April 11, 2008

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

I've posted the homily I preached for today's Mass.
Click HERE for it.

April 10, 2008

CLUES ABOUT A PAPAL NAME: HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TELLS OF SAINT BENEDICT OF NURSIA

Vatican City, April 9, 2008
Pope Benedict XVI spoke on St. Benedict at the general audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday.



Dear brothers and sisters,


Today I would like to talk about St. Benedict, the father of Western monasticism, and also the patron saint of my papacy. I will begin with a few words from Pope St. Gregory the Great who wrote the following about St. Benedict: "The man of God who shone on this earth with so many miracles does not shine any less for the eloquence with which he knew how to present his teaching" (Dial. II, 36).

The Great Pope wrote these words in the year 592: The holy monk had died barely 50 years earlier and was still alive in the memories of the people and above all in the blossoming religious order he founded. St. Benedict, through his life and work, had a fundamental influence on the development of European civilization and culture.

The most important source of information on his life is the second book of the Dialogues by Pope St. Gregory the Great. It is not a biography as such. According to the ideas of the time, he wanted to demonstrate by using a real person— St. Benedict— how someone who abandons himself to God can reach the heights of contemplation. He offers us a model of human life characterized as an ascent toward the peak of perfection.

Pope St. Gregory the Great tells us in the book of the Dialogues about the many miracles performed by the saint. Here too he did not want to simply recount a strange event, but rather demonstrate how God, by warning, helping and even punishing, intervenes in real situations in the life of man. He wanted to show that God is not a distant hypothesis situated at the beginning of the world, but rather that he is present in the life of man, of all men.

This perspective of the "biography" is also explained in the light of the general context of the times: Between the fifth and sixth centuries the world suffered a terrible crisis in values and institutions, caused by the collapse of the Roman Empire, the invasion of new people and the decline of customs. By presenting St. Benedict as a "shining light," Gregory wanted to show the way out of "this dark night of history" (cfr. John Paul II, Teachings, II/1, 1979, p. 1158), the terrible situation here in the city of Rome.

In fact, the work of St. Benedict and his Rule in particular are bearers of a genuine spiritual ferment, which changed the face of Europe over the centuries and whose effects were felt way beyond his time and the borders of his own country. Following the collapse of the political unity created by the Roman Empire, it revived a new spiritual and cultural unity— that of Christian faith, shared among the people of the Continent. This is how the Europe we know today was born.

The birth of St. Benedict is dated around the year 480. He was born, according to Pope St. Gregory, "ex provincia Nursiae"— in the region of Nursia. His parents were well off and sent him to be educated in Rome. He did not stay long in the eternal city however. Pope St. Gregory offers a very likely explanation for this. He points out that the young Benedict was disgusted by the way of life of many of his fellow students who led unprincipled lives and he did not want to fall into the same trap. He wanted only to please God "soli Deo placere desiderans" (II Dial., Prol 1).

Therefore, even before he completed his studies, Benedict left Rome and withdrew to the solitude of the mountains east of Rome. Initially he stayed in the village of Effide (now: Affile), where for some time he affiliated himself with a "religious community" of monks, and then became a hermit living in Subiaco, which was close by. For three years he lived completely alone in a cave there. In the High Middle Ages, this cave became the "heart" of a Benedictine monastery called "Sacro Speco." His time in Subiaco was a period of solitude spent with God and was for Benedict a time in which he matured.

Here he endured and overcame the three fundamental human temptations: the temptation of self-assertion and the desire to place oneself at the center of things; the temptation of the senses; and finally, the temptation of anger and revenge.

Benedict firmly believed that only after conquering these temptations would he be able to say anything useful to others in need. And so, having pacified his soul, he was fully able to control the drive to put oneself first, and so became a creator of peace. Only then did he decide to found his first monasteries in the valley of Anio, near Subiaco.

In the year 529 he left Subiaco to establish himself in Montecassino. Some have explained this move as a flight from the interference of a jealous local clergyman, but this is not likely, as the priest's sudden death did not lead Benedict to move back again (II Dial. 8). In truth, he took this decision because he had entered into a new phase of monastic experience and personal maturity.

According to Gregory the Great his exodus from the remote valley of Anio to Mount Cassio— which dominates the vast plains around it— is symbolic of his character. A monastic life of isolation has it's place, but a monastery also has a public aim in the life of the Church and society as a whole. It must serve to make faith visible as a force of life. In fact, when Benedict died on March 21, 547, through his Rule and the Benedictine order that he founded, he left us a legacy that bore fruit all over the world in the subsequent centuries, and continues to do so today.

