Sunday, August 21, 2011

Following Jesus in Faith, Together

Words of Pope Benedict at the Beginning of Holy Mass
on the Occasion of the 26th World Youth Day

Cuatro Vientos Airport
August 21, 2011
Dear young friends, I have been thinking a lot about you during this time in which we have been separated. I hope you have been able to get some sleep in spite of the weather.

I am sure that since dawn you have raised up your eyes more than once, and not only your eyes but above all your hearts, turning this occasion into prayer. God turns all things into good. With this confidence and trusting in the Lord who never abandons us, let us begin our Eucharistic celebration, full of enthusiasm and strong in our faith.

Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Dear young people,

In this celebration of the Eucharist, we have reached the high point of this World Youth Day. Seeing you here, gathered in such great numbers from all parts of the world, fills my heart with joy. I think of the special love with which Jesus is looking upon you. Yes, the Lord loves you and calls you His friends (cf. Jn 15:15). He goes out to meet you and He wants to accompany you on your journey, to open the door to a life of fulfilment and to give you a share in His own closeness to the Father.

For our part, we have come to know the immensity of His love and we want to respond generously to His love by sharing with others the joy we have received. Certainly, there are many people today who feel attracted by the figure of Christ and want to know Him better. They realize that He is the answer to so many of our deepest concerns. But who is He really? How can someone who lived on this earth so long ago have anything in common with me today?

The Gospel we have just heard (cf. Mt 16:13-20) suggests two different ways of knowing Christ. The first is an impersonal knowledge, one based on current opinion. When Jesus asks: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”, the disciples answer: “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” In other words, Christ is seen as yet another religious figure, like those who came before Him.

Then Jesus turns to the disciples and asks them: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responds with what is the first confession of faith: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Faith is more than just empirical or historical facts; it is an ability to grasp the mystery of Christ’s person in all its depth.

Yet faith is not the result of human effort, of human reasoning, but rather a gift of God: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”

Faith starts with God, who opens His heart to us and invites us to share in His own divine life. Faith does not simply provide information about who Christ is; rather, it entails a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person, with all our understanding, will and feelings, to God’s self-revelation. So Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”, is ultimately a challenge to the disciples to make a personal decision in His regard. Faith in Christ and discipleship are strictly interconnected.

And since faith involves following the Master, it must become constantly stronger, deeper and more mature, to the extent that it leads to a closer and more intense relationship with Jesus. Peter and the other disciples also had to grow in this way, until their encounter with the Risen Lord opened their eyes to the fullness of faith.

Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which He asked the Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?”

Respond to Him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own. Say to Him:
“Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me. I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word. You know me and you love me. I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands. I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me."
Jesus’ responds to Peter’s confession by speaking of the Church: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.” What do these words mean?

Jesus builds the Church on the rock of the faith of Peter, who confesses that Christ is God.

The Church, then, is not simply a human institution, like any other. Rather, she is closely joined to God. Christ himself speaks of her as “His” Church. Christ cannot be separated from the Church any more than the head can be separated from the body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12). The Church does not draw her life from herself, but from the Lord.

Dear young friends, as the Successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen this faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at His side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own,” or to approach the life of faith with that kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.

Having faith means drawing support from the faith of your brothers and sisters, even as your own faith serves as a support for the faith of others. I ask you, dear friends, to love the Church which brought you to birth in the faith, which helped you to grow in the knowledge of Christ and which led you to discover the beauty of His love. Growing in friendship with Christ necessarily means recognizing the importance of joyful participation in the life of your parishes, communities and movements, as well as the celebration of Sunday Mass, frequent reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and the cultivation of personal prayer and meditation on God’s word.

Friendship with Jesus will also lead you to bear witness to the faith wherever you are, even when it meets with rejection or indifference. We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make Him known to others. So do not keep Christ to yourselves!

Share with others the joy of your faith! The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God. I think that the presence here of so many young people, coming from all over the world, is a wonderful proof of the fruitfulness of Christ’s command to the Church: “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). You too have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries filled with young people who are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God.

Dear young people, I pray for you with heartfelt affection. I commend all of you to the Virgin Mary and I ask her to accompany you always by her maternal intercession and to teach you how to remain faithful to God’s word. I ask you to pray for the Pope, so that, as the Successor of Peter, he may always confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith.

May all of us in the Church, pastors and faithful alike, draw closer to the Lord each day. May we grow in holiness of life and be effective witnesses to the truth that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, the Saviour of all mankind and the living source of our hope. Amen.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"If you abide in the love of Christ, rooted in the faith, you will encounter, even amid setbacks and suffering, the source of true happiness and joy."

Abide in the love of Christ and you will persevere through the trials of life, including sudden rainstorms. Those dark clouds you see in the video later turned into a driving rain with strong winds, which prevented Pope Benedict from reading his entire homily to the estimated two million young people gathered for the prayer vigil, but did not dampen their spirits in the slightest.

This is the report from Vatican Radio --
Esta es la joventud del papa! This is the Pope’s youth!”, the chant erupted spontaneously from the multitudes as the winds and rain beat down upon them in the aptly named Cuatro Vientos airport, the airport of the Four Winds. After days of incessant and stifling heat, not even the tempest that interrupted the Holy Father mid-homily could quench the enthusiasm of Benedict XVI’s generation, an estimated 2 million strong on Saturday night.

“We know you were all out in the sun this afternoon and asking for more water...well here it is!” the young presenter announced. And as the Pope waited patiently seated before the giant altar for the storm to pass, organisers invited the jubilant pilgrims to pray for the rain to cease. Instead, their voices rose as one in a continuous chorus “This is the Pope’s youth!” and that chorus rang out across Madrid.

They had begun arriving mid morning, many on travelling the 24 kms to the airport on foot under a searing sun with temperatures hitting 40° Celsius. Madrid’s bomberos, on top of fire trucks, directing water hoses over the crowds in an effort to bring some relief.

The liturgy of the Word had just begun, following the procession of the World Youth Day Cross and icon. The five young people, from the UK, Kenya, the USA, the Philippines, and Germany had only just posed their questions to Pope Benedict when the storm begun, ripping the zucchetto from the Pope’s head.

Michael from the UK, a convert to Catholicism had asked the Pope who Christ really is and whether he was for all of humanity or only for Christians. Roselyne from Kenya, spoke of her work on behalf of the victims of famine in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia and asked the Pope how can she help the poor and suffering understand that God has not forgotten about them. Robert from the USA, spoke of how he will marry in a month’s time and asked Pope Benedict for advice on how to faithfully live the vocation to marriage. Kirtzia from the Philippines spoke of how it was difficult at times to witness her faith in society, while the young German Kathleen, a non-believer attracted by the figure of Christ, asked for guidance.

Pope Benedict never got to pronouncing his homily, instead when the winds and rain had calmed, the Holy Father proceeded to pronounce his greetings to pilgrims in diverse languages and then left the raised altar to change vestments for the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. As he left the stage, firemen clambered onto the scaffolding to ensure its safety, while the young people continued to chant.

The Pope emerged shortly afterwards, and once the crowds had quietened, invited the millions who had answered his call to join him in a night of Eucharistic adoration. As he knelt before the altar, the XVth century monstrance “Custodia di Arfe” from the Toledo Cathedral rose from centre of the stage to the clamour of two million voices, for the heat, the Pope, the rain. Then, silence descended on Cuatro Ventos.
When the rain finally relented, His Holiness said to the crowd, "Thank you for your joy and resistance. Your strength is stronger than the rain. Thank you. The Lord is sending us his blessings with the rain. With this, you're leading by example."

Liturgy of the Word

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love." (John 15:1-10)

Prepared Text of the Homily of Pope Benedict XVI
World Youth Day Prayer Vigil with Eucharistic Adoration

Cuatro Vientos Airport
August 20, 2011
Dear Young Friends,

I greet all of you, especially the young people who have asked me their questions, and I thank them for the sincerity with which they set forth their concerns, that express the longing which all of you have to achieve something great in life, something which can bring you fulfilment and happiness.

How can a young person be true to the faith and yet continue to aspire to high ideals in today’s society?

In the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus gives us an answer to this urgent question: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” (Jn 15:9).

