Benedict XVI Homilies 40710
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am delighted to be with you today and to celebrate this solemn Eucharist with you and for you. I greet your Pastor, Bishop Angelo Spina: I thank him for his warm expressions of welcome on behalf of you all and for his gifts, which I truly appreciate as "signs", as he himself called them, of the affective and effective communion that binds the people of this beloved region of the Abruzzo to the Successor of Peter. I greet the Archbishops and Bishops present, the priests, the men and women religious and the Representatives of the Ecclesial Associations and Movements. I address a respectful thought to Hon. Mr Fabio Federico, the Mayor with gratitude for his courteous greeting and for the "signs", the gifts to the Government Representative and to the Civil and Military Authorities. I address special thanks to those who generously offered their cooperation in the organization of my Pastoral Visit. Dear brothers and sisters, I have come to share with you the joys and hopes, the efforts and tasks, the ideals and aspirations of this diocesan community. I know well that Sulmona is not exempt from difficulties, nor from problems and worries. I am thinking in particular of all the people who are living in precarious conditions because of the lack of work, uncertainty about the future, physical and moral suffering and, as the Bishop recalled, a sense of loss due to the earthquake of 6 April 2009. I want to reassure every one of my closeness and my remembrance in prayer, while I encourage you to persevere in witnessing to the human and Christian values so deeply rooted in the faith and history of this area and its population.
Dear friends, my Visit is taking place on the occasion of the special Jubilee Year proclaimed by the Bishops of Abruzzo and Molise to celebrate the 800th anniversary of St Peter Celestine's birth. In flying over your region I was able to contemplate the beauty of its landscape and, especially, to admire some of the places closely linked to the life of this outstanding figure: Monte Morrone, where Peter lived as a hermit for many years; the Hermitage of Sant'Onofrio, where, in 1294, he learned the news of his election as Supreme Pontiff at the Conclave held in Perugia; and the Abbey of Santo Spirito, whose main altar he consecrated after his coronation in the Basilica of Collemaggio in L'Aquila. I visited this Basilica myself in April last year, after the earthquake that devastated the region, to venerate the urn in which his remains are preserved and to lay upon it the pallium I received on the day of the inauguration of my Pontificate.
More than 800 years have passed since the birth of St Peter Celestine V, but he lives on in history on account of the well-known events of his Pontificate and, above all, his holiness. Indeed, holiness never loses its power of attraction, it does not fade into oblivion, it never goes out of fashion; on the contrary, with the passage of time it shines out ever more brightly, expressing man's perennial effort to reach God. I would like to draw from St Peter Celestine's life some lessons that also apply in our day.
From his youth Pietro Angelerio was a "seeker of God", a man who sought the answers to the great questions of our existence: Who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I alive? For whom do I live? He set out in quest of truth and happiness, he went in search of God and in order to hear God's voice decided to detach himself from the world and live as a hermit. Thus silence became a characteristic feature of his daily life. And it was precisely in exterior but especially interior silence that he succeeded in perceiving God' voice, able to guide his life. Here there is a first important aspect for us: we live in a society in which it seems that every space, every moment must be "filled" with projects, activities and noise; there is often no time even to listen or to converse. Dear brothers and sisters, let us not fear to create silence, within and outside ourselves, if we wish to be able not only to become aware of God's voice but also to make out the voice of the person beside us, the voices of others.
However it is also important to emphasize a second element: Pietro Angelerio's discovery of God was not the result of his own efforts but was made possible by the Grace of God itself that prepared him. What he had, what he was, did not come from himself: it was given to him, it was Grace, and so it also entailed responsibility to God and to others. Although our life is very different from his, the same also applies for us: all that is essential in our existence was bestowed upon us without our contribution. The fact that I am alive does not depend on me. The fact that there were people who introduced me to life, who taught me what it means to love and to be loved, who handed down the faith to me and opened my eyes to God: all of this is Grace, it was not "done by me". We would not have been able to do anything on our own had we not been granted to do so: God always anticipates our needs and in every individual life there is a beauty and goodness that we can easily recognize as his grace, as a ray of the light of his goodness. For this reason we must be attentive, we must always keep open our "inner eyes", the eyes of our heart. And if we learn to know God in his infinite goodness, then we shall be able to see in our lives with wonder, like the Saints, the signs of that God who is always close to us, who is always good to us, who says: "Have faith in me!".