In the whole of the second book of the Dialogues, Gregory shows us how the life of St. Benedict was immersed in an atmosphere of prayer, the foundation of his existence. Without prayer you cannot experience God. Benedict's spirituality was not cut off from reality. In the turmoil and confusion of the times, Benedict lived under the gaze of God. He never lost sight of the duties of everyday life and of man and his necessities. In seeing God he understood the reality of man and his mission. In his Rule he explains monastic life as "a school at the service of the Lord" (Prol. 45), and he asks his monks "not to place anything ahead of the work of God" (that is, the Divine Office and the Liturgy of the Hours)(43,3). He underlines, however, that the act of prayer is in the first instance the act of listening (Prol. 9-11), which is then translated into concrete action. "Every day the Lord expects us to respond to his holy teaching with action" (Prol. 35).

The life of a monk therefore becomes a fruitful symbiosis of action and contemplation, "so that God is glorified in everything" (57,9). In contrast to an egocentric and easy self-fulfillment, often extolled today, the first and irrefutable duty of a disciple of St. Benedict is a sincere search for God (58,7) on the road traced by a humble and obedient Christ (5,13), the love of whom nothing should be allowed to stand in the way (4,21; 72,11).

It is in this way, in serving others, that Benedict becomes a man of service and peace. By showing obedience through his actions with a faith driven by love (5,2), the monk acquires humility (5,1), to which the Rule dedicates a whole chapter (7). In this way man becomes more like Christ and attains true self-fulfillment as a creature in God's own image.

The obedience of the disciple must be matched by the wisdom of the Abbot, who "takes the place of Christ" (2,2; 63,13) in a monastery. His role, outlined mainly in the second chapter of the Rule, with a description of spiritual beauty and demanding commitment, can be considered a self-portrait of Benedict, since, as Gregory the Great writes, "the Saint could not teach what he himself had not lived" (Dial. II, 36). The Abbot must be both a loving father and a strict teacher (2,24), a true educator.

Inflexible when it comes to vices, he is called upon to imitate the tenderness of the Good Shepherd (27,8) to "assist rather than dominate" (64,8), to "point out more with actions than words all that is good and holy," and to " illustrate the divine commandments by setting an example" (2,12).

In order to be capable of making responsible decisions, the Abbot must also be someone who listens to "the advice of his brothers" (3,2), because "God often reveals the most apt solution to the youngest person" (3,3). This attitude makes the Rule, written almost 15 centuries ago very current! A man with public responsibility, even in small circles, must always be a man who knows how to listen and to learn from what he hears.

Benedict describes the Rule as "minimal, just an initial outline" (73,8); in reality, however, it offers useful advice not only to monks, but to anyone looking for guidance on the path to God. Through his capacity, his humanity, and his sober ability to discern between what is essential and what is secondary in the spiritual life, he is still a guiding light today.

Paul VI, by proclaiming St. Benedict the patron saint of Europe on October 24, 1964, recognized the wonderful work accomplished by the saint through the Rule toward creating the civilization and culture of Europe.

Today, Europe— deeply wounded during the last century by two world wars and the collapse of great ideologies now revealed as tragic utopias— is searching for it's own identity. A strong political, economic and legal framework is undoubtedly important in creating a new, unified and lasting state, but we also need to renew ethical and spiritual values that draw on the Christian roots of the Continent, otherwise we cannot construct a new Europe.

Without this vital lifeblood, man remains exposed to the ancient temptation of self-redemption— a utopia, which caused in various ways in 20th-century Europe, as pointed out by Pope John Paul II, "an unprecedented regression in the tormented history of humanity" (Teachings, XIII/1, 1990, p. 58).

In the search for true progress, let us listen to the Rule of St. Benedict and see it as a guiding light for our journey. The great monk is still a true teacher in whose school we can learn the art of living a true humanism.


[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in six languages. In English, he said:]


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today is concerned with Saint Benedict, the Father of Western monasticism. The most important source of information on his life is the Second Book of the Dialogues of Pope Saint Gregory the Great. Writing in a time of turmoil and moral decadence following the fall of the Roman Empire, Pope Gregory believed that the life and Rule of Benedict could be a light leading the people of Europe out of darkness.

Benedict was born in 480 in the region of Nursia. He came to Rome to study but soon left the city so as to live in silence and to please God alone. He spent some time in a religious community before becoming a hermit in a cave. After struggling victoriously against the fundamental human temptations of pride, sensuality and anger, he decided to found a monastery at Subiaco. Years later he established a new community on a mountain, Montecassino, to symbolize the public role of a monastery called to be a light shining for the good of the Church and society. Indeed, when he died in 547 Saint Benedict left behind a thriving spiritual family and a Rule, which invites us to search for God in prayer, obedience and humility while attending faithfully to daily duties and to those in need.

