morning I am especially pleased to greet the delegation of government leaders from Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, and I offer my prayerful good wishes for their efforts to promote reconciliation, justice and peace in the region.

My warm greeting and prayerful encouragement also goes to the participants in the Graduate School of the Bossey Ecumenical Institute. I thank the choir for their praise of God in song. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from England and the United States, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.


At the end, he remembered one of his predecessors, and offered a special appeal:

I salute you, the representatives of the Pius IX Commission, who are meeting in Rome on the occasion of the 130th anniversary of the death of the Blessed Pius IX, whose liturgical commemoration we celebrate tomorrow.

I thank you for your generous commitment to call attention to the figure and example of virtue that this great Pontiff was, who carried out with heroic charity his mission as the Universal Pastor of the Church, always having the salvation of souls as his purpose.

In his long Pontificate, which was marked by tempestuous events, he sought to reaffirm with force the truth of the Christian faith to a society exposed to progressive secularization. His testimony as an indomitable and courageous servant of Christ and of the Church also constitutes a luminous lesson for all.

I hope with all my heart that this significant commemoration contributes to the spirit and the 'face' of my Blessed predecessor better known and to make his evangelical wisdom and interior strength even more appreciated.


This was his special appeal:

These days, I am particularly close to the beloved people of Chad, who are afflicted with painful internal battles which have claimed numerous victims as well as the flight of millions of civilians from its capital city.

I entrust to your prayers and solidarity our brothers and sisters who suffer, and ask that they be spared more violence and be assured of the necessary humanitarian assistance, even as I make a heartfelt appeal to lay down arms and to take the way of dialog and reconciliation.

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2/10/2008 5:25 PM
 
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ANGELUS OF 2/10/08

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Here is a translaton of the Holy Father's words at Angelus today:


Last Wednesday, with fasting and the rite of the ashes, we entered Lent. But what does it mean 'to enter Lent'?

It means starting a time of particular commitment to spiritual combat against evil in the world, in each of us and around us.

It means looking evil in the face and prepare ourselves to fight its effects, but especially its causes, up to its ultimate cause, Satan.

It means not to unload the problem of evil on others, on society or on God, but to recognize our own responsibilities and consciously take appropriate charge.

Int his regard, Christ's invitation for us Christians to take up one's own Cross and follow him with humility and trust (cfr Mt 16,24) resounds more urgently than ever.

The 'Cross', no matter how heavy it may seem, is not synonymous to bad luck or misfortune to be avoided as much as possible, but it is an opportunity to place ourselves in Jesus's steps and thus acquire the strength for the battle against sin adn evil.

To enter Lent thus means to renew our personal and communitarian decision to face evil together with Christ. In fact, only the way of the Cross leads to the victory of love over hate, of sharing over selfishness, of peace over violence.

Seen this way, Lent is truly an occasion of strong ascetic and spiritual commitment based on the grace of Christ.

This year, the start of Lent coincides providentially with the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions in Lourdes. Four years after the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by the Blessed Pius IX, Mary showed herself for the first time on February 11, 1858, to St. Bernadette Soubirous in the grotto of Massabielle.

Other apparitions followed, accompanied by extraordinary events, and in the end, the Virgin Mary bid farewell, revealing to the young seer in the local dialect: "I am the Immaculate Conception."

The message that Our Lady continues to disseminate in Lourdes recalls the words that Jesus said right at the start of his public mission, which we will hear several times during these days of Lent: Repent and believe in the Gospel - pray and repent.

Let us welcome Mary's invitation which echoes that of Jesus, and let us ask her to obtain that we may 'enter' Lent with faith, so we may live this season of grace with interior joy and generous commitment.

Let us also entrust to the Virgin those who are sick and those who take loving care of them. In fact, tomorrow, the commemoration of Our Lady of Lourdes, is also the World Day for the Sick.

I greet with all my heart the pilgrims who will gather this evening in St. Peter's Basilica under the leadership of Cardinal Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Ministry.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to join them because this evening, I will begin spiritual exercises for Lent, but in silence and meditation, I will pray for them and for all the needs of the Church and the world.

To those who would wish to remember me to the Lord, I express my sincere thanks.


After the prayers, he said this in English:

I warmly greet all the English speaking pilgrims present at today’s Angelus. I particularly welcome members of the Hohenfels Catholic Military Faith Community from the United States of America, as well as young people from the Sant’Egidio community in Asia and Oceania who are attending a formation course in Rome.

My dear friends, this past week we began our Lenten practice of prayer, fasting, and – in a special way – almsgiving. I invite all believers to enter this "spiritual battle" with hearts full of generosity towards those in need. In this way, we learn to make our lives a total gift to God and to our brothers and sisters.

I wish all of you a fruitful preparation for the Paschal Feast!

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2/17/2008 2:32 PM
 
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ANGELUS OF 2/17/08

Here is a translation of Holy Father's words at Angelus today:

Yesterday, we concluded here at the Apostolic Palace the spiritual exercises in which, every year, the Pope and his co-workers in the Roman Curia come together in prayer and meditation. I thank all who have been with us spiritually. May the Lord reward them for their generosity.

Today, the second Sunday of Lent, following the penitential journey, the liturgy, after having presented to us last Sunday the Gospel on the temptation of Jesus in the desert, now invites us to reflect on the extraordinary event of his Transfiguration on Mount Tabor.

Taken together, both events anticipate the Paschal mystery: the struggle of Jesus with the Tempter is a prelude to the great final duel of the Passion, while the light of his transfigured Body anticipates the glory of his Resurrection.

On the one hand, we see Jesus as full man, who shares with us even (the risk of) temptation. On the other hand, we see him as the Son of God, who divinizes our humanity.

We can say that these two Sundays function as pillars on which the entire edifice of Lent rests, and therefore, the entire structure of Christian life which consists essentially of the Easter dynamic of death to life.

The mountain - Tabor as well as Sinai - is the place of closeness to God. It is elevated space, compared to daily existence, in which to breathe the pure air of creation. It is the place of prayer, to be in the presence of the Lord, like Moses and like Elijah, who appear next to Jesus transfigured and speak to him of the 'exodus' which awaits him in Jerusalem, that is, his Pasch.

[Pasch is the English form of Pesach, the Hebrew term for Passover, the feast celebrated annually at God’s command to commemorate the Israelite exodus from Egypt to the promised land of Canaan.]

The Transfiguration is an event of prayer: In praying, Jesus immersed himself in God, uniting himself intimately with him, adhering his own will to the Father's will of love, and thus, light pervades him, and the truth of his being becomes visible: He is God, Light of lights.

Even Jesus's garments become brilliantly white. This makes us think of Baptism and the white vestments worn by neophytes. Whoever is reborn in Baptism becomes clothed in the light that anticipates heavenly existence, represented in the Apocalypse by white garments (cfr Ap 7,9.13).

Here is the crucial point: the Transfiguration is an anticipation of the Resurrection, but this presupposes death. Jesus manifests his glory to the Apostles so that they may have the strength to face the scandal of the Cross, and that they may understand it is necessary to go through many tribulations in order to reach the Kingdom of God.

The voice of the Father, which resounds from on high, proclaims Jesus as his beloved Son, just as it did at the Baptism in the Jordan, adding: "Listen to him" (Mt 17,5).

To enter into eternal life, we need to listen to Jesus, follow him on the way of the Cross, carrying in our hearts like him the hope of the Resurrection. 'Spe salvi', saved in hope. Today we can also say, 'transfigured in hope'.

Turning ourselves now in prayer to Mary, we recognize in her the human creature interiorly transformed by the grace of Christ, and we entrust ourselves to her guidance in following, with faith and generosity, the itinerary of Lent.


After the Angelus prayers, the Pope made a special appeal:

I follow with much concern the persistent manifestations of tension in Lebanon. For almost three months, the nation has not succeeded to elect a new head of State. The efforts to settle the crisis and the support offered by high-ranking representatives of the international community, even if these have not yet produced a result, demonstrate the intention to choose a President who will be recognized as such by all Lebanese and lay the bases to overcome existing national divisions.

Unfortunately, there is no lack of reasons to be concerned, especially because of unusual verbal violence or because of those who actually put their trust in the force of arms and the physical elimination of their adversaries.

Together with the Maronite Patriarch and all the Lebanese bishops, I ask you to join my prayer to Our Lady of Lebanon that she may encourage the citizens of that dear nation, particularly its politicians, to work tenaciously for reconciliation, for a truly sincere dialog, for peaceful coexistence and the good of a nation that they must all feel deeply as their common fatherland.


In English he said:


I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Angelus, especially the group of pilgrims from Saint Ansgar’s Cathedral in Copenhagen. I pray that your visit to Rome may strengthen your faith and deepen your love for Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear how Jesus was transfigured in the presence of his three closest followers, Peter, James and John. They were granted a glimpse of Christ in glory, and they heard the voice of the Father urging them to listen to his beloved Son.

As we continue our Lenten journey, we renew our resolve to listen attentively to the Son of God, and we draw comfort and hope from the revelation of his glory.