In addition, in inner silence, in the perception of the Lord's presence, Peter of Morrone developed a vivid experience of the beauty of creation, the work of God's hands: he was able to grasp its profound meaning, he respected its signs and rhythms, he made use of it for what is essential to life.
I know that this local Church, like the other Churches in the Abruzzo and the Molise, is actively engaged in a campaign of sensitization to promote the common good and to safeguard creation: I encourage you in this effort and urge you all to feel responsible for your own future and the future of others, also respecting and caring for creation, the fruit and sign of God's Love.
In today's Second Reading from the Letter to the Galatians we heard a beautiful expression of St Paul that is also a perfect spiritual portrait of St Peter Celestine: "Far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Ga 6,14). The Cross was indeed the centre of his life. It gave him the strength to endure the harsh penances and to face the most demanding moments, from his youth to his last hour: he was always aware that from it salvation comes. The Cross also gave St Peter Celestine a clear awareness of sin that was always accompanied by an equally clear awareness of God's infinite mercy for his creature. Seeing the wide-open arms of his Crucified God, he felt himself to be carried through the boundless ocean of God's love. As a priest he experienced the beauty of being a steward of this mercy, absolving those who repented of sin and, when he was elected to the See of the Apostle Peter, he chose to grant a special Indulgence, known as "La "Perdonanza'" [The Pardon]. I would like to urge priests to be clear and credible witnesses of the good news of reconciliation with God, helping contemporary men and women to recover the sense of sin and of God's forgiveness, in order to experience that superabundant joy of which the Prophet Isaiah spoke to us in the First Reading. (cf. Is 66,10-14).
Finally, one last element: Although St Peter lived as a hermit he was not "closed in on himself"; rather he was full of enthusiasm at bringing the Good News of the Gospel to his brethren. Moreover the secret of his pastoral fruitfulness lay, precisely, in "abiding" with the Lord, in prayer, as we were also reminded by today's Gospel passage: our top priority is always to pray to the Lord of the harvest (cf. Lc 10,2). And it is only after this invitation that Jesus outlines some of the essential duties of his disciples: the serene, clear and courageous proclamation of the Gospel message even in moments of persecution without giving in to the allure of fashion or those of violence or of domination; detachment from anxiety about things, money and dress trusting in the Father's Providence; attention and care, particularly for those sick in body and mind (cf. Lc 10,5-9). These were also the characteristics of the brief and troubled Pontificate of Celestine V and are the characteristics of the Church's missionary activity in every epoch.
Dear brothers and sisters, I am here among you to strengthen you in the faith. I would like to exhort you, forcefully and with affection, to stay firm in the faith you have received, which gives meaning to life and gives the strength to love. May we be accompanied on this journey by the example and intercession of the Mother of God and of St Peter Celestine. Amen!
Your Eminence, Your Excellency, Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the Church is celebrating one of the most important feasts of the Liturgical Year dedicated to Mary Most Holy: the Assumption. At the end of her earthly life Mary was taken up, body and soul, into Heaven, that is, into the glory of eternal life, into full and perfect communion with God.
It is 60 years since Venerable Pope Pius XII, on 1 November 1950, solemnly defined this Dogma and although it is somewhat complicated I would like to read the formula of dogmatization. The Pope says: "Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of Heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendour at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages" (Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, n. 40, 1950).
This then is the nucleus of our faith in the Assumption: we believe that Mary, like Christ her Son, overcame death and is already triumphant in heavenly glory, in the totality of her being, "in body and soul".