Yes, dear friends, God loves us. This is the great truth of our life; it is what makes everything else meaningful. We are not the product of blind chance or absurdity; instead our life originates as part of a loving plan of God. To abide in His love, then, means living a life rooted in faith, since faith is more than the mere acceptance of certain abstract truths: it is an intimate relationship with Christ, who enables us to open our hearts to this mystery of love and to live as men and women conscious of being loved by God.

If you abide in the love of Christ, rooted in the faith, you will encounter, even amid setbacks and suffering, the source of true happiness and joy. Faith does not run counter to your highest ideals; on the contrary, it elevates and perfects those ideals.

Dear young people, do not be satisfied with anything less than Truth and Love, do not be content with anything less than Christ.

Nowadays, although the dominant culture of relativism all around us has given up on the search for truth, even if it is the highest aspiration of the human spirit, we need to speak with courage and humility of the universal significance of Christ as the Saviour of humanity and the source of hope for our lives -- He who took upon Himself our afflictions, is well acquainted with the mystery of human suffering, and manifests His loving presence in those who suffer. They in their turn, united to the passion of Christ, share closely in His work of redemption. Furthermore, our disinterested attention towards the sick and the forgotten will always be a humble and warm testimony of God’s compassionate regard.

Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, His name will continue to resound throughout the world.

During this prayer vigil, I urge you to ask God to help you find your vocation in society and in the Church, and to persevere in that vocation with joy and fidelity. It is a good thing to open our hearts to Christ’s call and to follow with courage and generosity the path He maps out for us.

The Lord calls many people to marriage, in which a man and a woman, in becoming one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24), find fulfilment in a profound life of communion. It is a prospect that is both bright and demanding. It is a project for true love which is daily renewed and deepened by sharing joys and sorrows, one marked by complete self-giving. For this reason, to acknowledge the beauty and goodness of marriage is to realize that only a setting of fidelity and indissolubility, along with openness to God’s gift of life, is adequate to the grandeur and dignity of marital love.

Christ calls others to follow Him more closely in the priesthood or in consecrated life. It is hard to put into words the happiness you feel when you know that Jesus seeks you, trusts in you, and with His unmistakable voice also says to you: “Follow me!” (cf. Mk 2:14).

Dear young people, if you wish to discover and to live faithfully the form of life to which the Lord is calling each of you, you must remain in His love as His friends. And how do we preserve friendship except through frequent contact, conversation, being together in good times and bad? Saint Teresa of Jesus used to say that prayer is just such “friendly contact, often spending time alone with the one who we know loves us” (cf. Autobiography, 8).

And so I now ask you to “abide” in the adoration of Christ, truly present in the Eucharist. I ask you to enter into conversation with Him, to bring before Him your questions and to listen to His voice.

Dear friends, I pray for you with all my heart. And I ask you to pray for me. Tonight let us ask the Lord to grant that, attracted by the beauty of His love, we may always live faithfully as His disciples. Amen.

[French] Dear young French-speakers, be proud of the gift of faith which you have received, as it will illumine your life at every moment. Draw strength from the faith of your neighbours, from the faith of the Church! Through faith we are grounded in Christ. Gather with others to deepen it, be faithful to the celebration of the Eucharist, the mystery of faith par excellence. Christ alone can respond to your aspirations. Let yourselves be seized by God, so that your presence in the Church will give her new life!

[English] Dear young people, in these moments of silence before the Blessed Sacrament, let us raise our minds and hearts to Jesus Christ, the Lord of our lives and of the future. May He pour out His Spirit upon us and upon the whole Church, that we may be a beacon of freedom, reconciliation and peace for the whole world.

[German] Dear young Christians from the German-speaking countries! Deep in our hearts we yearn for what is grand and beautiful in life. Do not let your desires and aspirations dissipate, but ground them in Jesus Christ. He Himself is the sure foundation, the point of reference, for building up your life.

[Italian] I now turn to the Italian-speaking young people. Dear friends, this vigil will remain as an unforgettable experience in your lives. Guard the flame which God has lit in your hearts tonight. Never let it go out, renew it each day, share it with your contemporaries who live in darkness and who are seeking a light for their way. Thank you! Until tomorrow morning!

[Portuguese] My dear friends, I invite each of you to enter into a personal dialogue with Christ, sharing with Him your hesitations and above all listening to His voice. The Lord is here and He is calling you! Young friends, it is good to hear within us the word of Jesus and to follow in His footsteps. Ask the Lord to help you to discover your vocation in life and in the Church, and to persevere in it with joy and fidelity, knowing that He never abandons you or betrays you! He remains with us until the end of the world.

[Polish] Dear young friends from Poland! This prayer vigil is filled with the presence of Christ. Grounded in His love, draw near to Him with the flame of your faith. He will fill your hearts with His life. Build your lives on Christ and on His Gospel. I willingly bless all of you.

Final Remarks of the Holy Father

Before taking his leave, Pope Benedict, inviting a group of young people onto the stage, bid the throng before him goodnight:
Dear young people, together we have experienced an adventure. Firm in the faith in Christ, you have resisted the rain! Before leaving, I want to tell all of you good night. Rest well. Thank you for the sacrifice you are making. And which I don't doubt you will offer generously to the Lord. We'll see each other tomorrow, God willing. I await you all. I thank you all for the marvelous example that you've given. Just like tonight, with Christ you will always be able to take on the tests of life. Never forget that! Thank you to all.

Helping to Build the Civilization of Love

Remarks of Pope Benedict XVI
Visit to San José Foundation for Disabled Youth

Madrid, 20 August 2011
I thank you most sincerely for your kind greeting and heartfelt welcome.

This evening, just before the Prayer Vigil with the young people from throughout the world gathered in Madrid for this World Youth Day, we have this chance to spend time together as a way of showing the Pope’s closeness and esteem for each of you, for your families and for all those who help and care for you in this Foundation of Saint Joseph’s Institute.

Youth, as I have said more than once, is the age when life discloses itself to us with all its rich possibilities, inspiring us to seek the lofty goals which give it meaning. So when suffering appears on the horizon of a young life, we are shaken; perhaps we ask ourselves: “Can life still be something grand, even when suffering unexpectedly enters it?”

In my Encyclical on Christian Hope, I observed that
“the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer … A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through ‘com-passion’ is a cruel and inhuman society” (Spe Salvi, 38).
These words reflect a long tradition of humanity which arises from Christ’s own self-offering on the Cross for us and for our redemption. Jesus and, in His footsteps, His Sorrowful Mother and the saints, are witnesses who shows us how to experience the tragedy of suffering for our own good and for the salvation of the world.

These witnesses speak to us, first and foremost, of the dignity of all human life, created in the image of God. No suffering can efface this divine image imprinted in the depths of our humanity. But there is more: because the Son of God wanted freely to embrace suffering and death, we are also capable of seeing God’s image in the face of those who suffer.

This preferential love of the Lord for the suffering helps us to see others more clearly and to give them, above and beyond their material demands, the look of love which they need. But this can only happen as the fruit of a personal encounter with Christ.

You yourselves – as religious, family members, health care professionals and volunteers who daily live and work with these young people – know this well. Your lives and your committed service proclaim the greatness to which every human being is called: to show compassion and loving concern to the suffering, just as God Himself did. In your noble work, we hear an echo of the words found in the Gospel: “just as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).

At the same time, you are also witnesses of the immense goodness which the lives of these young people represent for those who love them, and for humanity as a whole. In a mysterious yet real way, their presence awakens in our often hardened hearts a tenderness which opens us to salvation. The lives of these young people surely touch human hearts and for that reason we are grateful to the Lord for having known them.

Dear friends, our society, which all too often questions the inestimable value of life, of every life, needs you: in a decisive way, you help to build the civilization of love. What is more, you play a leading role in that civilization. As sons and daughters of the Church, you offer the Lord your lives, with all their ups and downs, cooperating with Him and somehow becoming “part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race” (Spe Salvi, 40).

With great affection, and through the intercession of Saint Joseph, Saint John of God and Saint Benito Menni, I commend you to God our Lord: may He be your strength and your reward. As a pledge of His love, I cordially impart to you, and to your families and friends, my Apostolic Blessing. Thank you very much.

