‘“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”: [this] beautiful prayer begins with these words, evoking the nomadic environment of sheep-farming and the experience of familiarity between the shepherd and the sheep that make up his little flock. The image calls to mind an atmosphere of trust, intimacy and tenderness: the shepherd knows each one of his sheep and calls them by name; and they follow him because they recognise him and trust in him (cf. Jn 10:2-4).
He tends them, looks after them as precious possessions, ready to defend them, to guarantee their well-being and enable them to live a peaceful life. They can lack nothing as long as the shepherd is with them. The Psalmist refers to this experience by calling God his shepherd and letting God lead him to safe pastures: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Ps 23:2-3).
The vision that unfolds before our eyes is that of green pastures and springs of clear water, oases of peace to which the shepherd leads his flock, symbols of the places of life towards which the Lord leads the Psalmist, who feels like the sheep lying on the grass beside a stream, resting rather than in a state of tension or alarm, peaceful and trusting, because it is a safe place, the water is fresh and the shepherd is watching over them.
And let us not forget here that the scene elicited by the Psalm is set in a land that is largely desert, on which the scorching sun beats down, where the Middle-Eastern semi-nomad shepherd lives with his flock in the parched steppes that surround the villages. Nevertheless the shepherd knows where to find grass and fresh water, essential to life, he can lead the way to oases in which the soul is “restored” and where it is possible to recover strength and new energy to start out afresh on the journey.
As the Psalmist says, God guides him to “green pastures” and “still waters”, where everything is superabundant, everything is given in plenty. If the Lord is the Shepherd, even in the desert, a desolate place of death, the certainty of a radical presence of life is not absent, so that he is able to say “I shall not want”. Indeed, the shepherd has at heart the good of his flock, he adapts his own pace and needs to those of his sheep, he walks and lives with them, leading them on paths “of righteousness”, that is, suitable for them, paying attention to their needs and not to his own. The safety of his sheep is a priority for him and he complies with this in leading his flock.
Dear brothers and sisters, if we follow the “Good Shepherd” — no matter how difficult, tortuous or long the pathways of our life may seem, even through spiritual deserts without water and under the scorching sun of rationalism — with the guidance of Christ the Good Shepherd, we too, like the Psalmist, may be sure that we are walking on “paths of righteousness” and that the Lord is leading us, is ever close to us and that we “shall lack nothing”. For this reason the Psalmist can declare his calm assurance without doubt or fear: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me”.
Those who walk with the Lord even in the dark valleys of suffering, doubt and all the human problems, feel safe. You are with me: this is our certainty, this is what supports us’.
from a general audience, 5th October 2011, by Pope Benedict XVI
In both the Ordinariate and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite, one week exactly before Good Friday, Our Lady of Sorrows is today commemorated. In the Ordinariate it is known as ‘Saint Mary in Passiontide’, a day to recall the sufferings of Our Blessed Lady at the foot of the Cross of her Son.
‘With Mary, God has worked for good in everything, and he does not cease, through Mary, to cause good to spread further in the world.
Looking down from the Cross, from the throne of grace and salvation, Jesus gave us his mother Mary to be our mother. At the moment of his self-offering for mankind, he makes Mary as it were the channel of the rivers of grace that flow from the Cross. At the foot of the Cross, Mary becomes our fellow traveller and protector on life’s journey. “By her motherly love she cares for her son’s sisters and brothers who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home”, as the Second Vatican Council expressed it (Lumen Gentium, 62). Yes indeed, in life we pass through high-points and low-points, but Mary intercedes for us with her Son and helps us to discover the power of his divine love, and to open ourselves to that love.
Our trust in the powerful intercession of the Mother of God and our gratitude for the help we have repeatedly experienced impel us, as it were, to think beyond the needs of the moment. What does Mary actually want to say to us, when she rescues us from some trial? She wants to help us grasp the breadth and depth of our Christian vocation. With a mother’s tenderness, she wants to make us understand that our whole life should be a response to the love of our God, who is so rich in mercy. “Understand”, she seems to say to us, “that God, who is the source of all that is good and who never desires anything other than your true happiness, has the right to demand of you a life that yields wholly and joyfully to his will, striving at the same time that others may do likewise”. Where God is, there is a future.
Indeed — when we allow God’s love to pervade and to shape the whole of our lives, then heaven stands open. Then it is possible so to shape the present that it corresponds more and more to the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then the little things of everyday life acquire meaning, and great problems find solutions.
Confident of this, we pray to Mary; confident of this, we put our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and God. Amen’.
Pope Benedict XVI
‘Isidore sought in Christ’s example the definitive confirmation of a just orientation of life and said: “The Saviour Jesus offers us the example of active life when during the day he devoted himself to working signs and miracles in the town, but he showed the contemplative life when he withdrew to the mountain and spent the night in prayer”. In the light of this example of the divine Teacher, Isidore can conclude with this precise moral teaching: “Therefore let the servant of God, imitating Christ, dedicate himself to contemplation without denying himself active life. Behaving otherwise would not be right. Indeed, just as we must love God in contemplation, so we must love our neighbour with action. It is therefore impossible to live without the presence of both the one and the other form of life, nor can we live without experiencing both the one and the other”. I consider that this is the synthesis of a life that seeks contemplation of God, dialogue with God in prayer and in the reading of Sacred Scripture, as well as action at the service of the human community and of our neighbour. This synthesis is the lesson that the great Bishop of Seville has bequeathed to us, Christians of today, called to witness to Christ at the beginning of a new millennium’.
from a general audience, 18 June 2008, by Pope Benedict XVI
O God, by whose providence blessed Isidore was sent to guide thy people in the way of everlasting salvation: grant, we beseech thee; that as we have learned of him the doctrine of life on earth, so we may be found worthy to have him for our advocate in heaven; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘On this day, marked by the austere symbol of ashes, we enter the Season of Lent, beginning a spiritual journey that prepares us for celebrating worthily the Easter Mysteries. The blessed ashes imposed upon our forehead are a sign that reminds us of our condition as creatures, that invites us to repent, and to intensify our commitment to convert, to follow the Lord ever more closely.
Lent is a journey, it means accompanying Jesus who goes up to Jerusalem, the place of the fulfilment of his mystery of Passion, death and Resurrection; it reminds us that Christian life is a “way” to take, not so much consistent with a law to observe as with the very Person of Christ, to encounter, to welcome, to follow.
Indeed, Jesus says to us: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). In other words he tells us that in order to attain, with him, the light and joy of the Resurrection, the victory of life, of love and of goodness, we too must take up our daily cross, as a beautiful passage from the Imitation of Christ urges us: “Take up your cross, therefore, and follow Jesus, and you shall enter eternal life. He himself opened the way before you in carrying his Cross (John 19:17), and upon it he died for you, that you too, might take up your cross and long to die upon it. If you die with him, you shall also live with him, and if you share his suffering, you shall also share his glory”.
…The Church knows that because of our weakness it is difficult to create silence in order to come before God and to acquire an awareness of our condition as creatures who depend on him, as sinners in need of his love. It is for this reason that in Lent she asks us to pray more faithfully, more intensely, and to prolong our meditation on the word of God.
