S. John Paul II Homil. 782





(OCTOBER 2-6, 1997)


4 October 1997

Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ!

"There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee" (Jn 2,1).

1. Today the liturgy brings us to Cana in Galilee. Once again we participate in the wedding which is being celebrated there, and to which Jesus was invited together with his mother and the disciples. This detail makes us think that the wedding banquet took place in the home of his acquaintances, because Jesus too grew up in Galilee. Humanly speaking, who would ever have thought that such an occasion would, in a certain sense, have represented the beginning of his messianic activity? And yet this was the case. It was in fact there, at Cana, that Jesus, at his mother's request, worked his first miracle by transforming water into wine.

The Evangelist John, an eyewitness to the event, described what happened in detail. In his description everything seems full of deep meaning. And, as we gather here to participate in the World Meeting of Families, we must gradually discover this meaning. Actually the miracle worked at Cana in Galilee, like Jesus' other miracles, is a sign: it shows the action of God in human life. It is necessary to meditate on this action to discover the deepest meaning of what took place there.

The wedding banquet at Cana leads us to think about marriage, whose mystery includes the presence of Christ. May it not be legitimate to see the presence of the Son of God at that wedding feast as an indication that marriage should be an effective sign of his presence?

783 2. With my eyes turned towards the banquet at Cana and its guests, I address you, representatives of the great peoples of Latin America and the rest of the world, during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass celebrated with you, Bishops and priests, together with religious, the representatives of the Pastoral Theology Congress at this Second World Meeting of the Family, and the faithful who have come here to this Metropolitan Cathedral of St Sebastian in Rio de Janeiro.

I first wish to greet my venerable Brother Cardinal Eugênio de Araújo Sales, Archbishop of this traditional and dynamic Church, whom I have known and esteemed for many years; I am aware of how united he is to the See of Peter. May the blessings of the Apostles Peter and Paul descend upon the whole city, its parishes and its pastoral programmes, on the various centres of clergy formation, in a particular way on St Joseph's Archdiocesan Seminary, so dynamic and rich in priestly vocations, which also welcomes many seminarians from other Dioceses; on the Pontifical Catholic University; on the numerous religious congregations, the lay institutes and apostolic movements; on the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat; on the praiseworthy sodalities and confraternities and, in general, since I cannot mention everyone but do not wish to exclude anyone, on the aid organizations that do so much to assist the most needy.

I greet you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate of Brazil and of the world, and you who represent the Ordinaries for the faithful of the Eastern rites; I also greet you, priests, men and women religious and leaders of the Archdiocese's Popular Mission, and you, delegates of the Pastoral Theology Congress, as well as the representatives of the Christian Churches of various denominations and of the Muslim community here present. I wish to greet everyone, with the expression of my deep affection, best wishes and Blessing.

3. Let us return in spirit to the wedding banquet at Cana in Galilee, the Gospel description of which allows us to reflect on marriage in a sacramental perspective. As we read in the Book of Genesis, a man leaves his father and mother, and is joined to his wife in order, in a certain sense, to become one with her (cf. Gn
Gn 2,24). Christ drew on these Old Testament words in speaking to the Pharisees, who had asked him questions about the indissolubility of marriage. They were referring in fact to the prescriptions in the law of Moses which permitted, in certain cases, the separation of the spouses, that is to say, divorce. Christ replied to them: "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (Mt 19,8). And he quoted the words of the Book of Genesis: "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ?For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one'? So they are no longer two, but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Mt 19,4-6).

Therefore at the basis of all social order we find this principle of the unity and indissolubility of marriage — the principle on which the institution of the family and of all family life is founded. This principle receives confirmation and new force from the elevation of marriage to the dignity of a sacrament.

And what great dignity, dear brothers and sisters! It is a participation in God's life, that is, sanctifying grace and the countless graces that correspond to the vocation of marriage, to being parents and to the vocation of the family. The event at Cana in Galilee seems to lead us to this as well: that wonderful transformation of water into wine. So water, our most common drink, acquires a new character through Christ's action: it becomes wine, therefore a drink that is in a certain sense more valuable. The meaning of this symbol — the water and wine — finds its expression in Holy Mass. During the offertory, by adding a little water to the wine, we ask God, through Christ, to share in his life in the Eucharistic sacrifice. Marriage, parenthood, motherhood, fatherhood, the family, all this belongs to the order of nature, since God created man and woman; and all this through Christ's action is raised to the supernatural order. The sacrament of marriage becomes the way to participate in God's life. The man and woman who believe in Christ, who are joined together as husband and wife, can, for their part, confess: our bodies are redeemed — the marital union is redeemed. Parenthood, motherhood, fatherhood are redeemed, and all that bears with it the mark of holiness.