To be Modeled on Christ

Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
WYD Mass with Seminarians

Cathedral of Santa María la Real de la Almudena
Madrid, 20 August 2011
I am very pleased to celebrate Holy Mass with you who aspire to be Christ’s priests for the service of the Church and of man, and I thank you for the kind words with which you welcomed me. Today, this holy cathedral church of Santa María La Real de la Almudena is like a great Upper Room, where the Lord greatly desires to celebrate the Passover with you who wish one day to preside in his name at the mysteries of salvation. Looking at you, I again see proof of how Christ continues to call young disciples and to make them his apostles, thus keeping alive the mission of the Church and the offer of the Gospel to the world. As seminarians you are on the path towards a sacred goal: to continue the mission which Christ received from the Father. Called by him, you have followed his voice and, attracted by his loving gaze, you now advance towards the sacred ministry. Fix your eyes upon him who through his incarnation is the supreme revelation of God to the world and who through his resurrection faithfully fulfills his promise. Give thanks to him for this sign of favour in which he holds each one of you.

The first reading which we heard shows us Christ as the new and eternal priest who made of himself a perfect offering. The response to the psalm may be aptly applied to him since, at his coming into the world, he said to the Father, “Here I am to do your will” (cf. Ps 39:8). He tried to please him in all things: in his words and actions, along the way or welcoming sinners. His life was one of service and his longing was a constant prayer, placing himself in the name of all before the Father as the first-born son of many brothers and sisters. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews states that, by a single offering, he brought to perfection for all time those of us who are called to share his sonship (cf. Heb 10:14).

The Eucharist, whose institution is mentioned in the Gospel just proclaimed (cf. Lk 22:14-20), is the real expression of that unconditional offering of Jesus for all, even for those who betrayed him. It was the offering of his body and blood for the life of mankind and for the forgiveness of sins. His blood, a sign of life, was given to us by God as a covenant, so that we might apply the force of his life wherever death reigns due to our sins, and thus destroy it. Christ’s body broken and his blood outpoured – the surrender of his freedom – became through these Eucharistic signs the new source of mankind’s redeemed freedom. In Christ, we have the promise of definitive redemption and the certain hope of future blessings. Through Christ we know that we are not walking towards the abyss, the silence of nothingness or death, but are rather pilgrims on the way to a promised land, on the way to him who is our end and our beginning.

Dear friends, you are preparing yourselves to become apostles with Christ and like Christ, and to accompany your fellow men and women along their journey as companions and servants.

How should you behave during these years of preparation? First of all, they should be years of interior silence, of unceasing prayer, of constant study and of gradual insertion into the pastoral activity and structures of the Church. A Church which is community and institution, family and mission, the creation of Christ through his Holy Spirit, as well as the result of those of us who shape it through our holiness and our sins. God, who does not hesitate to make of the poor and of sinners his friends and instruments for the redemption of the human race, willed it so. The holiness of the Church is above all the objective holiness of the very person of Christ, of his Gospel and his sacraments, the holiness of that power from on high which enlivens and impels it. We have to be saints so as not to create a contradiction between the sign that we are and the reality that we wish to signify.

Meditate well upon this mystery of the Church, living the years of your formation in deep joy, humbly, clear-mindedly and with radical fidelity to the Gospel, in an affectionate relation to the time spent and the people among whom you live. No one chooses the place or the people to whom he is sent, and every time has its own challenges; but in every age God gives the right grace to face and overcome those challenges with love and realism. That is why, no matter the circumstances in which he finds and however difficult they may be, the priest must grow in all kinds of good works, keeping alive within him the words spoken on his Ordination day, by which he was exhorted to model his life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.

To be modeled on Christ, dear seminarians, is to be identified ever more closely with him who, for our sake, became servant, priest and victim. To be modeled on him is in fact the task upon which the priest spends his entire life. We already know that it is beyond us and we will not fully succeed but, as St Paul says, we run towards the goal, hoping to reach it (cf. Phil 3:12-14).

That said, Christ the High Priest is also the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep, even giving his life for them (cf. Jn 10:11). In order to liken yourselves to the Lord in this as well, your heart must mature while in seminary, remaining completely open to the Master. This openness, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, inspires the decision to live in celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and, leaving aside the world’s goods, live in austerity of life and sincere obedience, without pretence.

Ask him to let you imitate him in his perfect charity towards all, so that you do not shun the excluded and sinners, but help them convert and return to the right path. Ask him to teach you how to be close to the sick and the poor in simplicity and generosity. Face this challenge without anxiety or mediocrity, but rather as a beautiful way of living our human life in gratuitousness and service, as witnesses of God made man, messengers of the supreme dignity of the human person and therefore its unconditional defenders. Relying on his love, do not be intimidated by surroundings that would exclude God and in which power, wealth and pleasure are frequently the main criteria ruling people’s lives. You may be shunned along with others who propose higher goals or who unmask the false gods before whom many now bow down. That will be the moment when a life deeply rooted in Christ will clearly be seen as something new and it will powerfully attract those who truly search for God, truth and justice.

Under the guidance of your formators, open your hearts to the light of the Lord, to see if this path which demands courage and authenticity is for you. Approach the priesthood only if you are firmly convinced that God is calling you to be his ministers, and if you are completely determined to exercise it in obedience to the Church’s precepts.

With this confidence, learn from him who described himself as meek and humble of heart, leaving behind all earthly desire for his sake so that, rather than pursuing your own good, you build up your brothers and sisters by the way you live, as did the patron saint of the diocesan clergy of Spain, St John of Avila. Moved by his example, look above all to the Virgin Mary, Mother of Priests. She will know how to mould your hearts according to the model of Christ, her divine Son, and she will teach you how to treasure for ever all that he gained on Calvary for the salvation of the world. Amen.

Announcement of the Holy Father after Mass
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With great joy, here in this Cathedral Church of Santa María La Real de la Almudena, I announce to the People of God that, having acceded to the desire expressed by Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid and President of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, together with the members of the Spanish episcopate and other Archbishops and Bishops from throughout the world, as well as many of the lay faithful, I will shortly declare Saint John of Avila a Doctor of the universal Church.

In making this announcement here, I would hope that the word and the example of this outstanding pastor will enlighten all priests and those who look forward to the day of their priestly ordination.

I invite everyone to look to Saint John of Avila and I commend to his intercession the Bishops of Spain and those of the whole world, as well as all priests and seminarians. As they persevere in the same faith which he taught, may they model their hearts on that of Jesus Christ the good Shepherd, to whom be glory and honour for ever. Amen.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Truth - the Authentic Idea of the University

Address of Pope Benedict XVI
WYD Meeting with Young University Professors

Basilica de San Lorenzo de El Escorial
August 19, 2011
I have looked forward to this meeting with you, young professors in the universities of Spain. You provide a splendid service in the spread of truth, in circumstances that are not always easy. I greet you warmly and I thank you for your kind words of welcome and for the music which has marvellously resounded in this magnificent monastery, for centuries an eloquent witness to the life of prayer and study. In this highly symbolic place, reason and faith have harmoniously blended in the austere stone to shape one of Spain’s most renowned monuments.

I also greet with particular affection those of you who took part in the recent World Congress of Catholic Universities held in Avila on the theme: “The Identity and Mission of the Catholic University.”

Being here with you, I am reminded of my own first steps as a professor at the University of Bonn. At the time, the wounds of war were still deeply felt and we had many material needs; these were compensated by our passion for an exciting activity, our interaction with colleagues of different disciplines and our desire to respond to the deepest and most basic concerns of our students. This experience of a “Universitas” of professors and students who together seek the truth in all fields of knowledge, or as Alfonso X the Wise put it, this “counsel of masters and students with the will and understanding needed to master the various disciplines” (Siete Partidas, partida II, tit. XXXI), helps us to see more clearly the importance, and even the definition, of the University.

The theme of the present World Youth Day – “Rooted and Built Up in Christ, and Firm in the Faith” (cf. Col 2:7) can also shed light on your efforts to understand more clearly your own identity and what you are called to do. As I wrote in my Message to Young People in preparation for these days, the terms “rooted, built up and firm” all point to solid foundations on which we can construct our lives (cf. No. 2).

But where will young people encounter those reference points in a society which is increasingly confused and unstable?