St John Chrysostom urged: “Embellish your house with modesty and humility with the practice of prayer. Make your dwelling place shine with the light of justice; adorn its walls with good works, like a lustre of pure gold, and replace walls and precious stones with faith and supernatural magnanimity, putting prayer above all other things, high up in the gables, to give the whole complex decorum.
“You will thus prepare a worthy dwelling place for the Lord, you will welcome him in a splendid palace. He will grant you to transform your soul into a temple of his presence”.
Dear friends, on this Lenten journey let us be careful to accept Christ’s invitation to follow him more decisively and consistently, renewing the grace and commitments of our Baptism, to cast off the former person within us and put on Christ, in order to arrive at Easter renewed and able to say, with St Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). I wish you all a good Lenten journey!’
from a general audience, Ash Wednesday, 9 March 2011, by Pope Benedict XVI
Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent: create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Communion with Christ creates among Christians a unity of love. In Letter 28, which is a brilliant ecclesiological treatise, Peter Damian develops a profound theology of the Church as communion. “Christ’s Church”, he writes, “is united by the bond of charity to the point that just as she has many members so is she, mystically, entirely contained in a single member; in such a way that the whole universal Church is rightly called the one Bride of Christ in the singular, and each chosen soul, through the sacramental mystery, is considered fully Church”. This is important: not only that the whole universal Church should be united, but that the Church should be present in her totality in each one of us. Thus the service of the individual becomes “an expression of universality” (Ep 28, 9-23). However, the ideal image of “Holy Church” illustrated by Peter Damian does not correspond as he knew well to the reality of his time. For this reason he did not fear to denounce the state of corruption that existed in the monasteries and among the clergy, because, above all, of the practice of the conferral by the lay authorities of ecclesiastical offices; various Bishops and Abbots were behaving as the rulers of their subjects rather than as pastors of souls. Their moral life frequently left much to be desired. For this reason, in 1057 Peter Damian left his monastery with great reluctance and sorrow and accepted, if unwillingly, his appointment as Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. So it was that he entered fully into collaboration with the Popes in the difficult task of Church reform. He saw that to make his own contribution of helping in the work of the Church's renewal contemplation did not suffice. He thus relinquished the beauty of the hermitage and courageously undertook numerous journeys and missions.
Because of his love for monastic life, 10 years later, in 1067, he obtained permission to return to Fonte Avellana and resigned from the Diocese of Ostia. However, the tranquility he had longed for did not last long: two years later, he was sent to Frankfurt in an endeavour to prevent the divorce of Henry IV from his wife Bertha. And again, two years later, in 1071, he went to Monte Cassino for the consecration of the abbey church and at the beginning of 1072, to Ravenna, to re-establish peace with the local Archbishop who had supported the antipope bringing interdiction upon the city. On the journey home to his hermitage, an unexpected illness obliged him to stop at the Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria Vecchia Fuori Porta in Faenza, where he died in the night between 22 and 23 February 1072.
Dear brothers and sisters, it is a great grace that the Lord should have raised up in the life of the Church a figure as exuberant, rich and complex as St Peter Damian. Moreover, it is rare to find theological works and spirituality as keen and vibrant as those of the Hermitage at Fonte Avellana. St Peter Damian was a monk through and through, with forms of austerity which to us today might even seem excessive. Yet, in that way he made monastic life an eloquent testimony of God’s primacy and an appeal to all to walk towards holiness, free from any compromise with evil. He spent himself, with lucid consistency and great severity, for the reform of the Church of his time. He gave all his spiritual and physical energies to Christ and to the Church, but always remained, as he liked to describe himself, Petrus ultimus monachorum servus, Peter, the lowliest servant of the monks’.
from a general audience, 9 September 2009, by Pope Benedict XVI
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we may so follow the teaching and example of thy blessed Confessor Saint Peter Damian; that learning of him to despise all things earthly, we may attain in the end to everlasting felicity; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The life of the Venetian layman, Jerome Emiliani, was as it were “refounded” on the night of 27 September 1511, when, after making a sincere vow to Our Lady of Treviso to change his behaviour, through the intercession of the Mother of God he found himself freed from the chains of prison, which he himself later presented at the altar of the Virgin.
“Dirupisti vincula mea” (Ps 116:16). The verse of the Psalm expresses the genuine interior revolution that took place after that liberation, bound up with the tormented political events of that age. In fact, it represented an integral renewal of Jerome’s character: by divine intervention he was freed from the bonds of selfishness, pride, search for personal affirmation, so much so that his life, which had previously been dedicated primarily to temporal things, became oriented entirely to God, whom he loved and served particularly in the orphaned, the sick or abandoned young people.
Guided by events in his family, which caused him to become the guardian of all his orphaned nephews, St Jerome matured in his realisation that young people, especially those in difficult straits, could not remain alone, but needed one essential requirement for healthy growth, namely love. In him love was more important than ingenuity and because his was a love that flowed from the charity of God himself, it was filled with patience and understanding: attentive, tender and ready to sacrifice, like the love of a mother.
The Church of the 16th century, divided by the Protestant schism, and searching for a serious reform within itself, enjoyed a flowering of holiness that was the first and most original response to the demands for renewal. The witness of the saints says that it is necessary to trust in God alone: indeed, both personal and institutional trials serve to help faith grow. God has his plans, even if we do not manage to understand its provisions.
…The shining example of St Jerome Emiliani, whom Blessed John Paul II defined as a “lay animator of the laity”, helps us to take to heart every form of poverty in our young people, whether moral, physical or existential, and especially the poverty of love, the root of every serious human problem’.
from a message of Pope Benedict XVI, to the Order of Clerics Regular of Somasca, 20 July 2011
on the 500th anniversary of the prodigious liberation of their founder St Jerome Emiliani
O God, the Father of mercies, who didst raise up Saint Jerome Emiliani to be a defender and father of the fatherless: vouchsafe, through his merits and intercession; that we may faithfully guard thy spirit of adoption, whereby we are called and are indeed thy children; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘In addition to study and teaching, Thomas also dedicated himself to preaching to the people. And the people too came willingly to hear him. I would say that it is truly a great grace when theologians are able to speak to the faithful with simplicity and fervour. The ministry of preaching, moreover, helps theology scholars themselves to have a healthy pastoral realism and enriches their research with lively incentives.
The last months of Thomas’ earthly life remain surrounded by a particular, I would say, mysterious atmosphere. In December 1273, he summoned his friend and secretary Reginald to inform him of his decision to discontinue all work because he had realised, during the celebration of Mass subsequent to a supernatural revelation, that everything he had written until then “was worthless”. This is a mysterious episode that helps us to understand not only Thomas’ personal humility, but also the fact that, however lofty and pure it may be, all we manage to think and say about the faith is infinitely exceeded by God’s greatness and beauty which will be fully revealed to us in Heaven. A few months later, more and more absorbed in thoughtful meditation, Thomas died while on his way to Lyons to take part in the Ecumenical Council convoked by Pope Gregory X. He died in the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova, after receiving the Viaticum with deeply devout sentiments.