In today's Second Reading St Paul helps us to shed a little more light on this mystery starting from the central event of human history and of our faith: that is, the event of Christ's Resurrection which is "the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep". Immersed in his Paschal Mystery, we are enabled to share in his victory over sin and death. Here lies the startling secret and key reality of the whole human saga. St Paul tells us that we are "incorporated" Adam, the first man and the old man, that we all possess the same human heritage to which belong suffering, death and sin. But every day adds something new to this reality that we can all see and live: not only are we part of this heritage of the one human being that began with Adam but we are also "incorporated" in the new man, in the Risen Christ, and thus the life of the Resurrection is already present in us. Therefore this first biological "incorporation" is incorporation into death, it is an incorporation that generates death. The second, new "incorporation", that is given to us in Baptism is an "incorporation" that gives life. Again, I cite today's Second Reading: St Paul says: "For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the first fruits, then at his coming, those who belong to Christ" (1Co 15,21-24).
Now, what St Paul says of all human beings the Church in her infallible Magisterium says of Mary in a precise and clear manner: the Mother of God is so deeply integrated into Christ's Mystery that at the end of her earthly life she already participates with her whole self in her Son's Resurrection. She lives what we await at the end of time when the "last enemy" death will have been destroyed (cf. 1Co 15,26); she already lives what we proclaim in the Creed: "We look for the Resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come".
We can then ask ourselves: what are the roots of this victory over death wonderfully anticipated in Mary? Its roots are in the faith of the Virgin of Nazareth, as the Gospel passage we have heard testifies (Lc 1,39-56): a faith that is obedience to the word of God and total abandonment to the divine action and initiative, in accordance with what the Archangel announced to her. Faith, therefore, is Mary's greatness, as Elizabeth joyfully proclaims: Mary is "blessed among women" and "blessed is the fruit of [her] womb", for she is Mother of the Lord" because she believed and lived uniquely the "first" of the Beatitudes, the Beatitude of faith. Elizabeth confesses it in her joy and in that of her child who leaps in her womb: "And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Lc 1,45). Dear friends, let us not limit ourselves to admiring Mary in her destiny of glory, as a person very remote from us. No! We are called to look at all that the Lord, in his love, wanted to do for us too, for our final destiny: to live through faith in a perfect communion of love with him and hence to live truly.
In this regard I would like to reflect on an aspect of the affirmation of the dogma where assumption into heavenly glory is mentioned. All of us today are well aware that by the term "Heaven" we are not referring to somewhere in the universe, to a star or such like; no. We mean something far greater and far more difficult to define with our limited human conceptions. With this term "Heaven" we wish to say that God, the God who made himself close to us, does not abandon us in or after death but keeps a place for us and gives us eternity. We mean that in God there is room for us. To understand this reality a little better let us look at our own lives. We all experience that when people die they continue to exist, in a certain way, in the memory and heart of those who knew and loved them. We might say that a part of the person lives on in them but it resembles a "shadow" because this survival in the heart of their loved ones is destined to end. God, on the contrary, never passes away and we all exist by virtue of his love. We exist because he loves us, because he conceived of us and called us to life. We exist in God's thoughts and in God's love. We exist in the whole of our reality, not only in our "shadow". Our serenity, our hope and our peace are based precisely on this: in God, in his thoughts and in his love, it is not merely a "shadow" of ourselves that survives but rather we are preserved and ushered into eternity with the whole of our being in him, in his creator love. It is his Love that triumphs over death and gives us eternity and it is this love that we call "Heaven": God is so great that he also makes room for us. And Jesus the man, who at the same time is God, is the guarantee for us that the being-man and the being-God can exist and live, the one within the other, for eternity.
This means that not only a part of each one of us will continue to exist, as it were pulled to safety, while other parts fall into ruin; on the contrary it means that God knows and loves the whole of the human being, what we are. And God welcomes into his eternity what is developing and becoming now, in our life made up of suffering and love, of hope, joy and sorrow. The whole of man, the whole of his life, is taken by God and, purified in him, receives eternity. Dear Friends! I think this is a truth that should fill us with deep joy. Christianity does not proclaim merely some salvation of the soul in a vague afterlife in which all that is precious and dear to us in this world would be eliminated, but promises eternal life, "the life of the world to come". Nothing that is precious and dear to us will fall into ruin; rather, it will find fullness in God. Every hair of our head is counted, Jesus said one day (cf. Mt 10,30). The definitive world will also be the fulfilment of this earth, as St Paul says: "Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rm 8,21). Then we understand that Christianity imparts a strong hope in a bright future and paves the way to the realization of this future. We are called, precisely as Christians, to build this new world, to work so that, one day, it may become the "world of God", a world that will surpass all that we ourselves have been able to build. In Mary taken up into Heaven, who fully shares in the Resurrection of the Son, we contemplate the fulfilment of the human creature in accordance with "God's world".