At times, one has the idea that the mission of a university professor nowadays is exclusively that of forming competent and efficient professionals capable of satisfying the demand for labor at any given time. One also hears it said that the only thing that matters at the present moment is pure technical ability. This sort of utilitarian approach to education is in fact becoming more widespread, even at the university level, promoted especially by sectors outside the University.

All the same, you who, like myself, have had an experience of the University, and now are members of the teaching staff, surely are looking for something more lofty and capable of embracing the full measure of what it is to be human. We know that when mere utility and pure pragmatism become the principal criteria, much is lost and the results can be tragic: from the abuses associated with a science which acknowledges no limits beyond itself, to the political totalitarianism which easily arises when one eliminates any higher reference than the mere calculus of power. The authentic idea of the University, on the other hand, is precisely what saves us from this reductionist and curtailed vision of humanity.

In truth, the University has always been, and is always called to be, the “house” where one seeks the truth proper to the human person. Consequently it was not by accident that the Church promoted the universities, for Christian faith speaks to us of Christ as the Word through whom all things were made (cf. Jn 1:3) and of men and women as made in the image and likeness of God. The Gospel message perceives a rationality inherent in creation and considers man as a creature participating in, and capable of attaining to, an understanding of this rationality. The University thus embodies an ideal which must not be attenuated or compromised, whether by ideologies closed to reasoned dialogue or by truckling to a purely utilitarian and economic conception which would view man solely as a consumer.

Here we see the vital importance of your own mission. You yourselves have the honour and responsibility of transmitting the ideal of the University: an ideal which you have received from your predecessors, many of whom were humble followers of the Gospel and, as such, became spiritual giants. We should feel ourselves their successors, in a time quite different from their own, yet one in which the essential human questions continue to challenge and stimulate us. With them, we realize that we are a link in that chain of men and women committed to teaching the faith and making it credible to human reason. And we do this not simply by our teaching, but by the way we live our faith and embody it, just as the Word took flesh and dwelt among us.

Young people need authentic teachers: persons open to the fullness of truth in the various branches of knowledge, persons who listen to and experience in own hearts that interdisciplinary dialogue; persons who, above all, are convinced of our human capacity to advance along the path of truth. Youth is a privileged time for seeking and encountering truth. As Plato said: “Seek truth while you are young, for if you do not, it will later escape your grasp” (Parmenides, 135d). This lofty aspiration is the most precious gift which you can give to your students, personally and by example. It is more important than mere technical know-how, or cold and purely functional data.

I urge you, then, never to lose that sense of enthusiasm and concern for truth. Always remember that teaching is not just about communicating content, but about forming young people. You need to understand and love them, to awaken their innate thirst for truth and their yearning for transcendence. Be for them a source of encouragement and strength.

For this to happen, we need to realize in the first place that the path to the fullness of truth calls for complete commitment: it is a path of understanding and love, of reason and faith. We cannot come to know something unless we are moved by love; or, for that matter, love something which does not strike us as reasonable. “Understanding and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in understanding and understanding is full of love” (Caritas in Veritate, 30). If truth and goodness go together, so too do knowledge and love. This unity leads to consistency in life and thought, that ability to inspire demanded of every good educator.

In the second place, we need to recognize that truth itself will always lie beyond our grasp. We can seek it and draw near to it, but we cannot completely possess it; or put better, truth possesses us and inspires us. In intellectual and educational activity, the virtue of humility is also indispensable, since it protects us from the pride which bars the way to truth. We must not draw students to ourselves, but set them on the path toward the truth which we seek together. The Lord will help you in this, for He asks you to be plain and effective like salt, or like the lamp which quietly lights the room (cf. Mt 5:13).

All these things, finally, remind us to keep our gaze fixed on Christ, whose face radiates the Truth which enlightens us. Christ is also the Way which leads to lasting fulfilment; He walks constantly at our side and sustains us with His love. Rooted in Him, you will prove good guides to our young people.

With this confidence, I invoke upon you the protection of the Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom. May she help you to cooperate with her Son by living a life which is personally satisfying and which brings forth rich fruits of knowledge and faith for your students. Thank you very much.


The Gospel Radicalism of Consecrated Life

Remarks of Pope Benedict XVI
WYD Meeting with Women Religious

Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial
August 19, 2011
Dear Young Women Religious,

As part of the World Youth Day which we are celebrating in Madrid, I am delighted to have this opportunity to meet you who have consecrated your youth to the Lord, and I thank you for the kind greeting you have given me. I also thank the Archbishop of Madrid, who arranged for this meeting in the evocative setting of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Its famous library preserves important editions of the sacred Scriptures and the monastic rules of various religious families, yet your own lives of fidelity to the calling you have received is itself a precious means of preserving the word of the Lord, which resounds in your various spiritual traditions.

Dear Sisters, every charism is an evangelical word which the Holy Spirit recalls to the Church’s memory (cf. Jn 14:26). It is not by accident that consecrated life “is born from hearing the word of God and embracing the Gospel as its rule of life. A life devoted to following Christ in His chastity, poverty and obedience becomes a living ‘exegesis’ of God’s word… Every charism and every rule springs from it and seeks to be an expression of it, thus opening up new pathways of Christian living marked by the radicalism of the Gospel” (Verbum Domini, 83).

This Gospel radicalism means being “rooted and built up in Christ, and firm in the faith” (cf. Col 2:7). In the consecrated life, this means going to the very root of the love of Jesus Christ with an undivided heart, putting nothing ahead of this love (cf. Saint Benedict, Rule, IV, 21) and being completely devoted to Him, the Bridegroom, as were the Saints, like Rose of Lima and Rafael Arnáiz, the young patrons of this World Youth Day.

Your lives must testify to the personal encounter with Christ which has nourished your consecration, and to all the transforming power of that encounter. This is all the more important today when “we see a certain ‘eclipse of God’ taking place, a kind of amnesia which, albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity, is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith, a denial that could lead to the loss of our deepest identity” (Message for the 2011 World Youth Day, 1). In a world of relativism and mediocrity, we need that radicalism to which your consecration, as a way of belonging to the God who is loved above all things, bears witness.

This Gospel radicalism proper to the consecrated life finds expression in filial communion with the Church, the home of the children of God, built by Christ: communion with her Pastors who set forth in the Lord’s name the deposit of faith received from the apostles, the ecclesial Magisterium and the Christian tradition; communion with your own religious families as you gratefully preserve their authentic spiritual patrimony while valuing other charisms; and communion with other members of the Church, such as the laity, who are called to make their own specific calling a testimony to the one Gospel of the Lord.

Finally, Gospel radicalism finds expression in the mission God has chosen to entrust to us: from the contemplative life, which welcomes into its cloisters the word of God in eloquent silence and adores His beauty in the solitude which He alone fills, to the different paths of the apostolic life, in whose furrows the seed of the Gospel bears fruit in the education of children and young people, the care of the sick and elderly, the pastoral care of families, commitment to respect for life, witness to the truth and the proclamation of peace and charity, mission work and the new evangelization, and so many other sectors of the Church’s apostolate.

Dear Sisters, this is the witness of holiness to which God is calling you, as you follow Jesus Christ closely and unconditionally in consecration, communion and mission. The Church needs your youthful fidelity, rooted and built up in Christ. Thank you for your generous, total and perpetual “yes” to the call of the Loved One. I pray that the Virgin Mary may sustain and accompany your consecrated youth, with the lively desire that it will challenge, nourish and illumine all young people.

With these sentiments, I ask God to repay abundantly the generous contribution which consecrated life has made to this World Youth Day. In His name, and with great gratitude, I give you my affectionate blessing.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Building on Rock with the Word

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
Jesus said to His disciples: “Anyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on rock. When the rainy season set in, the torrents came and the winds blew and buffeted his house. It did not collapse; it had been solidly set on rock. Anyone who hears my words but does not put them into practice is like the foolish man who built his house on sandy ground. The rains fell, the torrents came, the winds blew and lashed against his house. It collapsed under all this and was completely ruined.” (Mt. 7:24-27)

Address of Pope Benedict XVI
WYD Welcome Ceremony with Young People

Plaza de Cibeles, Madrid
August 18, 2011
Dear Friends,

Thank you for the kind words addressed to me by the young people representing the five continents. And I salute with affection all of you gathered here, young people from Oceania, Africa, America, Asia and Europe; and also those unable to be here. I always keep you very much in my heart and pray for you. God has given me the grace to see and hear you for myself and, as we gather together, to listen to His word.