Upon all of you here today, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

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2/20/2008 6:06 PM
 
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AUDIENCE OF 2/20/08

The General Audience today consisted of two parts: The first, at 10:30 in St. Peter's Basilica, where the Holy Father greeted pilgrims who could not be accommodated in Aula Paolo VI, after which he proceeded to the indoor audience hall to deliver his catechesis, resuming his lectures on St. Augustine - the fourth - in his current catechetical cycle on the Fathers of the Church.

Here is a translation of his words in both places:




GREETINGS AT ST. PETER'S BASILICA

The Holy Father delivered greetings in Italian, French, English, German and Spanish:

I am happy to welcome and greet you all from the heart, dear pilgrims coming from various parts of Italy and the world.

May the Lenten journey which we are undertaking be a favorable occasion for a resolute effort at repentance and spiritual renewal towards a reawakening to authentic faith, the healthy recovery of our relationship with God and a more generous evangelical commitment.

In the awareness that love is the lifestyle which distinguishes the believer, never tire of being witnesses to love everywhere.

In English, he said:

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims gathered here in the Basilica of Saint Peter.

Lent is a privileged time for all Christians to recommit themselves to conversion and spiritual renewal. In this way, we rekindle a genuine faith in Christ, a life-giving relationship with God and a more fervent dedication to the Gospel.

Strengthened by the conviction that love is the distinguishing mark of Christian believers, I encourage you to persevere in bearing witness to charity in your daily lives.

After the greetings, he prayed the Our Father with the pilgrims and bestowed his Apostolic Blessing. He then proceeded to the Aula Paolo VI to deliver his regular catechesis.


THE HOLY FATHER'S CATECHESIS


Dear brothers and sisters,

After the pause during the spiritual exercises last week, we return today to the great figure of Saint Augustine, about whom I have already spoken in these catecheses.

He is the Father of the Church who has left the most number of works, about some of which I intend to speak briefly today.

Some of the Augustinian writings are of capital importance, not only for the history of Christianity but in shaping all of Western culture.

The clearest example is his Confessions, without a doubt one of the books from early Christianity that is still widely read today.

Like many Fathers of the Church in its early centuries - but in incomparably vaster measure - the Bishop of Hippo has indeed exercised an extensive and persistent influence, which is evident from the abundant tradition and legacy of his works, which are truly numerous.

He himself reviewed his writings a few years before his death in Retractationes, and shortly after his death, they were all carefully recorded in the Indiculus (list) added by the faithful Possidius to his biography of St. Augustine, Vita Augustini.

The list of Augustine's works was made with the explicit intention of preserving them even as the barbarian invasions were spreading throughout Roman Africa, and included 1,030 writings numbered by the author himself, along with others that he did not number.

Bishop of a nearby city, Possidius dictated his words in Hippo, where he had sought refuge and was present at the death of his friend, so, almost certainly, his list was based on a catalog of Augustine's personal library.

Today, the Bishop of Hippo is also survived by more than 300 letters and almost 600 homilies, although these were originally so much more - probably anywhere between 3,000-4,000, the fruit of some 40 years of preaching by the ex-rhetoricist who decided to follow Jesus, and instead of addressing himself to the imperial court, spoke to the simple people of Hippo.

In recent years, the discovery of a group of letters and more homilies have enriched our knowledge of this great Father of the Church.

"Many books," wrote Possidius, "were written and published by him, many homilies were given in Church and then transcribed and edited, both to refute various heresies as well as to interpret Sacred Scriptures for the edification of the children of the Church. "

"These works," wrote his bishop friend, "are so numerous that a scholar could hardly find it possible to read all of them and learn them" (Vita Augustini, 18, 9).

Among this vast literary production of Augustine - more than a thousand publications subdivided into philosophical, apologetics, doctrinal, moral, monastic, exegetic, anti-heretical, besides his letters and homilies - there are a few exceptional works of great theological and philosophical weight that stand out.

First of all, the Confessions, which we have already mentioned, written in 13 volumes between 397-400 in praise of God. It is a sort of autobiography in the form of a dialog with God. This literary genre reflects the life of Augustine, which was a life not closed in on itself and dissipated in various activities, but substantially lived as a dialog with God and therefore, a life shared with others.

The very title indicates the specificity of this autobiography. The word 'confessiones' in the Christian Latin that was developed in the tradition of the Psalms, has two meanings that are interwoven.

Confessiones connotes, in the first place, a confession of one's own weaknesses, of the misery of sinners, but at the same time, it also means praise of God, acknowledgment and recognition of God.

To see one's own poverty in God's light becomes praise of God and gratitude that God loves and accepts us, transforms us and lifts us towards himself.

About these Confessions which had great success even in Augustine's lifetime, he himself wrote: "They exercised such action on me while I was writing them and do so even now when I reread them. There are many brothers who like these writings" (Retractationes, II, 6), and I must say that I, too, am one of these 'brothers'.

Thanks to these Confessions, we can follow, step by step, the interior journey of this extraordinary man who had a great passion for God.

Less well-known but equally original and very important are the Retractationes, written in two books around 427, in which Augustine, then an old man, undertook a 'review' (retractatio) of all his written works, thus leaving a singular and most invaluable literary document that is a lesson in intellectual sincerity and humility.

De civitate Dei (of the City of God) – a powerful and decisive work for the development of Western political thought and the Christian theology of history - was written between 413 and 426 in 22 volumes, occasioned by the sacking of Rome by the Goths in 410.

Many pagans who survived, along with many Christians, had said, "Rome has fallen, and the Christian God and the Apostles can do nothing to protect the city. In the days of the pagan divinities, Rome was the caput mundi, capital of the world, and no one could imagine that it could fall into the hands of an enemy. Now, with the Christian God, this great city no longer appears safe."

So (they were saying that) the God of the Christians could not protect, and therefore, could not be a God to trust. To this objection, which reached deeply into the hearts of many Christians, St. Augustine replied with his great work, De civitate Dei, clarifying what we should expect from God and what not to, what the relationship is between the political sphere and that of faith, of the Church.

Even today, this book is a source for defining well what true secularity is, and the competency (jurisdiction) of the Church, the true great hope that faith gives us.

This great book is a presentation of the history of a mankind governed by Divine Providence but actually divided by two loves. This is the fundamental design of his interpretation of history - as a battle between two loves: love of oneself "to the point of indifference to God", and love of God "to the point of indifference to oneself" (De civitate Dei, XIV, 28), which leads to full freedom to be for others in the light of God. This, therefore, is perhaps St. Augustine's greatest book, with the greatest permanent importance.

Equally important is De Trinitate, a work in 15 volumes on the principal nucleus of the Christian faith - faith in the Trinitarian God - which he wrote in two time periods. The first 12 volumes wre written between 399-412 and published without his knowledge, and he completed the work in 420, when it was published in full.

In this book, he reflects on the face of God and seeks to understand this mystery of the God who is unique, the only Creator of the world, of us all, and still, because this one God is trinitarian, is also a circle of love.

He seeks to understand the unfathomable mystery: the Trinitarian being, in three persons, as precisely the most real and most profound expression of teh unity of the one God.

De doctrina Christiana is a true and proper cultural introduction to the interpretation of the Bible, and at the same time, a conclusive interpretation of Christianity itself. It, too, had a decisive importance in the shaping of Western culture.

Even with all his humility, Augustine was certainly aware of his own intellectual stature. But for him, more important than writing great works of high theological value was bringing the Christian message to the simple people.

This most profound of his intentions, which guided his whole life, is expressed in a letter to his colleague Evodius, informing him of his decision to suspend for the time being his dictation of the books making up De Trinitate "because they are too laborious and I think they may be understood only by a few; more urgent are texts which I hope will be useful to many" (Epistulae, 169, 1, 1).

Therefore, he thought it was more useful to communicate the faith in a way understandable to all rather than write great theological works. This acutely felt responsibility regarding the proclamation of the Christian message was responsible for writings such as De catechizandis rudibus, which was both a theory and a praxis of catechesis, or the Psalmus contra partem Donati.

The Donatists were the great problem in the Africa of St. Augustine - a schism that was African in origin. The Donatists affirmed that true Christianity was African and opposed the unity of the Church. The great bishop fought this schism all his life, seeking to convince the Donatists that it is only in Christian unity that Africanness itself could be authentic.

And to make himself understood by the simple people, who could not understand a rhetoricist's grand Latin, he decided: I should write even with grammatical errors in a very simplified Latin. And he did this, especially in this Psalmus, a kind of simple poetry against the Donatists, to help all the people understand that our relationship with God and peace in the world could only grow in the unity of the Church.

In Augustine's literary production addressed to a much larger public, particularly important is the sheer mass of his homilies, often extemporaneous but transcribed during the preaching to be published for immediate circulation.

Among these are the very beautiful Enarrationes in Psalmos, widely read in the Middle Ages. The very practice of immediate publication of thousands of homilies by Augustine - often beyond the author's control - explains their dissemination and subsequent wider diffusion, but also their vitality.

Almost immediately, in fact, the preachings of the Bishop of Hippo became, because of their author's fame, highly sought texts that served even other bishops and priests, texts that were adaptable to ever new contexts.

The iconographic tradition - which we can see in a Lateran fresco dating to the sixth century - shows St. Augustine with a book in one hand, certainly to represent his literary production which so influenced Christian mentality and Christian thought, but also to show his love of books, for reading, and for gaining knowledge of older cultures.