This truth appears in all its clarity when reading, for example, the life of the parents of St Theresa of the Child Jesus; and this is only one of countless examples. Many indeed are the fruits of the sacramental institution of marriage. With this meeting in Rio de Janeiro, let us thank God for all these fruits, for the whole work of sanctification of couples and families, which we owe to Christ. This is why the Church never ceases to present the doctrine of Christ on marriage in its entirety, with regard to its unity and indissolubility.

4. The first reading, from the Book of Esther, recalls the salvation of the nation through the intervention of this daughter of Israel at the time of the Babylonian captivity. This passage of Scripture will also help us understand the vocation of marriage, especially the immense service which this vocation renders to human life, to the life of each person and of all the peoples of the world. "Hear, O daughter, consider, and incline your ear ... the king will desire your beauty" (Ps 44,11-12) Today the Pope wants to say the same thing to every human family: "Look! Listen to this: God wants you to be beautiful, to live in the fullness of human dignity and the holiness of Christ, to serve love and life. You had your origin in the Creator and you were sanctified by the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, to become the hope of all nations".

May this service to humanity show married couples that a clear sign of the holiness of their marriage is precisely the joy with which they welcome and ask the Lord for vocations among their children. For this reason, allow me to add here that "the family that is open to transcendent values, that serves its brothers and sisters with joy, that fulfils its duties with generous fidelity, and is aware of its daily sharing in the mystery of the glorious Cross of Christ, becomes the primary and most excellent seedbed of vocations to a life of consecration to the kingdom of God" (Familiaris consortio FC 53). In this context, I am pleased to greet and bless with paternal affection all the Brazilian families who have sons preparing for the priestly ministry or religious life, or daughters on their way to the total consecration of themselves to God. I entrust these young people to the protection of the Holy Family.

Mary, most holy, Hope of Christians, gives us the strength and confidence necessary for our journey on earth. For this reason we ask her: Be our guide, because you, O Blessed Mother, know the ways and paths that, through your love, lead to the love and glory of God.

Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ!





(OCTOBER 2-6, 1997)


5 October 1997

Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ!

1. "May the Lord bless us all the days of our lives" (responsorial psalm).

I give thanks to God for having permitted me to meet you again, families from all over the world, to reaffirm solemnly that you are "the hope of humanity"!

The First World Meeting with Families took place in Rome in 1994. The second ends today in Rio de Janeiro. I cordially thank Cardinal Eugênio de Araújo Sales for inviting me and I also thank all the Bishops and the Brazilian authorities who have contributed to the success of this great event. And I cordially thank Cardinal López Trujillo and all his assistants at the Pontifical Council for the Family. We are gathered here from various countries and Churches, not only from Brazil and Latin America but from all the continents, to raise this prayer to God together: "May the Lord bless us, all the days of our lives"!

In fact, the family is the particular and, at the same time, fundamental community of love and life on which all other communities and societies are based. Therefore, in invoking the blessings of the Most High upon families, let us pray together for all the great societies that we represent here. Let us pray for the future of the nations and States, and for the future of the Church and the world.

In fact, through the family all human life is oriented to the future. In the family man comes into the world, grows and matures. In it he becomes an increasingly mature citizen of his country, and an increasingly aware member of the Church. The family is also the first, fundamental environment where every person identifies and fulfils his own human and Christian vocation. Lastly, the family is a community that cannot be replaced by any other. This is what we can glimpse in today's liturgical readings.

2. The representatives of Jewish orthodoxy, the Pharisees, approached the Messiah to ask him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife. Christ then asks them what Moses had commanded. They answered that Moses had allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to put her away. But Christ said to them: "For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ?God made them male and female'. ?For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one'. So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder" (Mc 10,5-9).

Christ referred to the beginning. This beginning is contained in the Book of Genesis, where we find the description of the creation of man. As we read in the first chapter of this book, God created man in his image and likeness; male and female he created them (cf. Gn Gn 1,27), and he said: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it" (Gn 1,28). In the second description of creation, which is the first reading of today's liturgy, we read that woman was created from man. This is what Scripture says: "So the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ?This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man'. Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gn 2,21-24).

3. The language uses the anthropological categories of the ancient world, but it has extraordinary depth: it expresses the essential truths in a truly spectacular way. All that was later discovered by human reflection and scientific knowledge has done no more than confirm what already existed from the start.