Let us pray the Lord that he will enable us to understand how precious in his eyes is the whole of our life; may he strengthen our faith in eternal life; make us people of hope who work to build a world open to God, people full of joy who can glimpse the beauty of the future world amidst the worries of daily life and in this certainty live, believe and hope. Amen!
: PASTORAL VISIT TO CARPINETO ROMANO - EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION50910 |IDear Brothers and Sisters,
May I first of all express my joy at being here with you at Carpineto Romano, treading in the footsteps of my beloved Predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II! The circumstance that has brought me here is also a joyful one: the bicentenary of the birth in this beautiful town of Pope Leo XIII, Vincenzo Gioacchino Pecci, on 2 March 1810. I thank you all for your welcome! In particular, I greet with gratitude Bishop Lorenzo Loppa of Anagni-Alatri, and the Mayor of Carpineto, who have welcomed me at the beginning of the celebration, as well as the other Authorities present. I address a special thought to the young people, especially those who have made the diocesan pilgrimage. Unfortunately, my Visit is very short and it is entirely concentrated in this Eucharistic celebration; but here we find everything: the Word and the Bread of Life that nourishes faith, hope and charity; and we renew the bond of communion that makes us the one Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have listened to the Word of God and it comes naturally to welcome it, on this occasion, thinking again of Pope Leo XIII and of the legacy he has bequeathed to us. The main theme that emerges from the biblical Readings is that of the primacy of God and of Christ. In the Gospel passage from St Luke, Jesus himself frankly states the three conditions necessary for being his disciples: to love him more than anyone else and more than life itself; to carry one's cross and to walk after him; to renounce all one's possessions. Jesus sees a great crowd following him with his disciples and wants to make it quite clear to all that following him is demanding and cannot depend on enthusiasm or opportunism. It must be a carefully considered decision taken after asking oneself, in all conscience: who is Jesus for me? Is he truly "Lord", does he take first place, like the sun around which all the planets rotate? And the First Reading from the Book of Wisdom indirectly suggests to us the reason for this absolute primacy of Jesus Christ: in him we find the answers to the questions of human beings in every epoch who seek the truth about God and about themselves. God is out of our reach and his plans are unknown to us. Yet he has chosen to reveal himself, in creation and especially in the history of salvation, while in Christ he fully manifested himself and his will. Although it remains true that "No one has ever seen God" (Jn 1,18), we now know his "name" and his "face" and even his will, because Jesus, who is the Wisdom of God made man, has revealed them to us. "Thus", writes the sacred author of the First Reading, "men were taught what pleases you, and were saved by wisdom" (Sg 9,18).
This fundamental reminder of the Word of God makes us think of two aspects of the life and ministry of your venerable Fellow Citizen whom we are commemorating today, the Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII. First of all it should be emphasized that he was a man of great faith and profound devotion. This still continues to be the basis of everything for every Christian, including the Pope. Without prayer, that is, without inner union with God, we can do nothing, as Jesus clearly tells his disciples at the Last Supper (cf. Jn 15,5). Pope Pecci's deep religious feeling shone out through his words and actions and was also reflected in his Magisterium: among his numerous Encyclicals and Apostolic Letters, like the theme running through a series of books, there are those of a properly spiritual character which aim above all at increasing Marian devotion, especially through the Holy Rosary. It is a true and proper "catechesis", which marks the 25 years of his Pontificate from beginning to end. Yet we also find Documents on Christ the Redeemer, on the Holy Spirit, on the consecration to the Sacred Heart, on the devotion to St Joseph, on St Francis of Assisi. Leo XIII had special ties with the Franciscan Family as he belonged to the Third Order. I like to consider all these different elements as facets of a single reality: love of God and of Christ, to which absolutely nothing must be preferred. And Vincenzo Gioacchino Pecci assimilated this, his first and principal quality, here in his native town from his parents and from his parish.