At his death, he left nothing, said Possidius, but "he urged to always conserve diligently for posterity the library of the Church with all its codices", as well as his own writings.

In his works, Possidius writes, Augustine is 'always alive' and benefits those who read his writings, even if "I believe that those who saw and heard him when he preached in Church had profited more from that contact, but most of all, those who had experience of his daily life among the people" (Vita Augustini, 31).

Yes, even for us, it would have been beautiful to hear him alive. But he truly lives in his writings, and is present with us, and we see the permanent vitality of the faith to which he had given his entire life.



In English, he said:

In today’s catechesis, we continue to focus on Saint Augustine, a prolific and widely influential author.

Perhaps Augustine’s best-known work is the Confessions, a prayerful reflection on his life, in which he perceives his own sinfulness and extols the Lord’s grace and mercy.

In De civitate Dei, Augustine describes the tension between two cities: the earthly city that springs from love of self and indifference to God, and the heavenly city born from love of God and "indifference to self".

In De Trinitate, Augustine expounds the core belief of the Christian faith: one God in three persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Although Augustine is renowned for his towering intellect and vast body of writings, his primary concern was always to spread the Christian message. He continually strove to express the Gospel in a way accessible to every man, woman and child, so that all might come to know its saving truth: Jesus Christ.

May we follow his example in sharing the Good News with others.

I cordially greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s audience. I extend a particular welcome to parishioners from the Church of Our Lady of Loretto in New York, as well as Benedictines participating in an intensive course on the rule of their order. A blessed Lent to you all!

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2/20/2008 6:06 PM
 
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AUDIENCE OF 2/20/08

The General Audience today consisted of two parts: The first, at 10:30 in St. Peter's Basilica, where the Holy Father greeted pilgrims who could not be accommodated in Aula Paolo VI, after which he proceeded to the indoor audience hall to deliver his catechesis, resuming his lectures on St. Augustine - the fourth - in his current catechetical cycle on the Fathers of the Church.

Here is a translation of his words in both places:




GREETINGS AT ST. PETER'S BASILICA

The Holy Father delivered greetings in Italian, French, English, German and Spanish:

I am happy to welcome and greet you all from the heart, dear pilgrims coming from various parts of Italy and the world.

May the Lenten journey which we are undertaking be a favorable occasion for a resolute effort at repentance and spiritual renewal towards a reawakening to authentic faith, the healthy recovery of our relationship with God and a more generous evangelical commitment.

In the awareness that love is the lifestyle which distinguishes the believer, never tire of being witnesses to love everywhere.

In English, he said:

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims gathered here in the Basilica of Saint Peter.

Lent is a privileged time for all Christians to recommit themselves to conversion and spiritual renewal. In this way, we rekindle a genuine faith in Christ, a life-giving relationship with God and a more fervent dedication to the Gospel.

Strengthened by the conviction that love is the distinguishing mark of Christian believers, I encourage you to persevere in bearing witness to charity in your daily lives.

After the greetings, he prayed the Our Father with the pilgrims and bestowed his Apostolic Blessing. He then proceeded to the Aula Paolo VI to deliver his regular catechesis.


THE HOLY FATHER'S CATECHESIS

[IMG]http://img205.imageshack.us/img205/6696/0220audience4up1.png[/IMG]

Dear brothers and sisters,

After the pause during the spiritual exercises last week, we return today to the great figure of Saint Augustine, about whom I have already spoken in these catecheses.

He is the Father of the Church who has left the most number of works, about some of which I intend to speak briefly today.

Some of the Augustinian writings are of capital importance, not only for the history of Christianity but in shaping all of Western culture.

The clearest example is his Confessions, without a doubt one of the books from early Christianity that is still widely read today.

Like many Fathers of the Church in its early centuries - but in incomparably vaster measure - the Bishop of Hippo has indeed exercised an extensive and persistent influence, which is evident from the abundant tradition and legacy of his works, which are truly numerous.

He himself reviewed his writings a few years before his death in Retractationes, and shortly after his death, they were all carefully recorded in the Indiculus (list) added by the faithful Possidius to his biography of St. Augustine, Vita Augustini.

The list of Augustine's works was made with the explicit intention of preserving them even as the barbarian invasions were spreading throughout Roman Africa, and included 1,030 writings numbered by the author himself, along with others that he did not number.

Bishop of a nearby city, Possidius dictated his words in Hippo, where he had sought refuge and was present at the death of his friend, so, almost certainly, his list was based on a catalog of Augustine's personal library.

Today, the Bishop of Hippo is also survived by more than 300 letters and almost 600 homilies, although these were originally so much more - probably anywhere between 3,000-4,000, the fruit of some 40 years of preaching by the ex-rhetoricist who decided to follow Jesus, and instead of addressing himself to the imperial court, spoke to the simple people of Hippo.

In recent years, the discovery of a group of letters and more homilies have enriched our knowledge of this great Father of the Church.

"Many books," wrote Possidius, "were written and published by him, many homilies were given in Church and then transcribed and edited, both to refute various heresies as well as to interpret Sacred Scriptures for the edification of the children of the Church. "

"These works," wrote his bishop friend, "are so numerous that a scholar could hardly find it possible to read all of them and learn them" (Vita Augustini, 18, 9).

Among this vast literary production of Augustine - more than a thousand publications subdivided into philosophical, apologetics, doctrinal, moral, monastic, exegetic, anti-heretical, besides his letters and homilies - there are a few exceptional works of great theological and philosophical weight that stand out.

First of all, the Confessions, which we have already mentioned, written in 13 volumes between 397-400 in praise of God. It is a sort of autobiography in the form of a dialog with God. This literary genre reflects the life of Augustine, which was a life not closed in on itself and dissipated in various activities, but substantially lived as a dialog with God and therefore, a life shared with others.

The very title indicates the specificity of this autobiography. The word 'confessiones' in the Christian Latin that was developed in the tradition of the Psalms, has two meanings that are interwoven.

Confessiones connotes, in the first place, a confession of one's own weaknesses, of the misery of sinners, but at the same time, it also means praise of God, acknowledgment and recognition of God.

To see one's own poverty in God's light becomes praise of God and gratitude that God loves and accepts us, transforms us and lifts us towards himself.

About these Confessions which had great success even in Augustine's lifetime, he himself wrote: "They exercised such action on me while I was writing them and do so even now when I reread them. There are many brothers who like these writings" (Retractationes, II, 6), and I must say that I, too, am one of these 'brothers'.

Thanks to these Confessions, we can follow, step by step, the interior journey of this extraordinary man who had a great passion for God.

Less well-known but equally original and very important are the Retractationes, written in two books around 427, in which Augustine, then an old man, undertook a 'review' (retractatio) of all his written works, thus leaving a singular and most invaluable literary document that is a lesson in intellectual sincerity and humility.

De civitate Dei (of the City of God) – a powerful and decisive work for the development of Western political thought and the Christian theology of history - was written between 413 and 426 in 22 volumes, occasioned by the sacking of Rome by the Goths in 410.

Many pagans who survived, along with many Christians, had said, "Rome has fallen, and the Christian God and the Apostles can do nothing to protect the city. In the days of the pagan divinities, Rome was the caput mundi, capital of the world, and no one could imagine that it could fall into the hands of an enemy. Now, with the Christian God, this great city no longer appears safe."

So (they were saying that) the God of the Christians could not protect, and therefore, could not be a God to trust. To this objection, which reached deeply into the hearts of many Christians, St. Augustine replied with his great work, De civitate Dei, clarifying what we should expect from God and what not to, what the relationship is between the political sphere and that of faith, of the Church.

Even today, this book is a source for defining well what true secularity is, and the competency (jurisdiction) of the Church, the true great hope that faith gives us.

This great book is a presentation of the history of a mankind governed by Divine Providence but actually divided by two loves. This is the fundamental design of his interpretation of history - as a battle between two loves: love of oneself "to the point of indifference to God", and love of God "to the point of indifference to oneself" (De civitate Dei, XIV, 28), which leads to full freedom to be for others in the light of God. This, therefore, is perhaps St. Augustine's greatest book, with the greatest permanent importance.

Equally important is De Trinitate, a work in 15 volumes on the principal nucleus of the Christian faith - faith in the Trinitarian God - which he wrote in two time periods. The first 12 volumes wre written between 399-412 and published without his knowledge, and he completed the work in 420, when it was published in full.

In this book, he reflects on the face of God and seeks to understand this mystery of the God who is unique, the only Creator of the world, of us all, and still, because this one God is trinitarian, is also a circle of love.

He seeks to understand the unfathomable mystery: the Trinitarian being, in three persons, as precisely the most real and most profound expression of teh unity of the one God.

De doctrina Christiana is a true and proper cultural introduction to the interpretation of the Bible, and at the same time, a conclusive interpretation of Christianity itself. It, too, had a decisive importance in the shaping of Western culture.

Even with all his humility, Augustine was certainly aware of his own intellectual stature. But for him, more important than writing great works of high theological value was bringing the Christian message to the simple people.

This most profound of his intentions, which guided his whole life, is expressed in a letter to his colleague Evodius, informing him of his decision to suspend for the time being his dictation of the books making up De Trinitate "because they are too laborious and I think they may be understood only by a few; more urgent are texts which I hope will be useful to many" (Epistulae, 169, 1, 1).