785 The Book of Genesis reveals first and foremost the cosmic dimension of creation. Man's appearance occurred within the immense horizon of the creation of the whole cosmos: it is not accidental that this takes place on the last day of the world's creation. Man entered the Creator's work at the moment when all the conditions necessary for human life were in place. Man is one of the visible creatures; at the same time, however, in Sacred Scripture it is said that he alone was made "in the image and likeness of God". This wonderful union of body and spirit was a decisive innovation in the process of creation. With the human being, all the greatness of the visible creation gains a spiritual dimension. The intellect and will, knowledge and love — all this enters into the visible cosmos at the very moment of man's creation. It enters it showing, from the beginning, the compenetration of the life of the body with the life of the soul. Thus man leaves his father and mother, and is joined to his wife, to become one flesh; however this conjugal union is rooted at the same time in knowledge and love, that is, in the spiritual dimension.

The Book of Genesis speaks of all this in a language of its own which is, at the same time, marvellously simple and complete. Man and woman, called to live in the process of cosmic creation, appear on the threshold of their own vocation, bringing with them the ability to procreate in collaboration with God, who directly creates the soul of each new human being. Through mutual knowledge and love, and at the same time through physical union, they will call to life beings resembling themselves and, like them, created "in the image and likeness of God". They will give life to their own children, just as they received it from their parents. This is the truth, both simple and great, about the family, as it is presented in the pages of the Book of Genesis and of the Gospel: in God's plan, marriage — indissoluble marriage — is the basis of a healthy and responsible family.

4. In a brief incisive way, Christ describes in the Gospel the original plan of God the Creator. This plan is also found in the Letter to the Hebrews proclaimed in the second reading: "For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin" (
He 2,10-11). The creation of man has its basis in this eternal Word of God. God called everything to life through the action of this Word, the eternal Son, through whom everything was created. Man too was created through the Word and was created male and female. The marriage covenant originates in the eternal Word of God. In him the family was created. In him the family is eternally conceived, imagined and realized by God. Through Christ it acquires its sacramental character, its sanctification.

The text of the Letter to the Hebrews recalls that the sanctification of marriage, like that of any other human reality, was accomplished by Christ at the price of his Passion and Cross. He reveals himself here as the new Adam. Just as in the natural order we all descend from Adam, so in the order of grace and sanctification, we all originate in Christ. The sanctification of the family stems from the sacramental character of marriage.

He who sanctifies — that is, Christ — and all those who are to be sanctified — you, fathers and mothers; you, families — appear together before God the Father ardently to ask that he will bless what he has accomplished in you through the sacrament of marriage. This prayer includes all married couples and families who live on the earth. God, the one Creator of the universe, is in fact the source of life and holiness.

5. Parents and families of the whole world, let me say to you: God calls you to holiness! He himself has chosen you "before the creation of the world", St Paul tells us, to "be holy and blameless before him ... through Jesus Christ" (Ep 1,4). He loves you passionately, he desires your happiness, but he wants you to be always able to combine fidelity with happiness, because one cannot exist without the other. Do not let a hedonistic mentality, ambition and selfishness enter your homes. Be generous with God. I cannnot fail to recall, once again, that the family, "as an 'intimate community of life and love' [is] at the service of the Church and of society" (Familiaris consortio FC 50). The mutual gift of self, blessed by God and imbued with faith, hope and love, will enable both spouses to achieve perfection and sanctification. In other words, it will serve as the sanctifying centre of one's own family and of spreading the work of evangelizing the whole Christian home.

Dear brothers and sisters, what an immense task you have before you! Be bearers of peace and joy within the family; grace elevates and perfects love and with it grants you the indispensable family virtues of humility, the spirit of service and sacrifice, parental and filial affection, respect and mutual understanding. And since the good is self-diffusive, I also hope that your support of the family apostolate will be, as far as possible, an incentive to spread generously the gift that is in you, first to your children then among those couples — perhaps relatives and friends — who are far from God or who are experiencing moments of misunderstanding or distrust. On the journey towards the Jubilee of the Year 2000, I invite all those listening to me to strengthen their faith and witness as Christians, so that with God's grace there may be true conversion and personal renewal in all the world's families (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 42). May the spirit of the Holy Family of Nazareth reign in all Christian homes!

Families of Brazil, of Latin America and of the whole world, the Pope and the Church trust in you. Have trust: God is with us!







Sunday, 12 October 1997

1. "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mc 10,17).