In the reading which has just been proclaimed, we heard a passage from the Gospel which talks of welcoming the words of Jesus and putting them into practice.

There are words which serve only to amuse, as fleeting as an empty breeze; others, to an extent, inform us. Those of Jesus, on the other hand, must reach our hearts, take root and bloom there all our lives. If not, they remain empty and become ephemeral. They do not bring us to Him and, as a result, Christ stays remote, just one voice among the many others around us which are so familiar.

Furthermore, the Master who speaks teaches, not something learned from others, but that which He Himself is, the only one who truly knows the path of man towards God, because He is the one who opened it up for us, He made it so that we might have authentic lives, lives which are always worth living, in every circumstance, and which not even death can destroy.

The Gospel continues, explaining these things with the evocative image of someone who builds on solid rock, resistant to the onslaught of adversity, and in contrast to someone who builds on sand - we would say today in what appears a paradise - but which collapses with the first gust of wind and falls into ruins.

Dear young people, listen closely to the words of the Lord, that they may be for you “spirit and life” (Jn 6:63), roots which nourish your being, a rule of life which likens us - poor in spirit, thirsting for justice, merciful, pure in heart, lovers of peace - to the person of Christ. Listen regularly every day as if He were the one friend who does not deceive, the one with whom we wish to share the path of life. Of course, you know that when we do not walk beside Christ our guide, we get lost on other paths, like the path of our blind and selfish impulses, or the path of flattering but self-serving suggestions, deceiving and fickle, which leave emptiness and frustration in their wake.

Use these days to know Christ better and to make sure that, rooted in Him, your enthusiasm and happiness, your desire to go further, to reach the heights, even God Himself, always hold a sure future, because the fullness of life has already been placed within you. Let that life grow with divine grace, generously and without half-measures, as you remain steadfast in your aim for holiness. And, in the face of our weaknesses which sometimes overwhelm us, we can rely on the mercy of the Lord who is always ready to help us again and who offers us pardon in the sacrament of Penance.

If you build on solid rock, not only your life will be solid and stable, but it will also help project the light of Christ shining upon those of your own age and upon the whole of humanity, presenting a valid alternative to all those who have fallen short, because the essentials in their lives were inconsistent; to all those who are content to follow fashionable ideas, they take shelter in the here and now, forgetting true justice, or they take refuge in their own opinions instead of seeking the simple truth.

Indeed, there are many who, creating their own gods, believe they need no roots or foundations other than themselves. They take it upon themselves to decide what is true or not, what is good and evil, what is just and unjust; who should live and who can be sacrificed in the interests of other preferences; leaving each step to chance, with no clear path, letting themselves be led by the whim of each moment.

These temptations are always lying in wait. It is important not to give in to them because, in reality, they lead to something so evanescent, like an existence with no horizons, a liberty without God.

We, on the other hand, know well that we have been created free, in the image of God, precisely so that we might be in the forefront of the search for truth and goodness, responsible for our actions, not mere blind executives, but creative co-workers in the task of cultivating and beautifying the work of creation.

God is looking for a responsible interlocutor, someone who can dialogue with Him and love Him. Through Christ we can truly succeed and, established in Him, we give wings to our freedom. Is this not the great reason for our joy? Isn’t this the firm ground upon which to build the civilization of love and life, capable of humanizing all of us?

Dear friends: be prudent and wise, build your lives upon the firm foundation which is Christ. This wisdom and prudence will guide your steps, nothing will make you fear and peace will reign in your hearts. Then you will be blessed and happy and your happiness will influence others. They will wonder what the secret of your life is and they will discover that the rock which underpins the entire building and upon which rests your whole existence is the very person of Christ, your friend, brother and Lord, the Son of God incarnate, who gives meaning to all the universe.

He died for us all, rising that we might have life, and now, from the throne of the Father, He accompanies all men and women, watching continually over each one of us.

I commend the fruits of this World Youth Day to the most holy Virgin Mary, who said “Yes” to the will of God, and teaches us a unique example of fidelity to her divine son, whom she followed to His death upon the Cross. Let us meditate upon this more deeply in the Stations of the Cross. And let us pray that, like her, our “Yes” to Christ today may also be an unconditional “Yes” to His friendship, both at the end of this Day and throughout our entire lives. Thank you very much.


Pope Benedict Arrives in Madrid for World Youth Day

Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
WYD Welcome Ceremony, Barajas Airport, Madrid
Thursday, 18 August 2011
I have come here to meet thousands of young people from all over the world, Catholics committed to Christ searching for the truth that will give real meaning to their existence. I come as the Successor of Peter, to confirm them all in the faith, with days of intense pastoral activity, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life; to motivate the commitment to build up the Kingdom of God in the world among us, rooted in His person; to exhort young people to become faithful followers and valiant witnesses.

Why has this multitude of young people come to Madrid? While they themselves should give the reply, it may be supposed that they wish to hear the word of God, as the motto for this World Youth Day proposed to them, in such a way that, rooted and built upon Christ, they may manifest the strength of their faith.

Many of them have heard the voice of God, perhaps only as a little whisper, which has led them to search for Him more diligently and to share with others the experience of the force which He has in their lives.

The discovery of the living God inspires young people and opens their eyes to the challenges of the world in which they live, with its possibilities and limitations. They see the prevailing superficiality, consumerism and hedonism, the widespread banalization of sexuality, the lack of solidarity, the corruption. They know that, without God, it would be hard to confront these challenges and to be truly happy, and thus pouring out their enthusiasm in the attainment of an authentic life. But, with God beside them, they will possess light to walk by and reasons to hope, unrestrained before their highest ideals, which will motivate their generous commitment to build a society where human dignity and true brotherhood are respected.

Here on this Day, they have a special opportunity to gather together their aspirations, to share the richness of their cultures and experiences, motivate each other along a journey of faith and life, in which some think they are alone or ignored in their daily existence. But they are not alone. Many people of the same age have the same aspirations and, entrusting themselves completely to Christ, know that they really have a future before them and are not afraid of the decisive commitments which fulfill their entire lives.

That is why it gives me great joy to listen to them, pray with them and celebrate the Eucharist with them. World Youth Day brings us a message of hope like a pure and youthful breeze, with rejuvenating scents which fill us with confidence before the future of the Church and the world.

Of course, there is no lack of difficulties. There are tensions and ongoing conflicts all over the world, even to the shedding of blood. Justice and the unique value of the human person are easily surrendered to selfish, material and ideological interests. Nature and the environment, created by God with so much love, are not respected. Moreover, many young people look worriedly to the future, as they search for work, or because they have lost their job or because the one they have is precarious or uncertain. There are others who need help either to avoid drugs or to recover from their use. There are even some who, because of their faith in Christ, suffer discrimination which leads to contempt and persecution, open or hidden, which they endure in various regions and countries. They are harassed to give Him up, depriving them of the signs of His presence in public life, not allowing even the mention of His holy name.

But, with all my heart, I say again to you young people: let nothing and no one take away your peace; do not be ashamed of the Lord. He did not spare Himself in becoming one like us and in experiencing our anguish so as to lift it up to God, and in this way He saved us.

In this regard, the young followers of Jesus must be aided to remain firm in the faith and to embrace the beautiful adventure of proclaiming it and witnessing to it openly with their lives. A witness that is courageous and full of love for their brothers and sisters, resolute and at the same time prudent, without hiding its Christian identity, living together with other legitimate choices in a spirit of respect while at the same time demanding due respect for one’s own choices.

Your Majesty, as I reiterate my thanks for the kind welcome which you gave to me, I in turn wish to express my esteem for and nearness to all the peoples of Spain, as well as my admiration for a country so rich in history and in culture through the vitality of its faith, which has borne fruit in so many saints over the centuries, in numerous men and women who, leaving their native land, brought the Gospel to every corner of the globe, and in people through all this land who act with rectitude, solidarity and goodness. It is a great treasure which should be cared for constructively, for the common good of today and in order to offer a bright horizon to future generations. Although there are currently some reasons for concern, the greatest one is the desire for the betterment of all Spaniards with that dynamism which characterizes them and to which their deep and very fruitful Christian roots have contributed so much down through the centuries.