Therefore, he thought it was more useful to communicate the faith in a way understandable to all rather than write great theological works. This acutely felt responsibility regarding the proclamation of the Christian message was responsible for writings such as De catechizandis rudibus, which was both a theory and a praxis of catechesis, or the Psalmus contra partem Donati.

The Donatists were the great problem in the Africa of St. Augustine - a schism that was African in origin. The Donatists affirmed that true Christianity was African and opposed the unity of the Church. The great bishop fought this schism all his life, seeking to convince the Donatists that it is only in Christian unity that Africanness itself could be authentic.

And to make himself understood by the simple people, who could not understand a rhetoricist's grand Latin, he decided: I should write even with grammatical errors in a very simplified Latin. And he did this, especially in this Psalmus, a kind of simple poetry against the Donatists, to help all the people understand that our relationship with God and peace in the world could only grow in the unity of the Church.

In Augustine's literary production addressed to a much larger public, particularly important is the sheer mass of his homilies, often extemporaneous but transcribed during the preaching to be published for immediate circulation.

Among these are the very beautiful Enarrationes in Psalmos, widely read in the Middle Ages. The very practice of immediate publication of thousands of homilies by Augustine - often beyond the author's control - explains their dissemination and subsequent wider diffusion, but also their vitality.

Almost immediately, in fact, the preachings of the Bishop of Hippo became, because of their author's fame, highly sought texts that served even other bishops and priests, texts that were adaptable to ever new contexts.

[IMG]http://img509.imageshack.us/img509/639/augustinelateranvm9.png[/IMG]

The iconographic tradition - which we can see in a Lateran fresco dating to the sixth century - shows St. Augustine with a book in one hand, certainly to represent his literary production which so influenced Christian mentality and Christian thought, but also to show his love of books, for reading, and for gaining knowledge of older cultures.

At his death, he left nothing, said Possidius, but "he urged to always conserve diligently for posterity the library of the Church with all its codices", as well as his own writings.

In his works, Possidius writes, Augustine is 'always alive' and benefits those who read his writings, even if "I believe that those who saw and heard him when he preached in Church had profited more from that contact, but most of all, those who had experience of his daily life among the people" (Vita Augustini, 31).

Yes, even for us, it would have been beautiful to hear him alive. But he truly lives in his writings, and is present with us, and we see the permanent vitality of the faith to which he had given his entire life.



In English, he said:

In today’s catechesis, we continue to focus on Saint Augustine, a prolific and widely influential author.

Perhaps Augustine’s best-known work is the Confessions, a prayerful reflection on his life, in which he perceives his own sinfulness and extols the Lord’s grace and mercy.

In De civitate Dei, Augustine describes the tension between two cities: the earthly city that springs from love of self and indifference to God, and the heavenly city born from love of God and "indifference to self".

In De Trinitate, Augustine expounds the core belief of the Christian faith: one God in three persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Although Augustine is renowned for his towering intellect and vast body of writings, his primary concern was always to spread the Christian message. He continually strove to express the Gospel in a way accessible to every man, woman and child, so that all might come to know its saving truth: Jesus Christ.

May we follow his example in sharing the Good News with others.

I cordially greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s audience. I extend a particular welcome to parishioners from the Church of Our Lady of Loretto in New York, as well as Benedictines participating in an intensive course on the rule of their order. A blessed Lent to you all!

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 2/21/2008 12:32 AM]
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2/24/2008 9:29 PM
 
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ANGELUS OF 2/24/08

Returning from his pastoral visit to the parish of Santa Maria Liberatrice in Testaccio, the Holy Father came to his study window at the Apostolic Palace at noon today for the customary Sunday Angelus. Here is a translation of his words to the faithful:



Dear brothers and sisters,

On this third Sunday of Lent, the liturgy re-proposes this year one of the most beautiful and profound texts in the Bible: the dialog between Jesus and the Samaritan woman (cfr Jn 4,5-42).

St. Augustine, about whom I have been speaking amply in the Wednesday catecheses, was rightly fascinated by this story and made a memorable comment about it. It is impossible to reduce to a brief explanation the richness of this Gospel page (he said): it must be read and meditated upon personally, assimilating oneself into that woman who, on a day like any other, came to draw water from the well and there, found Jesus, seated by it, 'weary from travelling', in the heat of the noonday sun.

"Give me a drink," he tells her, leaving her astounded. It was, in fact, unaccustomed for a Jew to address a Samaritan, who was moreover a stranger.

But the woman's wonder was destined to grow even more: Jesus spoke of 'living water' capable of extinguishing thirst and to become in her "a spring of water that gushes forth eternal life'. He also showed he knew her personal life. He revealed to her that the time had come for her to adore the only true God in spirit and in truth; and finally, he confided in her - a most rare thing, indeed - that he was the Messiah. All this, from the real sensory experience of thirst!

The theme of thirst runs throughout all of John's Gospel: from the encounter with the Samaritan woman, to the great prophecy during the feast of Tabernacles (Jn 7,37-38), uo to the Cross, when Jesus, before dying, said in order to fulfill the prophecy: "I thirst" (Jn 19,28).

The thirst of Christ is a door of access to the mystery of God, who made himself thirsty in order to quench our thirst, just as he made himself poor in order to enrich us (cfr 2Cor 8,().

Yes, God has thirst of our faith and our love. Like a good and merciful father, he wants for us all possible good, and this good is he himself.

The Samaritan woman instead represents the existential dissatisfaction of someone who has not found what he is looking for: she has had 'five husbands' and is now living with another man; her going to and from the well expresses a repetitive and resigned life.

But everything changed for her that day, thanks to her conversation with the Lord Jesus, who affected her so much that she forgot her water jar and ran to tell the people of the village: "Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?" (Jn 4,28-29)

Dear brothers and sister, let us ourselves open our hearts to a trustful listening to the word of God in order, as the Samaritan woman did, to meet Jesus who reveals to us his love and tells us: the Messiah, your Savior - "I am he, the one who is speaking with you (Jn 4,26).

May Mary - the first and perfect disciple of the Word made flesh - obtain this gift for us.



After the Angelus prayers, the Pope had the following messages:

Recent floods have devastated wide coastal areas of Ecuador, causing very serious damages, which have added to those caused earlier by the eruption of the volcano Tungurahua.

Even as I entrust to the Lord the victims of these calamities, I express my personal closeness to all who are living hours of anguish and tribulation, and I invite everyone to a fraternal solidarity with them so that the peoples of the area may return, as soon as possible, to the normalcy of daily life.

Next Saturday, March 1, at 5 p.m., I will preside at the Aula Paolo VI at a Marian vigil with the university students of Rome. Participating in the vigil, through radio-TV linkage, are students from other nations of Europe and the Americas.

We will invoke the intercession of Mary Sedes Sapientiae (Seat of Wisdom), so that Christian hope may sustain the building of a civilization of love in these two continents and in the whole world.

Dear university students, I expect to see you in great numbers.


After greeting French-speaking pilgrims, he added a special message in French and English:

I also wish to greet the residents of Quebec City, Canada, which celebrates this year the 400th anniversary of its foundation. On this important occasion, I am happy to associate myself through prayer and thanksgiving with the Diocese of Quebec which is also preparing to host the 47th International Eucharistic Congress.

I would like to extend a cordial invitation to Catholics throughout the world to support, by their prayers and their presence, the 49th International Eucharistic Congress to be celebrated in Quebec City from 15-22 June 2008.


For English-speaking pilgrims, he said:

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Angelus.

As we continue our Lenten journey may our resolve to follow closely the path of Jesus be strengthened through prayer, forgiveness, fasting and assistance to those in need. I trust your visit to Rome will increase your understanding of the faith and deepen your love of the universal Church.

Upon all of you and your dear ones, I gladly invoke the strength and peace of Christ the Lord.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 2/24/2008 9:51 PM]
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2/27/2008 4:09 PM
 
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AUDIENCE OF 2/27/08

Once again, because of the great number of pilgrims who could not be accommodated in the Aula Paolo VI, the Holy Father first greeted the overflow crowd today inside St. Peter's Basilica, before proceeding to Aula Paolo VI for the regular catechesis. He gave his fifth and last lecture in his series on St. Augustine. Here is a translation:



Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to conclude my presentation of St. Augustine. After having dwelt on his life, his works, and some aspects of his thought, I wish to go back today to his interior life which made him one of the greatest converts in Christian history.

To this interior experience, I particularly devoted my reflections during the pilgrimage I made to Pavia last year to venerate the mortal remains of this Father of the Church. I wanted to express the homage of the entire Catholic Church but also to show my personal devotion and acknowledgment of a figure to whom I feel very much connected for the part that he has played in my life as a theologian, priest and pastor.

Even today we can retrace the experiences of St. Augustine, thanks above all to his Confessions, written in praise of God and which originated one of the most specific literary forms of the West, the autobiography, that is, a personal expression of one's consciousness about oneself.

Whoever reads this extraordinary and fascinating book, which is still widely read today, will easily realize that Augustine's conversion was neither sudden nor fully realized immediately, but that it could be better defined as a true and proper journey, which remains a model for each of us.