However there is also a second aspect which once again derives from the primacy of God and of Christ. It is found in the public action of every Pastor of the Church in particular of every Supreme Pontiff with the characteristics proper to the personality of each one. I would say that the very concept of "Christian wisdom", which emerged earlier in the First Reading and in the Gospel, offers us the synthesis of this structure according to Leo xiii it is not by chance that it is also the incipit of one of his Encyclicals. Every Pastor is called to pass on to the People of God "wisdom" not abstract truths; in other words a message that combines faith and life, truth and practical reality. Pope Leo XIII, with the help of the Holy Spirit was able to do this in one of the most difficult periods of history for the Church by, staying faithful to tradition and, at the same time, measuring up to the great open questions. And he succeeded precisely on the basis of "Christian wisdom", founded on the Sacred Scriptures, on the immense theological and spiritual patrimony of the Catholic Church and also on the sound and crystal clear philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas, whom he esteemed highly and promoted throughout the Church.
At this point after considering the basis, in other words the faith and spiritual life and hence the general framework of Leo XIII's Message, I shall refer to his social Magisterium. The Encyclical Rerum Novarum brought it undying fame but it was enriched by many other interventions that constitute an organic body, the first nucleus of the Church's social doctrine. Let us start with St Paul's Letter to Philemon. Which the Liturgy felicitously makes us read this very day. It is the shortest text of all the Pauline Letters. During a period in prison the Apostle transmitted the faith to Onesimus, a slave originally from Colossae, after he had escaped from his master Philemon, a rich inhabitant of that city, and had become Christian together with his relatives, thanks to Paul's preaching. The Apostle now writes to Philemon asking him to receive Onesimus no longer as a slave but as a brother in Christ. The new Christian brotherhood overcame the separation between slaves and free men, and grafted on to history a principle of the promotion of the individual that was to lead to the abolition of slavery and also to surmounting other barriers that still exist today. Pope Leo XIII dedicated to the theme of slavery his Encyclical Catholicae Ecclesiae, of 1890.
This particular experience of St Paul with Onesimus can give rise to a broad reflection on the incentive to human promotion contributed by Christianity in the process of civilization and also on the method and style of this contribution, that are in conformity with the Gospel images of "seed" and "leaven": within historical reality Christians, acting as individual citizens or in an association, constitute a beneficial and peaceful force for profound change, encouraging the development of the potentials inherent in reality itself. It is this form of presence and action in the world that is proposed by Church's social doctrine, which always focuses on the development of consciences as a condition for effective and lasting transformations.
We must now ask ourselves: what was the context into which, 200 years ago, was born the man who 68 years later was to become Pope Leo XIII? Europe was then weathering the great Napoleonic storm that followed the French Revolution. The Church and many expressions of Christian culture were radically disputed (think only of examples such as, calculating the years no longer from Christ's birth but from the beginning of the new revolutionary era, or of removing the names of Saints from the calendar, from streets, from villages...). Rural populations were not of course favourable to these overwhelming changes and remained firm to religious traditions. Daily life was hard and difficult: the conditions of health and of nourishment left much to be desired. In the meantime industry was developing and with it the workers' movement, more and more politically organized. The Magisterium of the Church, at its highest level, was driven and aided by local thoughts and experiences to compile an overall interpretation in view, of the new society and of its common good. Thus when Leo XIII was elected Pope in 1878 he felt called to bring this interpretation to completion in the light of his extensive knowledge of international breadth, but also of many projects put into practice "on the spot" by Christian communities and men and women of the Church.