This question, which in today’s Gospel text, was asked by a young man, has been put to Christ by countless generations of men and women, young and old, clerics and lay people. "What must I do to have eternal life?". It is a fundamental question for every Christian. We know Christ’s answer very well. He reminds his interlocutor above all to observe the commandments: "Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honour your father and mother" (Mc 10,19); cf. Ex 20:12-16). The young man replies enthusiastically: "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth" (Mc 10,20). At this point, the Gospel emphasizes, the Lord looks lovingly at him and adds: "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me". However, the account tells us that "At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions" (Mc 10,21-22).

2. Instead, the new blesseds raised to the glory of the altars today, promptly and enthusiastically accepted Christ’s invitation: "Come, follow me!" and they followed him to the end. Thus the power of God’s grace is revealed in them, and in their earthly life they even succeeded in doing what seemed humanly impossible. Having placed all their trust in God, everything became possible for them. That is why I am pleased to present them today as examples of faithfully following Christ. They are: Elías del Socorro Nieves, martyr, a professed priest of the Order of St Augustine; Giovanni Battista Piamarta, a priest of the Diocese of Brescia; Domenico Lentini, a priest of the Diocese of Tursi-Lagonegro; Mary of Jesus, in the world, Emilie d’Hooghvorst, foundress of the Society of the Sisters of Mary Reparatrix; Maria Teresa Fasce, a professed nun of the Order of St Augustine.

3. "And Jesus looking upon him loved him" (Mc 10,21). These words of the Gospel text call to mind the spiritual and apostolic experience of Fr Giovanni Piamarta, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth, whom we contemplate today in heavenly glory. Following Christ’s example, he, too, was able to bring a great many boys and young men to meet the Lord’s loving and demanding gaze. How many, thanks to his pastoral activities, were able to start out joyfully in life, having learned a skill and, above all, having encountered Jesus and his message of salvation! The new blessed's apostolic work has many facets and embraces many areas of social life: from the world of work to that of agriculture, from education to the publishing sector. He has left a great mark on the Diocese of Brescia and on the entire Church.

Where did this extraordinary man of God find the energy for all his numerous activities? The answer is clear: assiduous and fervent prayer was the source of his tireless apostolic zeal and beneficial influence which he exercised on everyone he approached. He himself said, as the accounts of his contemporaries recall: "With prayer one is strengthened by the strength of God himself ... Omnia possum". Everything is possible with God, for him and with him.

4. "Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us" (responsorial psalm). The deep awareness of the Lord’s favour motivated Bl. Domenico Lentini, who in his itinerant preaching never tired of inviting to conversion and return to God. For this reason his apostolic activity was accompanied by the diligent ministry of the confessional. Indeed he well knew that in celebrating the sacrament of Penance, the priest becomes the dispenser of divine mercy and a witness of the new life that is born through the penitent's repentance and the Lord’s forgiveness.

A priest with an undivided heart, he could combine fidelity to God with fidelity to man. He addressed his ardent charity in particular to youth, whom he taught to be firm in the faith, and to the poor, to whom he offered everything he had with absolute trust in divine Providence. His total dedication to his ministry made him, in the words of my venerable Predecessor, Pope Pius XI, "a priest rich only in his priesthood".

5. In the second reading of the liturgy we heard: "The word of God is living and active ... piercing to division of soul and spirit" (He 4,12). Emilie d’Hooghvorst accepted this word in her inmost depths. By learning to submit to God’s will, she first fulfilled the mission of all Christian married couples: she made her home "a sanctuary of family life" (cf. Apostolicam actuositatem AA 11). Widowed and motivated by the desire to participate in the paschal mystery, Mother Mary of Jesus founded the Society of Mary Reparatrix. By her life of prayer she reminds us that in Eucharistic adoration where we draw from the source of life that is Christ, we find the strength for our daily mission. May each one of us, whatever our state of life, be able "to listen to Christ’s voice", "which must govern our lives", as she liked to say!

Her beatification is therefore an encouragement for the Sisters of Mary Reparatrix to continue their apostolate through renewed attention to the people of this age. The sisters will respond to their mission according to their charism: to awaken the faith of our contemporaries and help them in their spiritual growth, thereby actively participating in building the Church.

787 6. To his disciples, amazed at how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God, Jesus said: "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God" (Mc 10,27). This message was received by Fr Elías del Socorro Nieves, an Augustinian priest, who is raised to the glory of the altars today as a martyr of the faith. His total trust in God and in Our Lady, Help of Christians to whom he was deeply devoted, characterized his whole life and priestly ministry, which he exercised with self-denial and a spirit of service, without letting himself be overcome by obstacles, sacrifices or danger. This faithful Augustinian religious knew how to transmit hope in Christ and in divine Providence.