This itinerary certainly culminated in his conversion and baptism, but it did not end on that Easter Vigil of 387 when the African rhetorician was baptized by Bishop Ambrose in Milan.

Augustine's journey of conversion, in fact, continued humbly until the end of his life, so that one can say that its various stages - one can easily distinguish three - made up a unique act of conversion.

St. Augustine was a passionate searcher for the truth - he was from the very beginning and all his life. The first stage of his journey of conversion was his progressively coming close to Christianity. Actually, he received a Christian education from his mother Monica, to whom he was always closely linked, and although he led an undisciplined life in his youth, he always felt a profound attraction to Christ, having drunk love for the name of the Lord with his mother's milk, as he himself underscored (cfr Confessiones, III, 4, 8).

But philosophy, too, especially Platonic, contributed to bring him closer to Christ by showing him the existence of the Logos, creative reason. The philosophers' books showed him that there was Reason, from which the whole world sprung, but they did not tell him how to reach this Logos which seemed so remote.

Only reading about the faith of the Catholic Church in St. Paul's letters revealed the truth fully to him. This experience was synthesized by Augustine in one of the most famous pages of the Confessions: He recounts that, in the torment of his reflections, he retired to a garden, where suddenly he heard a child's voice which repeated to him a lullaby he had never heard before, "Tolle, legge, tolle, legge..." (Take and read, take and read) (VIII, 20,29).

He then remembered the conversion of St. Anthony Abbot, the father of monasticism, and with great urgency, he turned to the Pauline epistolary which he had in his hands earlier, opened it, and his glance fell on the passage from the Letter to the Romans where the Apostle exhorts the Romans to abandon the ways of the flesh and 'put on the Lord Jesus Christ' (13, 13-14).

He understood that at that moment, those words were addressed to him, that it came from God through the Apostle, and showed him what to do right then. Thus, he felt the shadows of doubt dissolve and he found himself finally free to give himself completely to Christ: "You converted my being to you", he commented (Confessiones, VIII, 12,30). This was his first and decisive conversion.

The African rhetorician reached this fundamental stage of his long journey, thanks to his passion for man and for the truth, a passion which brought him to look for God, great and seemingly inaccessible. Faith in Christ made him understand that God, apparently so remote, was really not. In fact, that he had made himself close to us by becoming one of us.

In this sense, faith in Christ fulfilled Augustine's long search along the path of truth. Only a God who made himself 'tangible', one of us, was a God to whom one could pray, for whom and with whom one could live. But it is a way to follow with courage as well as humility, opening us to a permanent purification of which each of us is always in need.

With that Easter Vigil Baptism of 387, as we said earlier, Augustine's journey was not done. He returned to Africa where he retired with a few friends to dedicate themselves to a life of contemplation and study. This was the dream of his life. He was called to live totally for the truth, with the truth, in friendship with Christ who is the Truth.

It was a beautiful dream that lasted three years, until when, against his wishes, he was consecrated a priest in Hippo, destined to serve the faithful, continuing to live with Christ and for Christ, but in the service of all.

This was very difficult for him, but he understood from the beginning that only by living for others, and not only for his private gratification, could he really live with Christ and for Christ. Thus, renouncing a life of pure meditation, Augustine learned, often with difficulty, to offer the fruit of his intelligence for the benefit of others.

He learned to communicate his faith to simple people, and living that way in what became his city, he carried out tirelessly a generous and onerous service that he described in these words in one of his beautiful sermons: "To preach continuously, discuss, reiterate, edify, be at the disposal of everyone - it is an enormous responsibility, a great weight, an immense effort" (Serm. 339,4).

But he took this weight on himself, understanding that this way, he was closest to Christ. To understand that one reaches others with simplicity and humility was his true and second conversion.

But there is a third stage in the Augustinian journey, a third conversion: that which brought him every day of his life to ask God's forgiveness. Initially, he had thought that once he was baptized - in a life of communion with Christ, in the Sacraments, in the celebration of the Eucharist - he would attain the life proposed in the Sermon on the Mount: the perfection given in Baptism and reconfirmed in the Eucharist.

In the latter part of his life, he understood that what he had said in his first preachings about the Sermon on the Mount - that is, that we Christians would thereafter live that ideal permanently - was wrong. That only Christ himself was the true and complete realization of the Sermon on the Mount.

We are all always in need of being 'washed' by Christ, who washes our feet, and to be renewed by him. We need permanent continuing conversion. Up to the end we need the humility to recognize that we are sinners on a journey, until the Lord gives us his hand conclusively and introduces us to eternal life. In such an attitude of humility, lived day after day, Augustine died.

This attitude of profound humility before the one Lord Jesus introduced him also to the experience of intellectual humility. Augustine, in fact, who is one of the greatest figures in the history of ideas, wished during his final years to place all his numerous works under lucid critical examination.

That was the origin of Retractiones(Revisions) which, in this way, placed his theological thinking, which was truly great, within the humble and holy faith of what he called simply with the name Catholic, that is, the Church.

"I understood," he wrote in this very original book (I, 19,1-3), "that only one is truly perfect, and that the words of the Sermon on the Mount are completely realized only in one - in Jesus Christ himself. The whole Church, instead - all of us, including the Apostles - must pray every day: forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us."

Converted to Christ, who is truth and love, Augustine followed him the rest of his life and has become a model for every human being, for all of us in search of God.

That is why I wished to conclude my pilgrimage to Pavia by symbolically offering to the Church and to the world, at the tomb of this great lover of God, my first encyclical, Deus caritas est.

In fact, the encyclical owes a great deal, especially in the first part, to the thought of St. Augustine. Even today, as in his time, mankind needs to recognize, and above all, to live, this fundamental reality: God is love, and the encounter with him is the only response to the anxieties of the human heart. A heart that is inhabited by hope, perhaps still obscure and even unconscious in many of our contemporaries, but which for us Christians, already opens the future, such that St. Paul wrote, "in hope we are saved" (Rom 8,24).

I dedicated my second encyclical, Spe salvi, to hope, and even that owes a great deal to Augustine's thoughts and his encounter with God.

In a very beautiful text, Augustine defined prayer as the expression of desire, and stated that God responds by opening up our hearts to him. On our part, we should purify our desires and our hopes in order to receive the kindness of God (cfr In I Ioannis, 4, 6). Only this, in fact, opening us up to others, saves us.

Let us pray therefore that in our life we may be granted to follow everyday the example of this great convert, encountering like him, in every moment of our life, the Lord Jesus, the only one who saves us, purifies us, and gives us true joy and true life.



Later, for English-speaking pilgrims, he said this:

Today we conclude our presentation of Saint Augustine with a discussion of the process of his interior conversion.

In reading his Confessions, we see that his conversion was a life-long journey marked by a passionate search for truth. Despite living an errant life as a young man, Augustine had learned from his mother a love for the name of Christ.

Platonic philosophy led him to recognise the existence of Logos, or creative reason in the Universe, which he later came to understand more fully by reading Saint Paul and finding faith in Christ. He completed this fundamental phase in his search for truth when he was baptized in Milan by Saint Ambrose.

The second stage of his conversion saw Augustine return to Africa and found a small monastery with a group of friends dedicated to contemplation and study. Three years later, he was ordained a priest and turned to the life of active ministry, placing the fruits of his study at the service of others through preaching and dialogue.

The last stage was a conversion of such profound humility that he would daily ask God for pardon. He also demonstrated this humility in his intellectual endeavours, submitting all his works to a thorough critique.

Augustine has had a profound effect on my own life and ministry. My hope is that we can all learn from this great and humble convert who saw with such clarity that Christ is truth and love!

I welcome all the English speaking visitors present today, including the many student groups and the pilgrims from England, Sweden, Malta, Japan, Canada and the United States. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings of joy and peace.

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3/2/2008 3:43 PM
 
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ANGELUS OF 3/2/08

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the noonday Angelus today:


Dear brothers and sisters,

In these Sundays of Lent, through texts from the Gospel of John, the liturgy is leading us through a true and proper baptismal itinerary.

Last Sunday, Jesus promised the gift of 'living water' to the Samaritan woman at the well. Today, healing a man who was born blind, he revealed himself as 'the light of the world'. Next Sunday, in bringing back to life his friend Lazarus, he will present himself as 'the resurrection and the life'.

Water, light, life: these are the symbols of Baptism, a sacrament which 'immerses' believers in the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection, liberating them from the slavery of sin, and giving them eternal life.

Let us dwell briefly on the account of the man who was born blind (Jn 9,1-41). The disciples, according to the mentality common at the time, took it for granted that his blindness was the consequence of sin by himself or his parents.

But Jesus rejects this prejudice and says, "Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible" (Jn 9,3).

What comfort these words give us! They make us hear the living voice of God, who is Love that is both provident and wise. In the face of mankind marked by limitations and sufferings, Jesus does not think of eventual sins but of the will of God who created man for life.

Therefore, he solemnly declares: "We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day... While I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (Jn 9,4-5).

And immediately he goes into action: With a little clay and saliva, he makes a paste that he spreads on the eyes of the blind man. This action refers to the creation of man, which the Bible recounts with the symbol of clay that is shaped, which comes alive with the breath of God (cfr Jn 2,7).