From this place I send very cordial greetings to you all, dear friends of Spain and Madrid, and those of you from other lands. During these days I will be with you, thinking of all young people in the world, in particular those who are going through various kinds of trial. Entrusting this Meeting to the most holy Virgin Mary, and to the patron saints of this Day, I ask God always to bless and protect the sons and daughters of Spain. Thank you very much.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Living Ark of the Covenant

Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Solemnity of the Assumption

San Tomasso de Villanova, Castel Gandolfo
August 15, 2011
Dear brothers and sisters,

We are gathered together once again to celebrate one of the most ancient and beloved feasts dedicated to the Most Blessed Mary, the feast of her assumption to the glory of heaven in body and soul - that is, in her whole being as a human, in the full integrity of her person.

So we are given the grace of renewing our love for Mary, to admire her and to praise her for the 'great things' that the Almighty did for her and had worked in her.

In contemplating the Virgin Mary, we are given yet another grace: that of being able to see in depth even our own life. Yes, because even our daily existence, with its problems and hopes, receives light from the Mother of God, from her spiritual path, from her destiny of glory -- a journey and a destination that can be and should become, in some way, our own journey and our own destination.

We can let ourselves be guided by the passages from Sacred Scriptures that the liturgy offers us today. I wish to dwell especially on an image which we find in the first reading, taken from the Apocalypse, and which is echoed in the Gospel of Luke, namely, that of the Ark.

In the first reading, we heard: "Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant could be seen in the temple" (Ap 11,19).

What is the significance of the Ark? What is it that appeared? In the Old Testament, the ark is the symbol of the presence of God among His people. But the symbol has given way to reality.

The Ark of the Covenant is a living concrete person: the Virgin Mary. God does not live in a building, God lives in a person, in a heart: Mary who carried in her womb the eternal Son of God-made-flesh - Jesus our Lord and Redeemer.

In the Ark [of the Old Testament], as we know, were kept the two tables of the law handed down to Moses, which manifested the will of God to keep His covenant with His people, indicating the conditions for them to be faithful to their pact with God, in order to conform themselves to the will of God and therefore to the profound truth about ourselves.

Mary is the Ark of the Covenant, because she harbored Jesus in herself - she received into herself the living Word, everything that is contained in the will of God. She received into herself Him who is the new and eternal covenant, which culminated in the offering of His own flesh and blood - flesh and blood that He received from Mary.

Rightly, therefore, Christian piety, in the litanies that honor the Madonna, address and invoke her as Foederis Arca - Ark of the Covenant, ark of the presence of God, ark of the alliance of love that God wished to establish definitively with all mankind in Christ.

The passage from the Apocalypse also indicates another important aspect of Mary's reality. She, the living ark of the covenant, has an extraordinary destiny of glory because she is so united to the Son whom she had received in faith and generated in the flesh, that she would fully share with Him the glory of heaven.

It is suggested to us by the words we heard: "A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child... (and) she gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations..." (12,1-2; 5).

The greatness of Mary, Mother of God, full of grace, fully obedient to the action of the Holy Spirit, now lives in God's heaven, her entire self, body and soul.

St. John Damascene referred to this mystery in a famous homily, saying: "Today the holy and unique virgin was led to the celestial temple... Today, the sacred ark is animated by the living God, the Ark which carried in her womb the Creator Himself, now rests in the temple of the Lord, that which is not constructed by the hand of man" (Homily II on the Dormition of Mary, 2, PG 96, 723).

He went on: "It was necesary that she who had hosted in her womb the divine Logos now trasnfers to the tabernacles of her Son... It as necessary that the Spouse chosen by the Father should inhabit the nuptial chamber of Heaven" (ibid., 14, PG 96, 742).

Today, the Church sings of God's immense love for this creature: He had chosen her as the true Ark of the Covenant who would continue to generate and give Christ the Savior to mankind - she who in heaven shares the fullness of glory and rejoices in God's own happiness, while at the same time, she invites us to become, in our modest way, an 'ark' in which the Word of God is present, which is transformed and revitalized by His presence, a place of God's presence such that man can find in other men the nearness of God, and thus live in communion with God and get to know the reality of heaven.

The Gospel of Luke that we heard (cfr Lk 1,39-56) shows us this living ark, who is Mary, on the move: Leaving her house in Nazareth, she travels in haste to the hill country to get to the home of Elizabeth and Zachariah in a city in Judea.

I think it is important to underscore the expression 'in haste': The things of God require haste - indeed, the only things in the world that merit haste are those of God, which have true urgency for our life.

So Mary enters the house of Zachariah and Elizabeth, but she does not enter by herself. She is carrying her son in her womb, who is God Himself become flesh.

Of course, they were expecting her and her assistance in that house, but the evangelist leads us to understand that this expectation points to another, more profound one.

Zachariah, Elizabeth and the baby she bore, who would be John the Baptist, are in fact the symbol of all the just people of Israel, whose hearts, rich with hope, have been awaiting the arrival of the Savior Messiah.

And it is the Holy Spirit who opens the eyes of Elizabeth and makes her recognize in Mary the true Ark of the Covenant, the Mother of God, who had come to visit her.

That is why her elderly relative welcomes her, crying out 'in a loud voice': “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Lk 1,42-43).

It is the same Holy Spirit who, in the presence of she who is carrying God-made-man, opens the heart of John in the womb of Elizabeth, who exclaims: "At the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy" (v. 44).

Here, the evangelist Luke uses the term skirtan, which means 'to skip' or 'to hop' [even more graphically, 'to dance a jig'], the same term that we find in one of the ancient Greek translations of the Old Testament to describe the dance of King David before the holy Ark when it finally returned home (2Sam 6,16).

John the Baptist, in his mother's womb, dances in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant like David, thus recognizing that Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant, before whom the heart exults with joy - she is the Mother of God who is present in the world, who does not keep the divine presence to herself but offers Him to all so that everyone may share in God's grace.

Thus, as the prayer says, Mary is truly the 'causa nostrae laetitiae' (the reason for our joy, the 'Ark' in which the Savior is truly present among us.

Dear friends, we are speaking of Mary, but in a way, we are also speaking of ourselves, of each of us: We too are destined to receive that immense love that God reserved for Mary - though, of course, in an absolutely unique and unrepeatable way for her.

On this Solemnity of the Assumption, let us look to Mary: She opens us to hope, to a future full of joy, and she shows us the way to reach it: to welcome her Son in faith, never to lose friendship with Him, but to allow ourselves to be enlightened and guided by His Word; to follow Him every day, even during the times we feel that our crosses have become too heavy.

Mary, the Ark of the Covenant who is enshrined in Heaven, shows us with luminous clarity that we are on a journey towards our true home - the communion of joy and peace with God. Amen!

Reflection of Pope Benedict
Angelus, Solemnity of the Assumption

August 15, 2011
Dear brothers and sisters,

In the heart of the month of August, Christians of the East and the West celebrate together the Feast of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Mary to heaven.

In the Catholic Church, the dogma of the Assumption, as we know, was proclaimed in the Holy Year of 1950 by my venerated predecessor, the Servant of God Pope Pius XII. But this commemoration has its roots deep in the faith of the first centuries of the Church.

In the Christian Orient, it is still called the Dormition of Mary. An ancient mosaic in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore here in Rome, which was inspired precisely by the Oriental icon of the 'Dormitio', depicts the Apostles, who, having been informed by the angels about the end of the earthly life of the Mother of Jesus, are gathered around the Virgin's bed. In the center is Jesus who holds a girl in His arms - it is Mary who has become a child again for the Kingdom, and is led by the Lord to heaven.

In the pages of the Gospel of St. Luke in today's liturgy, we read that "During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah" (Lk 1,39). In those days, Mary left Galilee in haste to visit her relative Elizabeth.

Today, we contemplate her ascending the mountain of God to enter the celestial Jerusalem, "clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Ap 12,1).