The life and teaching of St Thomas Aquinas could be summed up in an episode passed down by his ancient biographers. While, as was his wont, the Saint was praying before the Crucifix in the early morning in the chapel of St Nicholas in Naples, Domenico da Caserta, the church sacristan, overheard a conversation. Thomas was anxiously asking whether what he had written on the mysteries of the Christian faith was correct. And the Crucified One answered him: “You have spoken well of me, Thomas. What is your reward to be?” And the answer Thomas gave him was what we too, friends and disciples of Jesus, always want to tell him: “Nothing but Yourself, Lord!”’.
from a general audience, 2 June 2010, by Pope Benedict XVI
Everlasting God, who didst enrich thy Church with the learning and holiness of thy servant Saint Thomas Aquinas: grant to all who seek thee a humble mind and a pure heart; that they may know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth and the life; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘[I]f we consider together the two figures of Timothy and Titus, we are aware of certain very significant facts. The most important one is that in carrying out his missions, Paul availed himself of collaborators. He certainly remains the Apostle par excellence, founder and pastor of many Churches.
Yet it clearly appears that he did not do everything on his own but relied on trustworthy people who shared in his endeavours and responsibilities.
Another observation concerns the willingness of these collaborators. The sources concerning Timothy and Titus highlight their readiness to take on various offices that also often consisted in representing Paul in circumstances far from easy. In a word, they teach us to serve the Gospel with generosity, realising that this also entails a service to the Church herself.
…[L]et us follow the recommendation that the Apostle Paul makes to Titus in the Letter addressed to him: “I desire you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to apply themselves to good deeds; these are excellent and profitable to men” (Titus 3:8).
Through our commitment in practise we can and must discover the truth of these words… we too can be rich in good deeds and thus open the doors of the world to Christ, our Saviour’.
from a general audience, 13 December 2006, given by Pope Benedict XVI
Heavenly Father, who didst send thine Apostle Paul to preach the Gospel, and gavest him Timothy and Titus to be his companions in the Faith: grant that, through their prayers, our fellowship in the Holy Spirit may bear witness to the Name of Jesus; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal
‘It was not Jesus’ practise to change his disciples’ names: apart from the nickname “sons of thunder”, which in specific circumstances he attributed to the sons of Zebedee and never used again. He never gave any of his disciples a new name.
Yet, he gave one to Simon, calling him “Cephas”. This name was later translated into Greek as Petros and into Latin as Petrus. And it was translated precisely because it was not only a name; it was a “mandate” that Petrus received in that way from the Lord. The new name Petrus was to recur frequently in the Gospels and ended by replacing “Simon”, his original name.
This fact acquires special importance if one bears in mind that in the Old Testament, a change of name usually preceded the entrustment of a mission.
…‘Peter will be the rocky foundation on which he will build the edifice of the Church; he will have the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to open or close it to people as he sees fit; lastly, he will be able to bind or to loose, in the sense of establishing or prohibiting whatever he deems necessary for the life of the Church. It is always Christ’s Church, not Peter’s.
…This pre-eminent position that Jesus wanted to bestow upon Peter is also encountered after the Resurrection: Jesus charges the women to announce it especially to Peter, as distinct from the other Apostles; it is to Peter and John that Mary Magdalene runs to tell them that the stone has been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, and John was to stand back to let Peter enter first when they arrived at the empty tomb.
Then, Peter was to be the first witness of an appearance of the Risen One. His role, decisively emphasised, marks the continuity between the pre-eminence he had in the group of the Apostles and the pre-eminence he would continue to have in the community born with the paschal events, as the Book of Acts testifies.
His behaviour was considered so decisive that it prompted remarks as well as criticism.
At the so-called Council of Jerusalem Peter played a directive role, and precisely because he was a witness of authentic faith, Paul himself recognised that he had a certain quality of “leadership”.
Moreover, the fact that several of the key texts that refer to Peter can be traced back to the context of the Last Supper, during which Christ conferred upon Peter the ministry of strengthening his brethren, shows that the ministry entrusted to Peter was one of the constitutive elements of the Church, which was born from the commemoration of the Pasch celebrated in the Eucharist.
This contextualisation of the Primacy of Peter at the Last Supper, at the moment of the Institution of the Eucharist, the Lord’s Pasch, also points to the ultimate meaning of this Primacy: Peter must be the custodian of communion with Christ for all time. He must guide people to communion with Christ; he must ensure that the net does not break, and consequently that universal communion endures. Only together can we be with Christ, who is Lord of all.
Thus, Peter is responsible for guaranteeing communion with Christ with the love of Christ, guiding people to fulfil this love in everyday life. Let us pray that the Primacy of Peter, entrusted to poor human beings, will always be exercised in this original sense as the Lord desired, and that its true meaning will therefore always be recognised by the brethren who are not yet in full communion with us’.
from a general audience, 7 June 2006, given by Pope Benedict XVI
‘With zeal and courage Basil opposed the heretics who denied that Jesus Christ was God as Father. Likewise, against those who would not accept the divinity of the Holy Spirit, he maintained that the Spirit is also God and “must be equated and glorified with the Father and with the Son”. For this reason Basil was one of the great Fathers who formulated the doctrine on the Trinity: the one God, precisely because he is love, is a God in three Persons who form the most profound unity that exists: divine unity.
In his love for Christ and for his Gospel, the great Cappadocian also strove to mend divisions within the Church, doing his utmost to bring all to convert to Christ and to his word, a unifying force which all believers were bound to obey.
To conclude, Basil spent himself without reserve in faithful service to the Church and in the multiform exercise of the episcopal ministry. In accordance with the programme that he himself drafted, he became an “apostle and minister of Christ, steward of God’s mysteries, herald of the Kingdom, a model and rule of piety, an eye of the Body of the Church, a Pastor of Christ's sheep, a loving doctor, father and nurse, a co-operator of God, a farmer of God, a builder of God's temple”.
This is the programme which the holy Bishop consigns to preachers of the Word - in the past as in the present –, a programme which he himself was generously committed to putting into practice. In 379 AD Basil, who was not yet 50, returned to God “in the hope of eternal life, through Jesus Christ Our Lord”.
He was a man who truly lived with his gaze fixed on Christ. He was a man of love for his neighbour. Full of the hope and joy of faith, Basil shows us how to be true Christians’.
from a general audience, 4 July 2007, by Pope Benedict XVI
Almighty God, whose servants Basil and Gregory proclaimed the mystery of thy Word made flesh, that thy Church might be built up in wisdom and strength: grant that we, through their prayers, and rejoicing in the Lord’s presence among us, may with them be brought to to know the power of thine unending love; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Dear brothers and sisters, it is only by pondering in the heart, in other words, by piecing together and finding unity in all we experience, that, following Mary, we can penetrate the mystery of a God who was made man out of love and who calls us to follow him on the path of love; a love to be expressed daily by generous service to the brethren. May the new year which we are confidently beginning today be a time in which to advance in that knowledge of the heart, which is the wisdom of saints. Let us pray… that the Lord may “make his face to shine” upon us, “and be gracious” to us (cf. Numbers 6:24-7) and bless us. We may be certain of it: if we never tire of seeking his Face, if we never give in to the temptation of discouragement and doubt, if also among the many difficulties we encounter we always remain anchored to him, we will experience the power of his love and his mercy. May the fragile Child who today the Virgin shows to the world make us peacemakers, witnesses of him, the Prince of Peace. Amen!’