'Adam', in fact, means 'earth', and the human body is indeed made up of the elements of the earth. In healing the man, Jesus performs a new creation.

But that healing raises a heated discussion, because Jesus did it on the Sabbath, violating the Holy Day, according to the Pharisees. Thus, after the healing, Jesus and the once-blind man find themselves 'chased out' by the Pharisees - one because he violated the law, the other because, despite his healing, he remains marked as a sinner from birth.

To the healed man, Jesus reveals that he came to the world to work justice, to separate the curable blind from those who do not allow themselves to be cured because they presume themselves to be healthy.

In fact, the temptation is strong in man to build an ideological security system - and even religion can become part of this system, just like atheism, or secularism - but in so doing, he is blinded by his own egoism.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us allow ourselves to be healed by Jesus, who can and wants to give us the light of God! Let us confess our blindness, our myopia, and above all what the Bible calls the 'great sin' (cfr Ps 13,14) - pride.

May the Most Blessed Mary help us, who in generating Christ in the flesh, gave the world true light.


After the Angelus, the Holy Father had several special messages:

With profound sorrow, I have been following the events following the abduction of Mons. Paulos Faraj Rahho, Archbishop of Mosul of the Chaldeans, in Iraq. I join the appeal of the Patriarch, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, and his co-workers, so that the beloved prelate, who is in precarious health, may be released quickly.

At the same time, I offer my prayers of intercession for the souls of the three young men who were killed during his abduction. And I express my closeness to the Church in Iraq, especially to the Chaldean Church, which has been struck a harsh blow once again, even as I encourage the Pastors and the faithful to be strong and firm in hope.

May those who govern the destinies of the beloved Iraqi people multiply their efforts so that through wise commitment, everyone may find peace and security, and will not be denied the future to which they have a right.

Unfortunately, in recent days, the tension between Israel and Palestine in the Gaza Strip has reached very serious levels.

I renew my urgent call on the authorities, Israeli and Palestinian, to stop this spiral of violence, on each side, without conditions. Only by showing absolute respect for human life, even that of the enemy, can one hope to give a future of peace and coexistence to the young generations of these peoples which both have their roots in the Holy Land.

I invite the entire Church to raise prayers to the Almighty for peace in the land of Jesus and to show attentive and concrete solidarity with both peoples, Israeli and Palestinian.

During the week, the Italian media has focused its attention on the sad ending for two children known as Ciccio and Tore. [Their remains were found at the bottom of a well in Bari, southeastern Italy, after having disappeared in 2006].

It is an ending which has had a profound impact on me as it has on many families and persons. I wish to take the occasion to launch a cry of help in the name of children. Let us take very good care of them. We should love them and help them to grow. I say this to parents but also to institutions.

In making this appeal, my thought goes to children everywhere in the world, especially those who are most helpless, exploited and abused. I entrust every child to the heart of Christ, who said, "Let the children come to me!" (Lk 18,16).


Later, in English, he said:

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus.

In today’s Gospel, we encounter Jesus, the light of the world, who cures the man born blind. By opening our eyes to faith, to the light that comes from God, Jesus continues to cure us from the darkness of confusion and sin present in this world.

May his light always purify our hearts and renew our Christian love as we journey with him to Eternal Life.

I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome, and a blessed Sunday!

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3/5/2008 3:48 PM
 
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AUDIENCE OF 3/5/08

The General Audience today took place once again in two places. First, the Pope greeted the faithful inside St. Peter's Basilica, including Italian students belonging to two national associations. Afterwards, he proceeded to Aula Paolo VI where he delivered his Wednesday catechesis and greetings to various pilgrim groups.

Here is a translation of the catechesis:



Dear brothers and sisters,

Continuing our journey with the Fathers of the Church - true stars who shine from afar - today we come to a Pope who was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Benedict XIV in 1754.

We will speak of St. Leo the Great. As indicated by the appellative which was quickly granted him by tradition, he was truly one of the greatest Pontiffs who ever honored the Seat of Roman, contibuting a great deal to reinforce its authority and prestige.

The first Bishop of Rome to carry the name Leo, which was later taken by 12 other Supreme Pontiffs, he is also the first Pope whose preaching to the people who gathered around him during liturgical celebrations has come down to us.

One thinks spontaneously of him in the context of the present Wednesday general audiences, an appointment which has become for the Bishop of Rome, in the past few decades, a customary form of encounter with the faithful and so many visitors coming from every part of the world.

Leo was a native of Tuscia [historic Italian region that was under the Etruscans - now corresponds to the province of Viterbo, but included Tsucany and parts of Lazio]. He became a deacon in the Church of Rome around 430, and with time, achieved a high profile in that function.

His outstanding performance led Galla Palcidia, who ruled the Wetsern Empire at the time, to send him to Gaul in 440 to repair a difficult situation.

But in the summer of that year, Pope Sixtus III - whose name is linked to the magnificent mosaics at Santa Maria Maggiore - died, and Leo was elected to succeed him, receiving the news while he was on his mission in Gaul.

Returning to Rome, the new Pope was consecrated on September 29, 440. Thus started a Pontificate which lasted more than 21 years and which is undoubtedly one of the most important in the history of the Church.

Upon his death on November 10, 461, the Pope was buried near the tomb of St. Peter. His relics are kept today in one of the altars of the Vatican Basilica.

Pope Leo lived in very difficult times. Repeated barbarian invasions, the progressive weakening of imperial authority in the Western empire, and a long social crisis had imposed on the Bishop of Rome - as it would with even greater effect one and a half centuries later during the pontificate of Gregory the Great - the need to assume a role that was relevant even in civil and political affairs. Obviously, this did not fail to increaase the importance and prestige of the Roman See.

A famous episode in Leo's life took place in 452, when the Pope, together with a Roman delegation, met with Attila, leader of the Huns, in Mantua, and persuaded him from continuing with his war of invasion which had already devastated northeastern Italy, thus saving the rest of the peninsula.

img110.imageshack.us/img110/7992/leoattilaraphael2dc32d...
Raphael's The Meeting between Leo the Great and Attila depicts Leo,
escorted by Saint Peter and Saint Paul, meeting with the Hun king outside Rome


This important event quickly became memorable and continues to be an emblematic sign of the peace activities carried out by the Papacy.

Unfortunately, a similar success was not the outcome of another papal initiative three years later, which is nevertheless the sign of a courage which still amazes us. In the spring of 455, Leo could not, in fact, prevent the Vandals of Genseric, who had reached the gates of Rome, from invading the defenseless city which was sacked for two weeks.

Nevertheless, the Pope's gesture - helpless and surrounded by his priests, he went forth to meet the invader and asked him to stop - at least prevented the burning of Rome and resulted in saving the Basilica's of St. Peter, St. Paul and St. John Lateran, in which part of the terrorized population had sought refuge.

We know Pope Leo's activities quite well, thanks to his beautiful sermons, of which almost a hundred have been preserved, in splendid and clear Latin - and thanks to his letters, almost 150.

In these texts, the Pope appears in all his greatness, in the service of truth in charity, through an assiduous exercise of the word which showed him to be both theologian and pastor at the same time.

Leo the Great, whose attention was constantly solicited by the faithful and the people of Rome, but also by the communion among the different churches and their needs, was a tireless promoter and supporter of the Roman primacy, presenting the Pope as the authentic heir of the Apostle Peter. The bishops, many of them Oriental, who gathered together in the Council of Chalcedon, showed themselves to be well aware of this.

Held in 451, with 350 bishops taking part, this Council was the most important assembly ever celebrated in the history of the Church till then. Chalcedon represented the secure harbor of the Christology established in the three preceding ecumenical councils: Nicaea in 325, Constantinople in 381, and Ephesus in 431.

Already in the 6th century, these four Councils, which synthesized the faith of the early Church, came to be likened to the four Gospels, as Gregory the Great stated in a famous letter (I,24), affirming 'to accept and venerate, like the four books of the Holy Gospel, the four Councils" because, he explains further, on them "the structure of the holy faith arises as on a keystone."

The Council of Chalcedon, in denouncing the heresy of Eutiche, who denied the true human nature of the Son of God - affirmed the union, within the one Person of Christ, of the human and divine natures, without confusion and without separation.

This faith in Jesus Christ as true God and true man was affirmed by Pope Leo in an important doctrinal text addressed to tbe Bishop of Constantinople, the so-called 'Tome to Flavianus', which, when read at Chalecedon, was received by the bishops present with eloquent acclamation - recorded in the acts of the Council in these words: "Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo" - breaking into unanimous applause.

From this intervention above all, but also in others carried out during the Christological controversy of those years, it is evident that the Pope felt the particularly urgent responsibility of the Successor of Peter, whose role is unique in the Church, because "only to one Apostle was entrusted what was communicated to all the apostles", as Leo said in one of his sermons for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul (83,2).

And the Pope knew how to exercise this responsibility in the West as well as in the East, intervening in different circumstances with prudence, firmness and clarity through his writings and through his legates.

He showed in this way how the exercise of Roman primacy was necessary then, as it is today, in order to effectively serve the communion that is charatceristic of the only Church of Christ.