The Biblical page of the Apocalypse that we read in the liturgy of today's Solemnity speaks of a battle between the woman and the dragon, between good and evil. St. John seems to be reminding us of the very first pages of Genesis, which narrate the dark and tragic episode of the sin of Adam and Eve,

Our forefathers were defeated by evil. In the fullness of time, Jesus, the new Adam, and Mary, the new Eve, definitively conquer the enemy, and this is the joy of this feast day.

With the triumph of Jesus over evil, even interior and physical death have been defeated. Mary was the first to take into her arms the Son of God, Jesus as a baby. And now, she is the first to be beside Him in the glory of Heaven.

What we celebrate today is a great mystery, which is above all, a mystery of hope and joy for all of us. In Mary, we see the goal towards which arre headed all those who can read their own life and that of Jesus, those who can follow Him as Mary did.

Thus, this feast day speaks about our future - it tells us that even we shall be with Jesus in the glory of God, and it invites us to have courage, to believe that the power of the Resurrection of Christ can work even in us and make us men and women who, every day, seek to live as 'resurrected' ones, bringing the light of good to the darkness of evil that is in the world.


Friday, August 12, 2011

World Youth Day 2011 is Almost Here

August 16-21, 2011, Madrid, Spain
Official Website

Message of Pope Benedict XVI
for the 26th World Youth Day 2011

Dear Friends,

I often think back on the World Youth Day held in Sydney in 2008. There we had an experience of a great festival of faith in which the Spirit of God was actively at work, building deep communion among the participants who had come from all over the world. That gathering, like those on previous occasions, bore rich fruit in the lives of many young people and in the life of the whole Church.

Now we are looking forward to the next World Youth Day, to be held in Madrid in August 2011. Back in 1989, several months before the historic fall of the Berlin Wall, this pilgrimage of young people halted in Spain, in Santiago de Compostela. Now, at a time when Europe greatly needs to rediscover its Christian roots, our meeting will take place in Madrid with the theme: “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf. Col 2:7).

I encourage you to take part in this event, which is so important for the Church in Europe and for the universal Church. I would like all young people – those who share our faith in Jesus Christ, but also those who are wavering or uncertain, or who do not believe in Him – to share this experience, which can prove decisive for their lives. It is an experience of the Lord Jesus, risen and alive, and of His love for each of us.

1. At the source of your deepest aspirations

In every period of history, including our own, many young people experience a deep desire for personal relationships marked by truth and solidarity. Many of them yearn to build authentic friendships, to know true love, to start a family that will remain united, to achieve personal fulfilment and real security, all of which are the guarantee of a serene and happy future.

In thinking of my own youth, I realize that stability and security are not the questions that most occupy the minds of young people. True enough, it is important to have a job and thus to have firm ground beneath our feet, yet the years of our youth are also a time when we are seeking to get the most out of life. When I think back on that time, I remember above all that we were not willing to settle for a conventional middle-class life. We wanted something great, something new. We wanted to discover life itself, in all its grandeur and beauty.

Naturally, part of that was due to the times we lived in. During the Nazi dictatorship and the war, we were, so to speak, “hemmed in” by the dominant power structure. So we wanted to break out into the open, to experience the whole range of human possibilities. I think that, to some extent, this urge to break out of the ordinary is present in every generation. Part of being young is desiring something beyond everyday life and a secure job, a yearning for something really truly greater.

Is this simply an empty dream that fades away as we become older? No! Men and women were created for something great, for infinity. Nothing else will ever be enough.

Saint Augustine was right when he said “our hearts are restless till they find their rest in You”. The desire for a more meaningful life is a sign that God created us and that we bear His “imprint”. God is life, and that is why every creature reaches out towards life.

Because human beings are made in the image of God, we do this in a unique and special way. We reach out for love, joy and peace. So we can see how absurd it is to think that we can truly live by removing God from the picture! God is the source of life. To set God aside is to separate ourselves from that source and, inevitably, to deprive ourselves of fulfilment and joy: “without the Creator, the creature fades into nothingness” (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 36).

In some parts of the world, particularly in the West, today’s culture tends to exclude God, and to consider faith a purely private issue with no relevance for the life of society. Even though the set of values underpinning society comes from the Gospel – values like the sense of the dignity of the person, of solidarity, of work and of the family – we see a certain “eclipse of God” taking place, a kind of amnesia which, albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity, is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith, a denial that could lead to the loss of our deepest identity.

For this reason, dear friends, I encourage you to strengthen your faith in God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. You are the future of society and of the Church!

As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians of Colossae, it is vital to have roots, a solid foundation! This is particularly true today. Many people have no stable points of reference on which to build their lives, and so they end up deeply insecure. There is a growing mentality of relativism, which holds that everything is equally valid, that truth and absolute points of reference do not exist. But this way of thinking does not lead to true freedom, but rather to instability, confusion and blind conformity to the fads of the moment. As young people, you are entitled to receive from previous generations solid points of reference to help you to make choices and on which to build your lives: like a young plant which needs solid support until it can sink deep roots and become a sturdy tree capable of bearing fruit.

2. Planted and built up in Jesus Christ

In order to highlight the importance of faith in the lives of believers, I would like to reflect with you on each of the three terms used by Saint Paul in the expression: “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf. Col 2:7).

We can distinguish three images: “planted” calls to mind a tree and the roots that feed it; “built up” refers to the construction of a house; “firm” indicates growth in physical or moral strength. These images are very eloquent. Before commenting on them, I would like to point out that grammatically all three terms in the original text are in the passive voice. This means that it is Christ Himself who takes the initiative to plant, build up and confirm the faithful.

The first image is that of a tree which is firmly planted thanks to its roots, which keep it upright and give it nourishment. Without those roots, it would be blown away by the wind and would die.

What are our roots? Naturally our parents, our families and the culture of our country are very important elements of our personal identity. But the Bible reveals a further element. The prophet Jeremiah wrote:

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jer 17:7-8).

For the prophet, to send out roots means to put one’s trust in God. From Him we draw our life. Without Him, we cannot truly live.

“God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 Jn 5:11). Jesus Himself tells us that He is our life (cf. Jn 14:6). Consequently, Christian faith is not only a matter of believing that certain things are true, but above all a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is an encounter with the Son of God that gives new energy to the whole of our existence. When we enter into a personal relationship with Him, Christ reveals our true identity and, in friendship with Him, our life grows towards complete fulfilment.

There is a moment, when we are young, when each of us wonders: what meaning does my life have? What purpose and direction should I give to it?

This is a very important moment, and it can worry us, perhaps for some time. We start wondering about the kind of work we should take up, the kind of relationships we should establish, the friendships we should cultivate.

Here, once more, I think of my own youth. I was somehow aware quite early on that the Lord wanted me to be a priest. Then later, after the war, when I was in the seminary and at university on the way towards that goal, I had to recapture that certainty. I had to ask myself: is this really the path I was meant to take? Is this really God’s will for me? Will I be able to remain faithful to Him and completely at His service? A decision like this demands a certain struggle. It cannot be otherwise. But then came the certainty: this is the right thing!

Yes, the Lord wants me, and He will give me strength. If I listen to Him and walk with Him, I become truly myself. What counts is not the fulfilment of my desires, but of His will. In this way life becomes authentic.

Just as the roots of a tree keep it firmly planted in the soil, so the foundations of a house give it long-lasting stability. Through faith, we have been built up in Jesus Christ (cfr Col 2:7), even as a house is built on its foundations.

Sacred history provides many examples of saints who built their lives on the word of God. The first is Abraham, our father in faith, who obeyed God when he was asked to leave his ancestral home and to set out for an unknown land. “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God” (Jas 2:23).

Being built up in Jesus Christ means responding positively to God’s call, trusting in Him and putting His word into practice. Jesus Himself reprimanded His disciples: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I tell you?” (Lk 6:46). He went on to use the image of building a house:

“I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built” (Lk 6:47-48).

Dear friends, build your own house on rock, just like the person who “dug deeply”. Try each day to follow Christ’s word. Listen to Him as a true friend with whom you can share your path in life. With Him at your side, you will find courage and hope to face difficulties and problems, and even to overcome disappointments and set-backs.

You are constantly being offered easier choices, but you yourselves know that these are ultimately deceptive and cannot bring you serenity and joy. Only the word of God can show us the authentic way, and only the faith we have received is the light which shines on our path.