Pope Benedict XVI, 1 January 2008
O God, who by the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary hast bestowed upon mankind the reward of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech thee, that we may know the help of her intercession, through whom we have been counted worthy to receive the Author of our life, Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Clement revealed his ideal Church. She was assembled by “the one Spirit of grace poured out upon us” which breathes on the various members of the Body of Christ, where all, united without any divisions, are “members of one another”.
The clear distinction between the “lay person” and the hierarchy in no way signifies opposition, but only this organic connection of a body, an organism with its different functions. The Church, in fact, is not a place of confusion and anarchy where one can do what one likes all the time: each one in this organism, with an articulated structure, exercises his ministry in accordance with the vocation he has received.
With regard to community leaders, Clement clearly explains the doctrine of Apostolic Succession. The norms that regulate it derive ultimately from God himself. The Father sent Jesus Christ, who in turn sent the Apostles. They then sent the first heads of communities and established that they would be succeeded by other worthy men.
Everything, therefore, was made “in an orderly way, according to the will of God”. With these words, these sentences, St Clement underlined that the Church’s structure was sacramental and not political.
The action of God who comes to meet us in the liturgy precedes our decisions and our ideas. The Church is above all a gift of God and not something we ourselves created; consequently, this sacramental structure does not only guarantee the common order but also this precedence of God’s gift which we all need’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O everlasting Shepherd, favourably look upon thy flock: and keep it with perpetual protection, through the intercession of blessed Clement, thy Pope and Martyr, whom thou didst appoint to be shepherd of the whole Church; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘St Albert the Great reminds us that there is friendship between science and faith and that through their vocation to the study of nature, scientists can take an authentic and fascinating path of holiness.
His extraordinary openmindedness is also revealed in a cultural feat which he carried out successfully, that is, the acceptance and appreciation of Aristotle’s thought. In St Albert’s time, in fact, knowledge was spreading of numerous works by this great Greek philosopher, who lived a quarter of a century before Christ, especially in the sphere of ethics and metaphysics. They showed the power of reason, explained lucidly and clearly the meaning and structure of reality, its intelligibility and the value and purpose of human actions. St Albert the Great opened the door to the complete acceptance in medieval philosophy and theology of Aristotle’s philosophy, which was subsequently given a definitive form by St Thomas. This reception of a pagan pre-Christian philosophy, let us say, was an authentic cultural revolution in that epoch. Yet many Christian thinkers feared Aristotle’s philosophy, a non-Christian philosophy, especially because, presented by his Arab commentators, it had been interpreted in such a way, at least in certain points, as to appear completely irreconcilable with the Christian faith. Hence a dilemma arose: are faith and reason in conflict with each other or not?
This is one of the great merits of St Albert: with scientific rigour he studied Aristotle’s works, convinced that all that is truly rational is compatible with the faith revealed in the Sacred Scriptures. In other words, St Albert the Great thus contributed to the formation of an autonomous philosophy, distinct from theology and united with it only by the unity of the truth. So it was that in the 13th century a clear distinction came into being between these two branches of knowledge, philosophy and theology, which, in conversing with each other, co-operate harmoniously in the discovery of the authentic vocation of man, thirsting for truth and happiness: and it is above all theology, that St Albert defined as “emotional knowledge”, which points out to human beings their vocation to eternal joy, a joy that flows from full adherence to the truth.
St Albert the Great was capable of communicating these concepts in a simple and understandable way. An authentic son of St Dominic, he willingly preached to the People of God, who were won over by his words and by the example of his life’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who gavest grace unto blessed Albert, thy Bishop and Doctor, to become truly great in the subjection of human wisdom to divine faith: grant us, we beseech thee, so to follow in the footsteps of his teaching; that we may enjoy the perfect light in heaven; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘The Chair of Peter obliges all who hold it to say, as Peter said during a crisis time among the disciples when so many wanted to leave him: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe; we are convinced that you are God's holy one” (Jn 6: 68 ff.).
The One who sits on the Chair of Peter must remember the Lord’s words to Simon Peter at the Last Supper: “...You in turn must strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22: 32). The one who holds the office of the Petrine ministry must be aware that he is a frail and weak human being - just as his own powers are frail and weak - and is constantly in need of purification and conversion.
But he can also be aware that the power to strengthen his brethren in the faith and keep them united in the confession of the Crucified and Risen Christ comes from the Lord. In St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, we find the oldest account we have of the Resurrection. Paul faithfully received it from the witnesses. This account first speaks of Christ's death for our sins, of his burial and of his Resurrection which took place the third day, and then says: “[Christ] was seen by Cephas, then by the Twelve...” (I Cor 15: 4). Thus, the importance of the mandate conferred upon Peter to the end of time is summed up: being a witness of the Risen Christ.
The Bishop of Rome sits upon the Chair to bear witness to Christ. Thus, the Chair is the symbol of the potestas docendi, the power to teach that is an essential part of the mandate of binding and loosing which the Lord conferred on Peter, and after him, on the Twelve’.
From the homily of Pope Benedict XVI
on the occasion of the Mass of Possession of the Chair of the Bishop of Rome
Archbasilica of St John Lateran, 7 May 2005
O most blessed Saviour, who didst vouchsafe thy gracious presence at the Feast of Dedication: be present with us at this time by thy Holy Spirit, and so possess our souls by thy grace; that we may be living temples, holy and acceptable unto thee; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Today marks the ninth anniversary of the promulgation in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI of the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum cœtibus. It was this Constitution which gave life to the personal ordinariates on three continents, and which provides the norms by which the ordinariates were established and their ecclesial lives governed.
The Constitution represents a great gift on the part of the Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church to those Anglicans who, over many years, petitioned the Holy See for some form of corporate reunion with the Catholic Church. That response - the gift of the ordinariates as the means for achieving this prophetic unity - continues to be a blessing to those of us who have accepted this most generous offer and now abide happily in peace and safety - and with not a few precious treasures of our Anglican heritage in tact - within the Barque of Peter.
The full text can be read here.
‘[T]he Holy Father Benedict XVI – Supreme Pastor of the Church and, by mandate of Christ, guarantor of the unity of the episcopate and of the universal communion of all the Churches – has shown his fatherly care for those Anglican faithful (lay, clerics and members of Institutes of Consecrated life and of Societies of Apostolic Life) who have repeatedly petitioned the Holy See to be received into full Catholic Communion.
The Introduction to the Apostolic Constitution lays out the ratio legis of the provision emphasising a number of things which it might be useful to point out:
The Church, which in its unity and diversity is modelled on the Most Holy Trinity, was instituted as “a sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all people” (Lumen gentium, 1). For this reason every division among the baptised wounds that which the Church is and that for which the Church exists, and constitutes, therefore, a scandal in that it contradicts the prayer of Jesus before his passion and death (cf. John 17:20-21).
Ecclesial communion, established by the Holy Spirit who is the principle of unity in the Church, is, by analogy with the mystery of the Incarnate Word, at the same time both invisible (spiritual) and visible (hierarchically organised). The communion among the baptised, therefore, if it is to be full communion, must be “visibly manifested in the bonds of the profession of the faith in its entirety, of the celebration of all of the sacraments instituted by Christ, and of the governance of the College of Bishops united with its head, the Roman Pontiff”.