Conscious of the historical moment in which he lived and the transition that it was undergoing - in a period of profound crisis - from pagan Rome to Christian Rome, Leo the Great knew how to be close to the people and the faithful with his pastoral activity and his preaching.

He inspired charity in a Rome that was tried by famine, a refugee influx, injustices and poverty. He opposed pagan superstitions and the activities of Manichaean groups. He linked liturgy to the daily life of Christians by uniting, for example, the practice of fasting to charity and almsgiving, especially during the Four 'tempora' which marked the seasonal changes during the year.

In particular, Leo the Great taught the faithful - and even today, his words are valid for us - that Christian liturgy is not a remembrance of past events but the actualization of invisiblle realities that work in the life of every person.

He underscored this in a sermon (64,1-2) on Easter, which, he said, must be celebrated everry day of the year "not as something from the past, but rather as an event of the present".

All this was part of a precise plan, the Holy Pontiff pointed out: Just as the Creator animated with his breath of rational life the man he had fashioned out of the mud of the earth, so too, after original sin, he sent his Son to the world to restore lost dignity to man and to destroy the power of the devil through a new life in grace.

This is the Christologic mystery to which St. Leo the Great, with his letter to the Council of Chalcedon, gave an effective and essential contribution, confirming for all times, through the Council, what St. Peter said at Caesarea.

With Peter and like Peter, he professed: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" - thus, God and man together, 'not alien to the human species, but alien to sin' (cfr Serm. 64).

With the strength of this Christologic faith, Leo the Great was a great bearer of peace and love. He thus shows us the way: in faith, we learn charity. Let us learn with St. Leo the Great to believe in Christ, true God and true man, and to realize this faith everyday in actions for peace and in love for our neighbor.



Here is what the Holy Father said in English today:

Continuing our catechesis on the Fathers of the Church, we turn to Saint Leo the Great, one of the most influential Popes in history.

He was born in Tuscia and became Bishop of Rome in 440 during times of severe social unrest. Since the Roman Emperor’s authority had practically disappeared in the West, and Italy was suffering from frequent Barbarian incursions, Pope Leo took it upon himself to protect Rome.

His courageous meeting in Mantua with Attila the Hun, whom he convinced to desist from his plans to devastate the city, is the most well known, but not the only event of its kind.

Pope Leo promoted the Primacy of the Bishop of Rome as the successor of the Apostle Peter, and exercised this ministry in the East and the West with great prudence, pastoral sensitivity and wisdom.

The Bishops attending the important Council of Chalcedon in 451, acclaimed the text he sent concerning faith in Jesus, true God and true man, with the words: "Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo".

Thanks to Pope Leo’s sermons and letters, we can still appreciate his zeal and charity as pastor of the Church, and his theological depth and clarity.

He also shares with us his profound understanding of the liturgy, where he sees the mysteries of salvation as present to our time and influential in our everyday realities.

May the life and example of Pope Saint Leo always remind us that the encounter with God in Christ is the source of our joy and our salvation!

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims attending today’s audience, including the groups from England, Denmark, Sweden, Indonesia, Canada and the United States. I extend particular greetings to the visitors from Christendom College, and to the many student groups present.

May this Lenten season purify your hearts and renew your faith and your hope in the mystery of Christ our Redeemer. God bless you all!

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3/10/2008 1:17 AM
 
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ANGELUS OF 3/9/08
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the noonday Angelus today:

In our Lenten itinerary we have reached the fifth Sunday, characterized by the Gospel of the resurrection of Lazarus (Jn 11,1-48). It was the last great 'sign' from Jesus, after which the high priests called the Sanhedrin to discuss killing him. They would also decide to kill Lazarus himself, who was the living proof of the divinity of Christ, Lord of life and death.

Indeed, this Gospel episode shows Jesus as true man and true God. Above all, the evangelist emphasizes his friendship with Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. He underscores that "Jesus loved them" ['Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus'(Jn 11,5)], and so he wanted to perform the great miracle.

"Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him" (Jn 11,11), he told his disciples, expressing with the metaphor of sleep God's view of physical death: God sees it as sleep, from which one can awaken.

Jesus showed absolute power over such death: it was evident when he gave back life to the young son of the widow of Nain (cf Lk 7, 11-17) and to the 12-year-old girl (cfr Mk 5m35-43). Of this girl, he said, "She is not dead, she sleeps" (Mk 5,39), drawing the derision of those present. But in truth, it is so: the death of the body is a sleep from which God can make us arise at any moment.

This mastery over death did not keep Jesus from feeling sincere compassion for the sorrow of separation. Seeing Martha and Mary sweeping, along with those who came to comfort them, he "became perturbed and deeply troubled" and finally, "Jesus wept" (Jn 121,33-35).

The heart of Christ is divine and human: in him God and man are perfectly joined, without separation and without confusion. He is the image - more, the incarnation - of the God who is love, mercy, maternal and paternal kindness, of the God who is life.

That is why he declared solemnly to Martha: "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." Then he adds, "Do you believe this?" (Jn 11, 25-26).

That is a question that Jesus addresses to each of us. A question that is beyond us, really - it transcends our ability to understand, and asks us to trust in him, as he himself trusts the Father.

Martha's response is exemplary: "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world" (Jn 11,27).

Yes, Lord! We too believe, despite our doubts and our being in darkness. We believe in you because you have the words of eternal life. We want to believe in you who gives us a reliable hope for life beyond life, the authentic and full life in your Kingdom of light and peace.

Let us entrust this prayer to the Most Blessed Mary. May her intercession reinforce our faith and our hope in Jesus, especially in the moments of greatest trial and difficulty.


After the Angelus, the Holy Father had the following messages:

In the past days, violence and horror have once again bloodied the Holy Land, feeding a spiral of destruction and death which seems to have no end. While I invite you to pray insistently to the Allmighty Lord for the gift of peace in that region, I wish to entrust to his mercy the so many innocent victims and to express solidarity with their families and the wounded.

Moreover, I encourage the Israeli and Palesitinian authorities in their intention to continune to build, through negotiations, a peaceful and just future for their peoples. And I ask overyone, in the name of God, to leave the tortuous ways of hatred amd vengeance, and to follow responsibly the paths of dialog and mutual trust.

This is also my hope for Iraq, even as we are still fearful for the fate of His Excellency, Mons. Rahho, and of so many Iraqis who continue to experience blind and absurd violence, which is certainly contrary to the will of God.

On Thursday, March 13, at 5:30 p.m., I will preside at a Penitential Liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica for the youth of the Diocese of Rome. It will be a high point in the preparation for the XXIII World Youth Day, that we will celebrate on Palm Sunday and which will culminate in July with the great gathering in Sydney.

Dear young people of Rome, I invite you all to this appointment with the mercy of God! To the priests and other responsible persons, I urge you to encourage the participation of the youth, making the words of the Apostle Paul your own: "So we are ambassadors for Christ... We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5,20).



In English, he said:

My greetings to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims...

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear how Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. We also hear how Martha, in the midst of her grief, was able to make her great profession of faith: "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world."

As we approach the season of Our Lord’s Passion, we pray that our own faith may be strengthened, so that we too can place all our hope in him who is the resurrection and the life.

Upon all of you here today, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 3/10/2008 1:18 AM]
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3/12/2008 4:34 PM
 
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AUDIENCE OF 3/12/08

Here is a translation of the catechesis delivered by the Holy Father at the General Audience today in Aula Paolo VI. Earlier, he greeted an overflow crowd inside St. Peter's Basilica.


Dear brothers and sisters,


Today, I wish to speak about two ecclesiastical writers, Boethius and Cassiodorus, who lived during some of the most trying years of the Christian West, particularly, of the Italian peninsula.

Odoacre, king of the Eruli, a Germanic tribe, had rebelled, bringiing an end to the Western Roman Empire in 476, but soon he succumbed to the Ostrogoths under Theodoric who would control the Italian peninsula for the next several decades.

Boethius, born around 480 in the noble house of the Anicii, entered public life as a young man, becoming senator by the age of 25. Faithful to his family's traditions, he entered politics, convinced that the principles of Roman society could be integrated with the values of the new populations.

In that new era of an encounter between cultures, he considered it his mission to reconcile and bring together classic Roman culture with the nascent culture of the Ostrogoths. He became very active in politics, even under Theodoric, who respected him greatly at the start.

Notwithstanding his public activity, Boethius did not ignore his studies, dedicating himself in particular to an examination of philosophical and religious themes. But he also wrote manuals of arithmetic, gemoetry, music and astronomy: all with the intention of passing on to the new generations, in those new times, the great Greco-Roman culture.

In this context, namely, in the promotion of the encounter between cultures, he used the categories of Greek philosophy to propose the Christian faith, even here, in search of a synthesis between the Hellenistic-Roman patrimony and the Gospel message. Because of this, Boethius has been described as the last representative of ancient Roman culture and the first of the medieval intellectuals.

His best-known work is De consolatione philosophiae, which he wrote while in prison to make sense of his unjust detention. He was, in fact, accused of plotting against King Theodoric because he had taken on the defense of a friend, Senator Albinus.

But it was simply a pretext. In fact, Theodoric, Arian and barbarian, suspected that Boethius harbored sympathies for the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Boethius was tried, condemned to death, and finally executed on October 23, 524, at the age of 44.