In 1964 Pope Paul VI proclaimed Saint Benedict Patron of Europe recognizing the role that his teaching and his disciples had played in shaping Europe's spiritual life and culture. Let us continue to pray that Europe's new unity may be enlightened and nourished by a religious and moral renewal drawn from its Christian roots.

I am happy to greet the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, including the pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Manila, and the many groups from England and the United States. May your lives, after the example of Saint Benedict, be lived in humility, prayer, obedience to God and faithful service to your neighbor. May the Lord bless you and your families!


Text of the Pope’s video greeting for the U.S.A.

[I got this from Zenit.org.]


Message from His Holiness Benedict XVI in Anticipation of His Visit to the United States of America


Dear Brothers and Sisters in the United States of America,


The grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you! In just a few days from now, I shall begin my apostolic visit to your beloved country. Before setting off, I would like to offer you a heartfelt greeting and an invitation to prayer. As you know, I shall only be able to visit two cities: Washington and New York. The intention behind my visit, though, is to reach out spiritually to all Catholics in the United States. At the same time, I earnestly hope that my presence among you will be seen as a fraternal gesture towards every ecclesial community, and a sign of friendship for members of other religious traditions and all men and women of good will. The risen Lord entrusted the Apostles and the Church with his Gospel of love and peace, and his intention in doing so was that the message should be passed on to all peoples.

At this point I should like to add some words of thanks, because I am conscious that many people have been working hard for a long time, both in Church circles and in the public services, to prepare for my journey. I am especially grateful to all who have been praying for the success of the visit, since prayer is the most important element of all. Dear friends, I say this because I am convinced that without the power of prayer, without that intimate union with the Lord, our human endeavors would achieve very little. Indeed this is what our faith teaches us. It is God who saves us, he saves the world, and all of history. He is the Shepherd of his people. I am coming, sent by Jesus Christ, to bring you his word of life.

Together with your Bishops, I have chosen as the theme of my journey three simple but essential words: "Christ our hope". Following in the footsteps of my venerable predecessors, Paul VI and John Paul II, I shall come to United States of America as Pope for the first time, to proclaim this great truth: Jesus Christ is hope for men and women of every language, race, culture and social condition. Yes, Christ is the face of God present among us. Through him, our lives reach fullness, and together, both as individuals and peoples, we can become a family united by fraternal love, according to the eternal plan of God the Father. I know how deeply rooted this Gospel message is in your country. I am coming to share it with you, in a series of celebrations and gatherings. I shall also bring the message of Christian hope to the great Assembly of the United Nations, to the representatives of all the peoples of the world.

Indeed, the world has greater need of hope than ever: hope for peace, for justice, and for freedom, but this hope can never be fulfilled without obedience to the law of God, which Christ brought to fulfillment in the commandment to love one another. Do to others as you would have them do to you, and avoid doing what you would not want them to do. This "golden rule" is given in the Bible, but it is valid for all people, including non-believers. It is the law written on the human heart; on this we can all agree, so that when we come to address other matters we can do so in a positive and constructive manner for the entire human community.

[The Pope continued in Spanish]
I direct a cordial greeting to Spanish-speaking Catholics and manifest my spiritual closeness, in particular to the youth, the ill, the elderly and those who are in moments of difficulty of feel themselves in need. I express my heartfelt desire to be with you soon in this beloved nation. In the meantime, I encourage you to pray intensely for the pastoral fruits of my imminent apostolic trip and to keep high the flame of hope in the resurrected Christ.

Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends in the United States, I am very much looking forward to being with you. I want you to know that, even if my itinerary is short, with just a few engagements, my heart is close to all of you, especially to the sick, the weak, and the lonely. I thank you once again for your prayerful support of my mission. I reach out to every one of you with affection, and I invoke upon you the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Que la Virgen María les acompañe y proteja. Que Dios les bendiga. [May the Virgin Mary accompany and protect you. May God bless you.]

May God bless you all.


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Watch the Pope's video online.
Click HERE for it.

Jubilees at My Monastery

This year my monastery has the fiftieth anniversary of its founding. We are having several celebrations. The principal one will be a special Mass next month. Other observances will be a special festive Vespers (Evening Prayer) with particular groups invited to the monastery.

Also this year, one of the monks, Brother Anselm Clark, has the fiftieth anniversary of his monastic vows. Then, Brother Daniel Sokol and I are having the twenty-fifth anniversary of our monastic vows. The three of us are going to renew our vows at Mass on the April 24.


April 08, 2008

Looking forward to visiting the U.S.A., the Pope has posted an online video greeting.

Click HERE for it.

April 06, 2008

For the Third Sunday of Easter

I've posted a homily.
Click HERE for it.