Although the one Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church governed by the Successor of Peter and the Bishops in union with him, there are also elements of sanctification and of truth to be found outside her visible confines, in the Churches and Christian Communities separated from her, which, because these elements are gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling towards Catholic unity.
Those Anglican faithful who, under the promptings of the Holy Spirit, have asked to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church have been moved towards unity by those elements of the Church of Christ which have always been present in their personal and communal lives as Christians.
For this reason, the promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus by the Holy Father, together with what will follow from this, indicate in a particular way the movement of the Holy Spirit.
The juridical means by the which the Holy Father has decided to receive these Anglicans into full Catholic communion is the erection of Personal Ordinariates (I § 1)’.
from The Significance of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum cœtibus
by Fr Gianfranco Ghirlanda SJ
Nine years ago today came the news from Rome (announced by William Cardinal Levada) and London (announced at a joint press conference by the Archbishops of Westminster and Canterbury) that the Holy See was to establish the provision of personal ordinariates for Anglicans entering into the Catholic Church. It was an historic day, one that I recall vividly as I sat reading the news, with a giddy head and pounding heart, at the desk in the study of my Anglican rectory in Calgary. Whilst it wasn’t easy to take in the magnitude of what was being heralded, my instinctive reaction was one of unbounded joy and excitement. I ran up the stairs, calling to my wife: ‘They’ve done it! They’ve made a home for us!’ I was an immediate and enthusiastic convert, eager to learn the detail of this offer (the actual document, the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, wouldn’t be published for another twenty days), and to share what was being offered with my parishioners, in hope – though not necessarily expectation – that they would share my enthusiasm for exploring what this might mean, in practical terms, for our small Anglican community.
Just over two years later, and after much discussion, prayer, study, and constructive negotiation with our Anglican brethren in the local diocese, we entered into the fulness of Catholic communion with the Successor of Saint Peter, ‘lock, stock, and barrel’, as it were. And so this newly-minted Catholic community of the Ordinariate began a fresh chapter in its century-old life, having succeeded in the goal of all true ecumenical dialogue – realised ecumenism – which is only possible within what Blessed John Henry Newman memorably called, ‘the one fold of the Redeemer’.
St John’s, Calgary continues its life and mission as one of the founding parishes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, and my prayers today on this anniversary are for its clergy and people as they endeavour to preserve the great treasures – spiritual, liturgical, and pastoral – of our Anglican patrimony, and share them with the wider Church to which they are now happily joined. Oh, yes, and a prayer of thanksgiving is also due to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, without whom none of us in the Ordinariate would be where we are today!
O Lord Jesus Christ, who, when thou wast about to suffer, didst pray for thy disciples to the end of time that they might all be one, as thou art in the Father, and the Father in thee, look down in pity on the manifold divisions among those who profess thy faith, and heal the many wounds which the pride of man and the craft of Satan have inflicted upon thy people. Break down the walls of separation which divide one party and denomination of Christians from another… and bring them all into that one communion which thou didst set up in the beginning, the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Teach all men that the see of Saint Peter, the Holy Church of Rome, is the foundation, centre, and instrument of unity. Open their hearts to the long-forgotten truth that our Holy Father, the Pope, is thy Vicar and Representative; and that in obeying him in matters of religion, they are obeying thee, so that as there is but one holy company in heaven above, so likewise there may be but one communion, confessing and glorifying thy holy Name here below. Amen.
Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
‘“Fugitiva relinquere et aeterna captare”: to abandon transient realities and seek to grasp that which is eternal. These words from the letter your Founder addressed to Rudolph, Provost of Rheims, contain the core of your spirituality (cf. Letter to Rudolph, n. 13): the strong desire to enter in union of life with God, abandoning everything else, everything that stands in the way of this communion, and letting oneself be grasped by the immense love of God to live this love alone.
Dear brothers you have found the hidden treasure, the pearl of great value (cf. Mt 13:44-46); you have responded radically to Jesus’ invitation: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mt 19:21). Every monastery — male or female — is an oasis in which the deep well, from which to draw “living water” to quench our deepest thirst, is constantly being dug with prayer and meditation. However, the charterhouse is a special oasis in which silence and solitude are preserved with special care, in accordance with the form of life founded by St Bruno and which has remained unchanged down the centuries. “I live in a rather faraway hermitage... with some religious brothers”, is the concise sentence that your Founder wrote (Letter to Rudolph “the Green”, n. 4). The Successor of Peter’s Visit to this historic Charterhouse is not only intended to strengthen those of you who live here but the entire Order in its mission which is more than ever timely and meaningful in today’s world.
Technical progress, especially in the area of transport and communications, has made human life more comfortable but also more keyed up, at times even frenetic. Cities are almost always noisy, silence is rarely to be found in them because there is always background noise, in some areas even at night. In recent decades, moreover, the development of the media has spread and extended a phenomenon that had already been outlined in the 1960s: virtuality risks predominating over reality. Unbeknownst to them, people are increasingly becoming immersed in a virtual dimension because of the audiovisual messages that accompany their life from morning to night.
The youngest, born into this condition, seem to want to fill every empty moment with music and images, out of fear of feeling this very emptiness. This is a trend that has always existed, especially among the young and in the more developed urban contexts but today it has reached a level such as to give rise to talk about anthropological mutation. Some people are no longer able to remain for long periods in silence and solitude.
I chose to mention this socio-cultural condition because it highlights the specific charism of the Charterhouse as a precious gift for the Church and for the world, a gift that contains a deep message for our life and for the whole of humanity. I shall sum it up like this: by withdrawing into silence and solitude, human beings, so to speak, “expose” themselves to reality in their nakedness, to that apparent “void”, which I mentioned at the outset, in order to experience instead Fullness, the presence of God, of the most real Reality that exists and that lies beyond the tangible dimension. He is a perceptible presence in every creature: in the air that we breathe, in the light that we see and that warms us, in the grass, in stones.... God, Creator omnium, (the Creator of all), passes through all things but is beyond them and for this very reason is the foundation of them all.
The monk, in leaving everything, “takes a risk”, as it were: he exposes himself to solitude and silence in order to live on nothing but the essential, and precisely in living on the essential he also finds a deep communion with his brethren, with every human being.