Because of his tragic end, he can speak of his own experience even to contemporary man, and above all, to so many persons who are undergoingg the same fate because of the injustice present in much of 'human justice'.

In his prison text, he looks for comfort, for light, for wisdom. He writes that he was able to distinguish, precisely in his situation, between apparent 'good' - which is absent in jail - and true 'good', like authentic friendship, which can be found even in prison.

The highest good is God. Boethius learned - and teaches us - never to yield to fatalism which extinguishes hope. He teaches us that fate does not govern, but Providence, and it has a face. One can speak to Providence, because Providence is God.

That is why even in prison, there is the possibility of prayer, of dialog with him who saves us. At the same time, even in his situation, he kept a sense of the beauty of culture, and recalls the teachings of the great Greek and Roman philosophers - like Plato and Aristolte, whom he had begun to translate into Latin - and Cicero, Seneca, and poets like Tibullus and Virgil.

Philosophy, as the search for true wisdom, is, according to Boethius, the real medicine for the soul (ibid., Book I). On the other hand, man can experience authentic happiness only in his interiority (ibid., Bk II). And so, Boethius could think about his own personal tragedy in the light of a Wisdom text from the Old Testament (Wis 7,30-8,1), which he cites: "Wickedness prevails not over Wisdom; indeed, she reaches from end to end mightily and governs all things well" (Bk III, 12: PL 63, col. 780).

The so-called prosperity of evil ones, moreover, turns out to be false (Bk IV), and proves the providential nature of adverse fortune. The difficulties of life reveal not only how ephemeral the latter is but also that it is eventually useful for identifying and maintaining authentic inter-personal relationships.

Bad fortune, in fact, allows us to distinguish false friends from the true, and makes us understand that nothing is more precious to man than true friendship.

To fatalistically accept a condition of suffering is absolutely dangerous, says the believer Boethius, because "it eliminates at the root the possibility of prayer itself and of theological hope which are the bases of man's relationship with God" (Bk V, 3: PL 63, COL. 842).

The final peroration of De consolatione philosophiae may be considered s synthesis of Boethius's entire teaching which he addresses to himself and to all who may find themselves in similar conditions. He writes in prison: "And therefore to fight against the vices, dedicate yourself to a virtuous life oriented by hope which elevates the heart until it reaches heaven with prayers nourished by humility. The impositions you have undergone can change, sometimes refuted as lies, with the enormous advantage that you always have before your eyes the Supreme Judge who sees and knows how things really are" (Bk. V, 6: PL 63, col. 862).

Every detained person, for whatever reason he ends up in jail, knows how onerous this particular human condition is, especially when it is made brutal, as it was with Boethius, by the use of torture. Especially absurd is the condition of those who, like Boethius - whom the city of Pavia honors and celebrates as a martyr to the faith - are tortured to death without any other reason but their political and religious convictions.

Boethius, symbol of countless prisoners unjustly detained through all the ages and in all latitudes, is an objective doorway to contemplating the mystery of the Curcifixion on Golgotha.

A contempoary of Boethius was Marcus Aurelius Cassiodorus, a Calabrian native born in Squillace around 485, who died in the fullness of youth in Vivarium around 580.

He too, born into a high social level, dedicated himself to political life and cultural commitment as few others did in the Western Roman Empire in his time. Perhaps the only ones equal to him in this double commitment were Boethius himself and the future Pope, Gregory the Great (590-604).

Conscious of the need not to allow the human and humanistic patrimony accumulated in the golden age of the Roman empire to vanish into oblivion, Cassiodorus collaborated generously - and at the highest levels of political responsibility - with the new peoples who had entered the confines of the empire and had now settled in Italy.

He too was a model of cultural encounter, dialog and reconciliation. But historical events did not allow him to realize his cultural and political dreams which aimed to creeate a synthesis between Italy's Roman-Christian tradition and the new Gothic culture.

Those same events convinced him, however, of the providentiality of the monastic movement, which was then affirming itself in Christian lands. He decided to support it, giving over to it all his mateerial wealth and his spiritual forces.

He conceived the idea of entrusting to the monks the task of recovering, conserving and transmitting to posterity the immense cultural patrimony of the ancients so that it would not be lost. For this, he founded Vivarium, a monastery in which everything was organized so that one could appreciate just how invaluable and irrenunciable was the intellectual labor of the monks.

He made sure that even those monks who had no special intellectual training did not only perform material work in agriculture, but also transcribed manuscripts and thus aided in transmitting the great culture of antiquity to future generations.

All this, without minimizing the monks' monastic and Christian commitment and their charitable activites with the poor.

In his teaching, distributed in various works, but above all in his treatise De anima e nelle Institutiones divinarum litterarum, prayer (cfr PL 69, col. 1108), nourished by Sacred Scripture and the Psalms (cfr PL 69, col. 1149), always has a central place as the nourishment that was needed by everyone.

For example, here is how that most cultured Calabrian introduces his
Expositio in Psalterium: "Having rejected and abandoned in Ravenna all the demands of a political career characterized by the disgusting flavor of worldly concerns, and having benefited with joy from the Psaltery - a book from heaven that is authentic honey to the soul - I plunged avidly like a thirsty man into studying it ceaselessly to allow myself to be permeated by its salutary sweetness after having had enough of the countless bitternesses of active life" (PL 70, col. 10).

The search for God, the impulse to contemplate him, notes Cassiodorus, remains the permanent goal of monastic life (cfr PL 69, col. 1107). But he adds that, with the aid of divine grace (cfr PL 69, col. 1131.1142), one can reach a better fruition of the revealed Word by using the sientific conquests and the 'profane' cuultural instruments already possessed by the Greeks and Romans (cfr PL 69, col. 1140).

Personnaly, Cassiodorus dedicated himself to philosophical, theological and exegetical studies without perticular creativity, but he was always attentive to intuitions which he recognized as valid in others. Above all, he read Jerome and Augustine with respect and devotion.

About Augustine, he wrote: "In Augustine, there is such richness that it seems impossible for me to find anything that he has not already treated abundantly" (cfr PL 70, col. 10).

Citing Jerome, he exhorted the monks at Vivarium: "Those who gain the palm of victory are not only those who shed blood or who live in virginity, but all those who, with the help of God, triumph over the vices of the body and keep the right faith. But in order that you may, always with God's help, more easily defeat the temptations of the world, while being in the world as pilgrims continually on the move, seek above all to guarantee to yourselves the salutary assistance suggested by the first Psalm which recommends meditating night and day on the law of the Lord. Indeed, the enemy will find no breach through which it can attack if all your attention is taken up by Christ" (De Institutione Divinarum Scripturarum, 32: PL 69, col. 1147).

It is an admonition that we can welcome as valid, even for us. In fact, we too live in a time of an encounter of cultures, of the dangers of violence which destroys cultures, and the necessary task of transmitting the great values and teaching the new generations the way of reconciliation and peace.

We find this way by orienting ourselves towards the God with the human face, the God revealed to us in Jesus Chirst.



In English, he said:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I wish to speak to you about two great Christian writers from the Italian peninsula during the period after the fall of the Roman Empire in the West: Boethius and Cassiodorus.

Both were anxious to preserve the heritage of Greek and Roman learning, handed down through generations of Christian believers, in the context of the Gothic culture that dominated Italy at the time.

Boethius, born in Rome in 480, entered public life and became a senator, though he continued his philosophical and religious studies alongside his public responsibilities. Unjustly imprisoned and later executed by King Theodoric, he wrote his greatest philosophical work in prison.

Reflecting on the injustice of his situation, in the light of Biblical Wisdom literature and Classical authors, he concluded that true happiness lies in continuing to hope in God, despite adversity.

Indeed, harsh fortune helps us to distinguish true friends from false ones, and there can be few greater consolations than that of true friendship.

His contemporary, Cassiodorus, devoted much time and energy to promoting the monastic movement, in the belief that monks were the people best placed to preserve and hand on the heritage of Classical Christian culture.

We would do well to take note of his advice to them: "Meditate day and night on the law of the Lord and always focus your attention upon Christ."

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today, including groups from England, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Scandinavia, and North America. I greet especially the many students and teachers who are present, including those from Saint Augustine’s College, Wiltshire, England. Upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.


The Pope also spoke a greeting in Latin to students of a Latin academy who were in the audience.

Sueciam deinde ipsam longinquam consalutare Latino sermone cupimus cuius hodie "Schola Cathedralis Scarensis" adest cum linguae Latinae discipulis viginti septem ac magistro Ioanne Hjertén aliisque praeceptoribus. Volumus omnino eorum confirmare et incitare studia, dum hic Romae antiquitates degustant tum christianas tum etiam veterum Romanorum, ut inde magnopere augescat spiritalis illorum et humana haereditas.



The translation -

Now we wish to greet in Latin the far country of Sweden, from which present today is the Schola Cathedralis Scarensis, with 27 students of the Latin language, their teacher Ioanne Hjerten adn other teachers. We wish to encourage and urge each of them in their studies, so that here in Rome, they may be able to experience the antiquities, both Christian and Roman, in a way that will increase their spirituality and (appreciation of) the human legacy.


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 3/12/2008 11:32 PM]
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