Indeed, dozens and dozens of Saints and Blesseds, from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th, sought and tested, with the creativity of charity, many ways to put the Gospel message into practice in the new social situations. There is no doubt that such initiatives, with the sacrifices and reflection of these men and women, prepared the ground for Rerum Novarum and for Pope Pecci's other social Documents. Since the time when he was Apostolic Nuncio in Belgium, he had realized that the social question could be positively and effectively confronted with dialogue and mediation. In a time of harsh anti-clericalism and passionate demonstrations against the Pope, Leo XIII knew how to guide and support Catholics on the path to a constructive participation, rich in content, firm on principles and capable of openness. Subsequent to Rerum Novarum, in Italy and in other countries an authentic explosion of initiatives arose: associations, rural and artisan country banks, newspapers... a vast "movement" of which the Servant of God Giuseppe Toniolo was an enlightened animator. A very elderly Pope but, wise and far-sighted, Leo XIII was able to usher into the 20th century a rejuvenated Church with the right approach to facing the new challenges. He was a Pope still politically and physically a "prisoner" in the Vatican, but in reality, with his Magisterium, he represented a Church which could face without complexes the important questions of the contemporary age.
Dear friends of Carpineto Romano, we do not have time to examine these subjects in depth. The Eucharist which we are celebrating, the Sacrament of Love, recalls to us the essential: charity, the love of Christ that renews men and women and the world. This is the essential and we see it clearly, we almost perceive it in the words of St Paul in his Letter to Philemon. In that short note, in fact, can be felt all the gentleness at the same time as the revolutionary force of the Gospel; one feels the discreet and at the same time irresistible style of charity, which, as I wrote in my social Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, it is "the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity" (). With joy and affection I therefore leave you the old and ever new commandment: love one another as Christ has loved us, and with this love may you be the salt and light of the world. Thus you will be faithful to the legacy of your great and venerable Fellow Citizen, Pope Leo XIII; and so may it be throughout the Church! Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“The Kingdom of God is very near to you!” (Lc 10,9). With these words of the Gospel we have just heard, I greet all of you with great affection in the Lord. Truly the Lord’s Kingdom is already in our midst! At this Eucharistic celebration in which the Church in Scotland gathers around the altar in union with the Successor of Peter, let us reaffirm our faith in Christ’s word and our hope – a hope which never disappoints – in his promises! I warmly greet Cardinal O’Brien and the Scottish Bishops; I thank in particular Archbishop Conti for his kind words of welcome on your behalf; and I express my deep gratitude for the work that the British and Scottish Governments and the Glasgow city fathers have done to make this occasion possible.
Today’s Gospel reminds us that Christ continues to send his disciples into the world in order to proclaim the coming of his Kingdom and to bring his peace into the world, beginning house by house, family by family, town by town. I have come as a herald of that peace to you, the spiritual children of Saint Andrew and to confirm you in the faith of Peter (cf. Lc 22,32). It is with some emotion that I address you, not far from the spot where my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass nearly thirty years ago with you and was welcomed by the largest crowd ever gathered in Scottish history.
Much has happened in Scotland and in the Church in this country since that historic visit. I note with great satisfaction how Pope John Paul’s call to you to walk hand in hand with your fellow Christians has led to greater trust and friendship with the members of the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church and others. Let me encourage you to continue to pray and work with them in building a brighter future for Scotland based upon our common Christian heritage. In today’s first reading we heard Saint Paul appeal to the Romans to acknowledge that, as members of Christ’s body, we belong to each other (cf. Rm 12,5) and to live in respect and mutual love. In that spirit I greet the ecumenical representatives who honour us by their presence. This year marks the 450th anniversary of the Reformation Parliament, but also the 100th anniversary of the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, which is widely acknowledged to mark the birth of the modern ecumenical movement. Let us give thanks to God for the promise which ecumenical understanding and cooperation represents for a united witness to the saving truth of God’s word in today’s rapidly changing society.
Among the differing gifts which Saint Paul lists for the building up of the Church is that of teaching (cf. Rm 12,7). The preaching of the Gospel has always been accompanied by concern for the word: the inspired word of God and the culture in which that word takes root and flourishes. Here in Scotland, I think of the three medieval universities founded here by the popes, including that of Saint Andrews which is beginning to mark the 600th anniversary of its foundation. In the last 30 years and with the assistance of civil authorities, Scottish Catholic schools have taken up the challenge of providing an integral education to greater numbers of students, and this has helped young people not only along the path of spiritual and human growth, but also in entering the professions and public life. This is a sign of great hope for the Church, and I encourage the Catholic professionals, politicians and teachers of Scotland never to lose sight of their calling to use their talents and experience in the service of the faith, engaging contemporary Scottish culture at every level.