Some might think that it would suffice to come here to take this “leap”. But it is not like this. This vocation, like every vocation, finds an answer in an ongoing process, in a life-long search. Indeed it is not enough to withdraw to a place such as this in order to learn to be in God’s presence. Just as in marriage it is not enough to celebrate the Sacrament to become effectively one but it is necessary to let God’s grace act and to walk together through the daily routine of conjugal life, so becoming monks requires time, practice and patience, “in a divine and persevering vigilance”, as St Bruno said, they “await the return of their Lord so that they might be able to open the door to him as soon as he knocks” (Letter to Rudolph “the Green”, n. 4); and the beauty of every vocation in the Church consists precisely in this: giving God time to act with his Spirit and to one’s own humanity to form itself, to grow in that particular state of life according to the measure of the maturity of Christ’.
from a homily given at the Church of the Charterhouse of Serra San Bruno, October 2011
by Pope Benedict XVI
Almighty and everlasting God, who dost prepare mansions in heaven for them that forsake the world: we humbly entreat thy boundless mercy; that at the intercession of blessed Bruno, thy Confessor, we may be faithful to vows that we have made, and may obtain, to our eternal salvation, the rewards which thou hast promised to them that persevere unto the end; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Anglicanism and the official Protestant bodies tolerate almost every species of heterodox theology and disordered morality. The Anglicans, who once claimed to follow St Vincent of Lerins in holding only what all Christians at all times and in all places have believed, now teach what has never been believed anywhere by anyone, even on the far left of heresy… A man can deny the Virgin Birth and Bodily Resurrection of Christ and end up as Lord Bishop of Durham. There is even a “Sea of Faith” group for Anglican atheists. The chief consequence of twentieth-century ecumenism would seem to be the even greater distancing of the Reformation communities from the Catholic Church. The hopes of the Anglo-Papalists are in ruins. Or are they? In 2009, by the motu proprio Anglicanorum coetibus, Pope Benedict XVI established a Personal Ordinariate for Anglicans reconciled with the Catholic Church, which would seem to fulfil the aspirations of the long neglected Anglo-Papalists of the 1930s. As Archbishop Augustine Di Noia OP has recently said, in the Ordinariate we see a work of the Holy Spirit and an answer to the Church’s prayers for Christian unity. Reunion has come to pass, not “all round”, but for those brave souls who relinquished the material comforts of the Anglican Establishment in order to profess the Catholic faith, in the divine integrity of its truth, with and under Peter’.
Fr John Saward, from his foreword to Reunion Revisited: 1930s Ecumenism Exposed, 2017
by Fr Mark Vickers
‘“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (16:24). Without doubt, this is hard language, difficult to accept and put into practice, but the testimony of the saints assures us that it is possible for all who trust and entrust themselves to Christ. Their example encourages those who call themselves Christian to be credible, that is, consistent with the principles and the faith that they profess. It is not enough to appear good and honest: one must truly be so. And the good and honest person is one who does not obscure God’s light with his own ego, does not put himself forward, but allows God to shine through.
This is the lesson we can learn from Saint Wenceslaus, who had the courage to prefer the kingdom of heaven to the enticement of worldly power. His gaze never moved away from Jesus Christ, who suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow in his steps, as Saint Peter writes in the second reading that we just heard. As an obedient disciple of the Lord, the young prince Wenceslaus remained faithful to the Gospel teachings he had learned from his saintly grandmother, the martyr Ludmila. In observing these, even before committing himself to build peaceful relations within his lands and with neighbouring countries, he took steps to spread the Christian faith, summoning priests and building churches. In the first Old Slavonic “narration”, we read that “he assisted God’s ministers and he also adorned many churches” and that “he was benevolent to the poor, clothed the naked, gave food to the hungry, welcomed pilgrims, just as the Gospel enjoins. He did not allow injustice to be done to widows, he loved all people, whether poor or rich”. He learned from the Lord to be “merciful and gracious”, and animated by the Gospel spirit he was even able to pardon his brother who tried to kill him. Rightly, then, you invoke him as the “heir” of your nation, and in a well-known song, you ask him not to let it perish.
Wenceslaus died as a martyr for Christ. It is interesting to note that, by killing him, his brother Boleslaus succeeded in taking possession of the throne of Prague, but the crown placed on the heads of his successors did not bear his name. Rather, it bears the name of Wenceslaus, as a testimony that “the throne of the king who judges the poor in truth will remain firm for ever” (cf. today’s Office of Readings). This fact is judged as a miraculous intervention by God, who does not abandon his faithful: “the conquered innocent defeated the cruel conqueror just as Christ did on the cross” (cf. The Legend of Saint Wenceslaus), and the blood of the martyr did not cry out for hatred or revenge, but rather for pardon and peace’.
from a homily during an Apostolic Visit to the Czech Republic, 28 September 2009
by Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who by the victory of martyrdom didst exalt blessed Wenceslaus from an earthly realm to the glory of thy heavenly kingdom: grant, we pray thee; that by his merits and intercession, we may be made heirs of the King of kings, even Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Those who pray never lose hope, even when they find themselves in a difficult and even humanly hopeless plight. Sacred Scripture teaches us this and Church history bears witness to this.
In fact, how many examples we could cite of situations in which it was precisely prayer that sustained the journey of Saints and of the Christian people! Among the testimonies of our epoch I would like to mention the examples of two Saints whom we are commemorating in these days: Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, whose feast we celebrated on 9 August, and Maximilian Mary Kolbe, whom we will commemorate tomorrow, on 14 August, the eve of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Both ended their earthly life with martyrdom in the concentration camp of Auschwitz. Their lives might seem to have been a defeat, but it is precisely in their martyrdom that the brightness of Love which dispels the gloom of selfishness and hatred shines forth. The following words are attributed to St Maximilian Kolbe, who is said to have spoken them when the Nazi persecution was raging: “Hatred is not a creative force: only love is creative”. And heroic proof of his love was the generous offering he made of himself in exchange for a fellow prisoner, an offer that culminated in his death in the starvation bunker on 14 August 1941.
“Hail Mary!” was the last prayer on the lips of St Maximilian Mary Kolbe, as he offered his arm to the person who was about to kill him with an injection of phenolic acid. It is moving to note how humble and trusting recourse to Our Lady is always a source of courage and serenity. While we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption, which is one of the best-loved Marian feasts in the Christian tradition, let us renew our entrustment to her who from Heaven watches over us with motherly love at every moment. In fact, we say this in the familiar prayer of the Hail Mary, asking her to pray for us “now and at the hour of our death”’.
from the general audience of 13 August 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI
Most gracious God, who didst fill thy Priest and Martyr Maximilian Kolbe with zeal for thine house and love of his neighbour: vouchsafe that, helped by the prayers of this devoted servant of the immaculate Mother of God; we too may strive to serve others for thy glory, and become like unto thy dear Son, who loved his own even unto the end; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘With his sound formation in the Nicene faith, Eusebius did his utmost to defend the full divinity of Jesus Christ, defined by the Nicene Creed as “of one being with the Father”. To this end, he allied himself with the great Fathers of the fourth century - especially St Athanasius, the standard bearer of Nicene orthodoxy - against the philo-Arian policies of the Emperor. For the Emperor, the simpler Arian faith appeared politically more useful as the ideology of the Empire. For him it was not truth that counted but rather political opportunism: he wanted to exploit religion as the bond of unity for the Empire. But these great Fathers resisted him, defending the truth against political expediency.