Gratefully accept this spiritual gift which you have received from your families; strive to respond responsibly to God’s call, and to grow in your faith. Do not believe those who tell you that you don’t need others to build up your life! Find support in the faith of those who are dear to you, in the faith of the Church, and thank the Lord that you have received it and have made it your own!

3. Firm in the faith

You are “planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf. Col 2:7). The Letter from which these words are taken was written by Saint Paul in order to respond to a specific need of the Christians in the city of Colossae. That community was threatened by the influence of certain cultural trends that were turning the faithful away from the Gospel.

Our own cultural context, dear young people, is not unlike that of the ancient Colossians. Indeed, there is a strong current of secularist thought that aims to make God marginal in the lives of people and society by proposing and attempting to create a “paradise” without Him.

Yet experience tells us that a world without God becomes a “hell”: filled with selfishness, broken families, hatred between individuals and nations, and a great deficit of love, joy and hope. On the other hand, wherever individuals and nations accept God’s presence, worship Him in truth and listen to His voice, then the civilization of love is being built, a civilization in which the dignity of all is respected, and communion increases, with all its benefits.

Yet some Christians allow themselves to be seduced by secularism or attracted by religious currents that draw them away from faith in Jesus Christ. There are others who, while not yielding to these enticements, have simply allowed their faith to grow cold, with inevitable negative effects on their moral lives.

To those Christians influenced by ideas alien to the Gospel, the Apostle Paul spoke of the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. This mystery is the foundation of our lives and the centre of Christian faith. All philosophies that disregard it and consider it “foolishness” (1 Cor 1:23) reveal their limitations with respect to the great questions deep in the hearts of human beings.

As the Successor of the Apostle Peter, I too want to confirm you in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32). We firmly believe that Jesus Christ offered Himself on the Cross in order to give us His love. In His passion, He bore our sufferings, took upon Himself our sins, obtained forgiveness for us and reconciled us with God the Father, opening for us the way to eternal life. Thus we were freed from the thing that most encumbers our lives: the slavery of sin. We can love everyone, even our enemies, and we can share this love with the poorest of our brothers and sisters and all those in difficulty.

Dear friends, the Cross often frightens us because it seems to be a denial of life. In fact, the opposite is true! It is God’s “yes” to mankind, the supreme expression of His love and the source from which eternal life flows. Indeed, it is from Jesus’ heart, pierced on the Cross, that this divine life streamed forth, ever accessible to those who raise their eyes towards the Crucified One.

I can only urge you, then, to embrace the Cross of Jesus, the sign of God’s love, as the source of new life. Apart from Jesus Christ risen from the dead, there can be no salvation! He alone can free the world from evil and bring about the growth of the Kingdom of justice, peace and love to which we all aspire.

4. Believing in Jesus Christ without having seen him

In the Gospel, we find a description of the Apostle Thomas’s experience of faith when he accepted the mystery of the Cross and resurrection of Christ. Thomas was one of the twelve Apostles. He followed Jesus and was an eyewitness of His healings and miracles. He listened to His words, and he experienced dismay at Jesus’ death. That Easter evening when the Lord appeared to the disciples, Thomas was not present. When he was told that Jesus was alive and had shown Himself, Thomas stated: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in His side, I will not believe” (Jn 20:25).

We too want to be able to see Jesus, to speak with Him and to feel His presence even more powerfully. For many people today, it has become difficult to approach Jesus. There are so many images of Jesus in circulation which, while claiming to be scientific, detract from His greatness and the uniqueness of His person. That is why, after many years of study and reflection, I thought of sharing something of my own personal encounter with Jesus by writing a book. It was a way to help others see, hear and touch the Lord in whom God came to us in order to make Himself known.

Jesus Himself, when He appeared again to His disciples a week later, said to Thomas: “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe” (Jn 20:27).

We too can have tangible contact with Jesus and put our hand, so to speak, upon the signs of His Passion, the signs of His love. It is in the sacraments that He draws particularly near to us and gives Himself to us. Dear young people, learn to “see” and to “meet” Jesus in the Eucharist, where He is present and close to us, and even becomes food for our journey. In the Sacrament of Penance the Lord reveals His mercy and always grants us His forgiveness. Recognize and serve Jesus in the poor, the sick, and in our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and in need of help.

Enter into a personal dialogue with Jesus Christ and cultivate it in faith. Get to know Him better by reading the Gospels and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Converse with Him in prayer, and place your trust in Him. He will never betray that trust!

“Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 150). Thus you will acquire a mature and solid faith, one which will not be based simply on religious sentiment or on a vague memory of the catechism you studied as a child. You will come to know God and to live authentically in union with Him, like the Apostle Thomas who showed his firm faith in Jesus in the words: “My Lord and my God!”.

5. Sustained by the faith of the Church, in order to be witnesses

Jesus said to Thomas: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (Jn 20:29). He was thinking of the path the Church was to follow, based on the faith of eyewitnesses: the Apostles. Thus we come to see that our personal faith in Christ, which comes into being through dialogue with Him, is bound to the faith of the Church.

We do not believe as isolated individuals, but rather, through Baptism, we are members of this great family; it is the faith professed by the Church which reinforces our personal faith. The Creed that we proclaim at Sunday Mass protects us from the danger of believing in a God other than the one revealed by Christ: “Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 166). Let us always thank the Lord for the gift of the Church, for the Church helps us to advance securely in the faith that gives us true life (cf. Jn 20:31).

In the history of the Church, the saints and the martyrs have always drawn from the glorious Cross of Christ the strength to be faithful to God even to the point of offering their own lives. In faith they found the strength to overcome their weaknesses and to prevail over every adversity. Indeed, as the Apostle John says, “Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 Jn 5:5). The victory born of faith is that of love.

There have been, and still are, many Christians who are living witnesses of the power of faith that is expressed in charity. They have been peacemakers, promoters of justice and workers for a more humane world, a world in accordance with God’s plan. With competence and professionalism, they have been committed in different sectors of the life of society, contributing effectively to the welfare of all. The charity that comes from faith led them to offer concrete witness by their actions and words.

Christ is not a treasure meant for us alone; He is the most precious treasure we have, one that is meant to be shared with others. In our age of globalization, be witnesses of Christian hope all over the world. How many people long to receive this hope!

Standing before the tomb of his friend Lazarus, who had died four days earlier, as He was about to call the dead man back to life, Jesus said to Lazarus’ sister Martha: “If you believe, you will see the glory of God” (cf. Jn 11:40). In the same way, if you believe, and if you are able to live out your faith and bear witness to it every day, you will become a means of helping other young people like yourselves to find the meaning and joy of life, which is born of an encounter with Christ!

6. On the way to World Youth Day in Madrid

Dear friends, once again I invite you to attend World Youth Day in Madrid. I await each of you with great joy.

Jesus Christ wishes to make you firm in faith through the Church. The decision to believe in Jesus Christ and to follow Him is not an easy one. It is hindered by our personal failures and by the many voices that point us towards easier paths. Do not be discouraged. Rather, look for the support of the Christian community, the support of the Church!

Throughout this year, carefully prepare for the meeting in Madrid with the bishops, priests and youth leaders in your dioceses, parish communities, associations and movements. The quality of our meeting will depend above all on our spiritual preparation, our prayer, our common hearing of the word of God and our mutual support.

Dear young people, the Church depends on you! She needs your lively faith, your creative charity and the energy of your hope. Your presence renews, rejuvenates and gives new energy to the Church. That is why World Youth Days are a grace, not only for you, but for the entire People of God.

The Church in Spain is actively preparing to welcome you and to share this joyful experience of faith with you. I thank the dioceses, parishes, shrines, religious communities, ecclesial associations and movements, and all who are hard at work in preparing for this event. The Lord will not fail to grant them His blessings.

May the Virgin Mary accompany you along this path of preparation. At the message of the angel, she received God’s word with faith. It was in faith that she consented to what God was accomplishing in her. By proclaiming her “fiat,” her “yes,” she received the gift of immense charity which led her to give herself entirely to God. May she intercede for each one of you so that, in the coming World Youth Day you may grow in faith and love.

I assure you of a paternal remembrance in my prayers and I give you my heartfelt blessing.

From the Vatican, 6 August 2010, Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.