The evangelization of culture is all the more important in our times, when a “dictatorship of relativism” threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man’s nature, his destiny and his ultimate good. There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty. Yet religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or sister. For this reason I appeal in particular to you, the lay faithful, in accordance with your baptismal calling and mission, not only to be examples of faith in public, but also to put the case for the promotion of faith’s wisdom and vision in the public forum. Society today needs clear voices which propose our right to live, not in a jungle of self-destructive and arbitrary freedoms, but in a society which works for the true welfare of its citizens and offers them guidance and protection in the face of their weakness and fragility. Do not be afraid to take up this service to your brothers and sisters, and to the future of your beloved nation.
Saint Ninian, whose feast we celebrate today, was himself unafraid to be a lone voice. In the footsteps of the disciples whom our Lord sent forth before him, Ninian was one of the very first Catholic missionaries to bring his fellow Britons the good news of Jesus Christ. His mission church in Galloway became a centre for the first evangelization of this country. That work was later taken up by Saint Mungo, Glasgow’s own patron, and by other saints, the greatest of whom must include Saint Columba and Saint Margaret. Inspired by them, many men and women have laboured over many centuries to hand down the faith to you. Strive to be worthy of this great tradition! Let the exhortation of Saint Paul in the first reading be your constant inspiration: “Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering and persevere in prayer” (cf. Rm 12,11-12).
I would now like to address a special word to the bishops of Scotland. Dear brothers, let me encourage you in your pastoral leadership of the Catholics of Scotland. As you know, one of your first pastoral duties is to your priests (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 7) and to their sanctification. As they are alter Christus to the Catholic community, so you are to them. Live to the full the charity that flows from Christ, in your brotherly ministry towards your priests, collaborating with them all, and in particular with those who have little contact with their fellow priests. Pray with them for vocations, that the Lord of the harvest will send labourers to his harvest (cf. Lc 10,2). Just as the Eucharist makes the Church, so the priesthood is central to the life of the Church. Engage yourselves personally in forming your priests as a body of men who inspire others to dedicate themselves completely to the service of Almighty God. Have a care also for your deacons, whose ministry of service is associated in a particular way with that of the order of bishops. Be a father and a guide in holiness for them, encouraging them to grow in knowledge and wisdom in carrying out the mission of herald to which they have been called.
Dear priests of Scotland, you are called to holiness and to serve God’s people by modelling your lives on the mystery of the Lord’s cross. Preach the Gospel with a pure heart and a clear conscience. Dedicate yourselves to God alone and you will become shining examples to young men of a holy, simple and joyful life: they, in their turn, will surely wish to join you in your single-minded service of God’s people. May the example of Saint John Ogilvie, dedicated, selfless and brave, inspire all of you. Similarly, let me encourage you, the monks, nuns and religious of Scotland to be a light on a hilltop, living an authentic Christian life of prayer and action that witnesses in a luminous way to the power of the Gospel.
Finally, I would like to say a word to you, my dear young Catholics of Scotland. I urge you to lead lives worthy of our Lord (cf. Ep 4,1) and of yourselves. There are many temptations placed before you every day - drugs, money, sex, pornography, alcohol - which the world tells you will bring you happiness, yet these things are destructive and divisive. There is only one thing which lasts: the love of Jesus Christ personally for each one of you. Search for him, know him and love him, and he will set you free from slavery to the glittering but superficial existence frequently proposed by today’s society. Put aside what is worthless and learn of your own dignity as children of God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks us to pray for vocations: I pray that many of you will know and love Jesus Christ and, through that encounter, will dedicate yourselves completely to God, especially those of you who are called to the priesthood and religious life. This is the challenge the Lord gives to you today: the Church now belongs to you!
Dear friends, I express once more my joy at celebrating this Mass with you. I am happy to assure you of my prayers in the ancient language of your country: Sìth agus beannachd Dhe dhuibh uile; Dia bhi timcheall oirbh; agus gum beannaicheadh Dia Alba. God’s peace and blessing to you all; God surround you; and may God bless the people of Scotland!
Benedict XVI Homilies 40710