Eusebius was consequently condemned to exile, as were so many other Bishops of the East and West: such as Athanasius himself, Hilary of Poitiers… and Hosius of Cordoba. In Scythopolis, Palestine, to which he was exiled between 355 and 360, Eusebius wrote a marvellous account of his life. Here too, he founded a monastic community with a small group of disciples. It was also from here that he attended to his correspondence with his faithful in Piedmont, as can be seen in the second of the three Letters of Eusebius recognised as authentic. Later, after 360, Eusebius was exiled to Cappadocia and the Thebaid, where he suffered serious physical ill-treatment. After his death in 361 Constantius II was succeeded by the Emperor Julian, known as “the Apostate”, who was not interested in making Christianity the religion of the Empire but merely wished to restore paganism. He rescinded the banishment of these Bishops and thereby also enabled Eusebius to be reinstated in his See. In 362 he was invited by Anastasius to take part in the Council of Alexandria, which decided to pardon the Arian Bishops as long as they returned to the secular state. Eusebius was able to exercise his episcopal ministry for another 10 years, until he died, creating an exemplary relationship with his city which did not fail to inspire the pastoral service of other Bishops of Northern Italy… such as St Ambrose of Milan and St Maximus of Turin.
While Eusebius was adopting the cause of the sancta plebs of Vercelli, he lived a monk’s life in the heart of the city, opening the city to God. This trait, though, in no way diminished his exemplary pastoral dynamism. It seems among other things that he set up parishes in Vercelli for an orderly and stable ecclesial service and promoted Marian shrines for the conversion of the pagan populations in the countryside. This “monastic feature”, however, conferred a special dimension on the Bishop’s relationship with his hometown. Just like the Apostles, for whom Jesus prayed at his Last Supper, the Pastors and faithful of the Church “are of the world” (Jn 17: 11), but not “in the world”. Therefore, Pastors, Eusebius said, must urge the faithful not to consider the cities of the world as their permanent dwelling place but to seek the future city, the definitive heavenly Jerusalem. This “eschatological reserve” enables Pastors and faithful to preserve the proper scale of values without ever submitting to the fashions of the moment and the unjust claims of the current political power. The authentic scale of values - Eusebius’ whole life seems to say - does not come from emperors of the past or of today but from Jesus Christ, the perfect Man, equal to the Father in divinity, yet a man like us. In referring to this scale of values, Eusebius never tired of “warmly recommending” his faithful “to jealously guard the faith, to preserve harmony, to be assiduous in prayer” (Second Letter, op. cit.).
Dear friends, I too warmly recommend these perennial values to you as I greet and bless you, using the very words with which the holy Bishop Eusebius concluded his Second Letter: “I address you all, my holy brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, faithful of both sexes and of every age group, so that you may... bring our greeting also to those who are outside the Church, yet deign to nourish sentiments of love for us.”’
Pope Benedict XVI
Lead us, O Lord God, to imitate the constancy of Saint Eusebius in affirming the divinity of thy Son: that, by preserving the faith he taught as thy Bishop, we may merit a share in the very life of the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘As a theologian steeped in Sacred Scripture and in the Fathers of the Church, [Lawrence was]… able to illustrate Catholic doctrine in an exemplary manner to Christians who, especially in Germany, had adhered to the Reformation. With his calm, clear exposition he demonstrated the biblical and patristic foundation of all the articles of faith disputed by Martin Luther. These included the primacy of St Peter and of his Successors, the divine origin of the Episcopate, justification as an inner transformation of man, and the need to do good works for salvation.
Lawrence’s success helps us to realise that today too, in pursuing ecumenical dialogue with such great hope, the reference to Sacred Scripture, interpreted in accordance with the Tradition of the Church, is an indispensable element of fundamental importance.
…Even the simplest members of the faithful, those not endowed with great culture, benefited from the convincing words of Lawrence, who addressed humble people to remind them all to make their lives consistent with the faith they professed.
This was a great merit of the Capuchins and of other religious Orders which, in the 16th and 17th centuries, contributed to the renewal of Christian life, penetrating the depths of society with their witness of life and their teaching. Today too, the new evangelisation stands in need of well-trained apostles, zealous and courageous, so that the light and beauty of the Gospel may prevail over the cultural tendencies of ethical relativism and religious indifference and transform the various ways of thinking and acting into genuine Christian humanism.
It is surprising that St Lawrence of Brindisi was able to continue without interruption his work as an appreciated and unflagging preacher in many cities of Italy and in different countries, in spite of holding other burdensome offices of great responsibility.
Indeed, within the Order of Capuchins he was professor of theology, novice master, for several mandates minister provincial and definitor general, and finally, from 1602 to 1605, minister general.
In the midst of this mountain of work, Lawrence cultivated an exceptionally fervent spiritual life. He devoted much time to prayer and, especially, to the celebration of Holy Mass — often protracted for hours — caught up in and moved by the memorial of the Passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord.
At the school of the saints, every priest, as was emphasised frequently during the recent Year for Priests, may only avoid the danger of activism — acting, that is, without remembering the profound motives of his ministry — if he attends to his own inner life’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst bestow on blessed Lawrence of Brindisi, thy Confessor and Bishop, the spirit of wisdom and fortitude to endure every labour for the glory of thy Name and the salvation of souls: grant us, in the same spirit, both to perceive what we ought to do, and by his intercession to perform the same; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Today is the sixth anniversary of my ordination to the diaconate. Being the memorial of Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, a defender of the Church's orthodoxy and apostolicity, it was indeed a fitting day on which to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Laus Deo!
‘Irenaeus was first and foremost a man of faith and a Pastor. Like a good Pastor, he had a good sense of proportion, a wealth of doctrine, and missionary enthusiasm. As a writer, he pursued a twofold aim: to defend true doctrine from the attacks of heretics, and to explain the truth of the faith clearly. His two extant works - the five books of The Detection and Overthrow of the False Gnosis and Demonstration of the Apostolic Teaching (which can also be called the oldest “catechism of Christian doctrine”) - exactly corresponded with these aims. In short, Irenaeus can be defined as the champion in the fight against heresies.
The true teaching... is not that invented by intellectuals which goes beyond the Church’s simple faith. The true Gospel is the one imparted by the Bishops who received it in an uninterrupted line from the Apostles. They taught nothing except this simple faith, which is also the true depth of God’s revelation. Thus, Irenaeus tells us, there is no secret doctrine concealed in the Church’s common Creed. There is no superior Christianity for intellectuals. The faith publicly confessed by the Church is the common faith of all. This faith alone is apostolic, it is handed down from the Apostles, that is, from Jesus and from God. In adhering to this faith, publicly transmitted by the Apostles to their successors, Christians must observe what their Bishops say and must give special consideration to the teaching of the Church of Rome, pre-eminent and very ancient. It is because of her antiquity that this Church has the greatest apostolicity; in fact, she originated in Peter and Paul, pillars of the Apostolic College. All Churches must agree with the Church of Rome, recognising in her the measure of the true Apostolic Tradition, the Church's one common faith. With these arguments, summed up very briefly here, Irenaeus refuted the claims of these Gnostics, these intellectuals, from the start. First of all, they possessed no truth superior to that of the ordinary faith, because what they said was not of apostolic origin, it was invented by them. Secondly, truth and salvation are not the privilege or monopoly of the few, but are available to all through the preaching of the Successors of the Apostles, especially of the Bishop of Rome.
For Irenaeus, Church and Spirit were inseparable: “This faith”, we read again in the third book of Adversus Haereses, “which, having been received from the Church, we do preserve, and which always, by the Spirit of God, renewing its youth as if it were some precious deposit in an excellent vessel, causes the vessel itself containing it to renew its youth also.... For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and every kind of grace” (3, 24, 1). As can be seen, Irenaeus did not stop at defining the concept of Tradition. His tradition, uninterrupted Tradition, is not traditionalism, because this Tradition is always enlivened from within by the Holy Spirit, who makes it live anew, causes it to be interpreted and understood in the vitality of the Church. Adhering to her teaching, the Church should transmit the faith in such a way that it must be what it appears, that is, “public”, “one”, “pneumatic”, “spiritual”. Starting with each one of these characteristics, a fruitful discernment can be made of the authentic transmission of the faith in the today of the Church. More generally, in Irenaeus’ teaching, the dignity of man, body and soul, is firmly anchored in divine creation, in the image of Christ and in the Spirit’s permanent work of sanctification. This doctrine is like a “high road” in order to discern together with all people of good will the object and boundaries of the dialogue of values, and to give an ever new impetus to the Church's missionary action, to the force of the truth which is the source of all true values in the world’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst bestow upon blessed Irenaeus, thy Martyr and Bishop, grace to overcome false doctrine by the teaching of the truth, and to establish thy Church in peace and prosperity: we beseech thee; that thou wouldest give thy people constancy in thy true religion; and grant us thy peace all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘[C]ontinuing our journey following the traces left by the Fathers of the Church, we meet an important figure: St Cyril of Alexandria. Linked to the Christological controversy which led to the Council of Ephesus in 431 and the last important representative of the Alexandrian tradition in the Greek Orient, Cyril was later defined as “the guardian of exactitude” - to be understood as guardian of the true faith - and even the “seal of the Fathers”. These ancient descriptions express clearly a characteristic feature of Cyril: the Bishop of Alexandria’s constant reference to earlier ecclesiastical authors (including, in particular, Athanasius), for the purpose of showing the continuity with tradition of theology itself. He deliberately, explicitly inserted himself into the Church's tradition, which he recognised as guaranteeing continuity with the Apostles and with Christ himself. Venerated as a saint in both East and West, in 1882 St Cyril was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII, who at the same time also attributed this title to another important exponent of Greek Patristics, St Cyril of Jerusalem. Thus are revealed the attention and love for the Eastern Christian traditions of this Pope, who later also chose to proclaim St John Damascene a Doctor of the Church, thereby showing that both the Eastern and Western traditions express the doctrine of Christ’s one Church.
Cyril's writings - truly numerous and already widely disseminated in various Latin and Eastern translations in his own lifetime, attested to by their instant success - are of the utmost importance for the history of Christianity. His commentaries on many of the New and Old Testament Books are important, including those on the entire Pentateuch, Isaiah, the Psalms and the Gospels of John and Luke. Also important are his many doctrinal works, in which the defence of the Trinitarian faith against the Arian and Nestorian theses recurs. The basis of Cyril’s teaching is the ecclesiastical tradition and in particular, as I mentioned, the writings of Athanasius, his great Predecessor in the See of Alexandria. Among Cyril’s other writings, the books Against Julian deserve mention. They were the last great response to the anti-Christian controversies, probably dictated by the Bishop of Alexandria in the last years of his life to respond to the work Against the Galileans, composed many years earlier in 363 by the Emperor known as the “Apostate” for having abandoned the Christianity in which he was raised.
The Christian faith is first and foremost the encounter with Jesus, “a Person, which gives life a new horizon” (Deus Caritas Est, n.1). St Cyril of Alexandria was an unflagging, staunch witness of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, emphasising above all his unity, as he repeats in 433 in his first letter to Bishop Succensus: “Only one is the Son, only one the Lord Jesus Christ, both before the Incarnation and after the Incarnation. Indeed, the Logos born of God the Father was not one Son and the one born of the Blessed Virgin another; but we believe that the very One who was born before the ages was also born according to the flesh and of a woman”. Over and above its doctrinal meaning, this assertion shows that faith in Jesus the Logos born of the Father is firmly rooted in history because, as St Cyril affirms, this same Jesus came in time with his birth from Mary, the Theotòkos, and in accordance with his promise will always be with us. And this is important: God is eternal, he is born of a woman, and he stays with us every day. In this trust we live, in this trust we find the way for our life’.
Pope Benedict XVI
O God, who didst strengthen thy blessed Confessor and Bishop Saint Cyril, invincibly to maintain the divine motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary: vouchsafe that at his intercession we, believing her to be indeed the Mother of God, may as her children rejoice in her protection; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘With his outstanding gifts of intelligence, balance, apostolic zeal and, primarily, mystic fervour, Anthony contributed significantly to the development of Franciscan spirituality.
Anthony, in the school of Francis, always put Christ at the centre of his life and thinking, of his action and of his preaching. This is another characteristic feature of Franciscan theology: Christocentrism. Franciscan theology willingly contemplates and invites others to contemplate the mysteries of the Lord's humanity, the man Jesus, and in a special way the mystery of the Nativity: God who made himself a Child and gave himself into our hands, a mystery that gives rise to sentiments of love and gratitude for divine goodness.
Not only the Nativity, a central point of Christ's love for humanity, but also the vision of the Crucified One inspired in Anthony thoughts of gratitude to God and esteem for the dignity of the human person, so that all believers and non-believers might find in the Crucified One and in his image a life-enriching meaning. St Anthony writes: “Christ who is your life is hanging before you, so that you may look at the Cross as in a mirror. There you will be able to know how mortal were your wounds, that no medicine other than the Blood of the Son of God could heal. If you look closely, you will be able to realise how great your human dignity and your value are... Nowhere other than looking at himself in the mirror of the Cross can man better understand how much he is worth” (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi III, pp. 213-214).
In meditating on these words we are better able to understand the importance of the image of the Crucified One for our culture, for our humanity that is born from the Christian faith. Precisely by looking at the Crucified One we see, as St Anthony says, how great are the dignity and worth of the human being. At no other point can we understand how much the human person is worth, precisely because God makes us so important, considers us so important that, in his opinion, we are worthy of his suffering; thus all human dignity appears in the mirror of the Crucified One and our gazing upon him is ever a source of acknowledgement of human dignity.
Dear friends, may Anthony of Padua, so widely venerated by the faithful, intercede for the whole Church and especially for those who are dedicated to preaching; let us pray the Lord that he will help us learn a little of this art from St Anthony. May preachers, drawing inspiration from his example, be effective in their communication by taking pains to combine solid and sound doctrine with sincere and fervent devotion. In this Year for Priests, let us pray that priests and deacons will carry out with concern this ministry of the proclamation of the word of God, making it timely for the faithful, especially through liturgical homilies. May they effectively present the eternal beauty of Christ, just as Anthony recommended: “If you preach Jesus, he will melt hardened hearts; if you invoke him he will soften harsh temptations; if you think of him he will enlighten your mind; if you read of him he will satisfy your intellect” (Sermones Dominicales et Festivi III, p. 59)’.
from a general audience, 2010, by Pope Benedict XVI
Grant, O Lord, that the solemn festival of thy holy Confessor Saint Anthony may bring gladness to thy Church: that being defended by thy succour in all things spiritual, we may be found worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon
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