The life and martyrdom of Fr Nieves, who did not want to abandon his faithful despite the risks he was taking, are in themselves an invitation to renew faith in God who can do everything. He faced death with fortitude, blessing his executioners and witnessing to his faith in Christ. The Church in Mexico today has a new and a powerful intercessor who will help her to renew her Christian life; his Augustinian brothers have one more example to imitate in their constant search for God in fraternity and in service to the People of God; for the whole Church he is an eloquent example of the fruits of holiness which the power of God’s grace produced in him.

7. The first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, reminds us that wisdom and prudence flow from prayer: "I prayed; and understanding was given me; I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me" (Sg 7,7). These words closely apply to the earthly life of another new blessed, Maria Teresa Fasce, who lived in the constant contemplation of the mystery of Christ. The Church holds her up today as a radiant example of the living synthesis between contemplative life and a humble witness of solidarity to men and women, especially to the poorest, the humble, the abandoned and suffering.

The Augustinian family is living an extraordinary day today, because it sees united in the glory of the altars the representatives of two branches of the Order, the apostolic, with Bl. Elías del Socorro Nieves, and the contemplative, with Bl. Maria Teresa Fasce. For Augustinian religious, their example is a cause of joy and legitimate satisfaction. May this day continue to be a providential opportunity for a renewed commitment, in total and faithful consecration to God and in generous service to their brothers and sisters.

8. "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone" (Mc 10,18). Each one of these new blesseds heard Christ’s essential definition and understood where to seek the original source of holiness. God is the fullness of good that is selfdiffusive. "Bonum est diffusivum sui" (St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., I, 9.5, a.4. ad 2). The supreme Good wants to give himself and to make all who seek him with a sincere heart resemble him. He desires to sanctify everyone who is prepared to leave everything to follow his Incarnate Son.

The primary aim of this celebration is therefore to praise God, source of all holiness. We glorify the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, because the new blesseds, baptized in the name of the Blessed Trinity, collaborated with God’s grace with persevering heroism. Fully participating in divine life, they now contemplate the glory of the Lord, face to face, enjoying the fruits of blessedness proclaimed by Jesus in the "Sermon on the Mount": "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5,3). Yes, the kingdom of heaven belongs to these faithful servants of God, who followed Christ to the end, fixing their gaze on him. With their lives they witnessed to him who died on the Cross and was raised for them and for all people.

The whole Church, mother of saints and blesseds, the great spiritual family of mankind called to participate in divine life rejoices.

Together with Mary, Mother of Christ and Queen of saints, together with the new blesseds, let us proclaim God’s holiness: "Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest".





Sunday, 19 October 1997

1. "Nations shall come to your light" (Is 60,3). The echo of Epiphany already resounds in the words of the prophet Isaiah as a fervent expectation and luminous hope. It is precisely the connection with this solemnity that enables us to perceive more clearly this Sunday's missionary character. Isaiah's prophecy, in fact, broadens the perspective of salvation to all humanity, and thus anticipates the prophetic act of the Magi who, coming from the East to adore the divine Child born in Bethlehem (cf. Mt Mt 2,1-12), proclaim and inaugurate the adherence of the nations to Christ's message.

788 All men are called to accept in faith the saving Gospel. The Church is sent to all peoples, all lands and cultures: "Go ... and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28,19-20). These words, spoken by Christ before ascending into heaven, together with the promise he made to the Apostles and their successors that he would be with them until the end of the world (cf. Mt Mt 28,20), are the essence of the missionary mandate: in the person of his ministers, it is Christ himself who goes ad gentes, to those who have not yet received the proclamation of the faith.

2. Thérèse Martin, a discalced Carmelite of Lisieux, ardently desired to be a missionary. She was one, to the point that she could be proclaimed patroness of the missions. Jesus himself showed her how she could live this vocation: by fully practising the commandment of love, she would be immersed in the very heart of the Church's mission, supporting those who proclaim the Gospel with the mysterious power of prayer and communion. Thus she achieved what the Second Vatican Council emphasized in teaching that the Church is missionary by nature (cf. Ad gentes AGD 2). Not only those who choose the missionary life but all the baptized are in some way sent ad gentes.

This is why I chose this missionary Sunday to proclaim St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face a doctor of the universal Church: a woman, a young person, a contemplative.

3. Everyone thus realizes that today something surprising is happening. St Thérèse of Lisieux was unable to attend a university or engage in systematic study. She died young: nevertheless, from this day forward she will be honoured as a doctor of the Church, an outstanding recognition which raises her in the esteem of the entire Christian community far beyond any academic title.

Indeed, when the Magisterium proclaims someone a doctor of the Church, it intends to point out to all the faithful, particularly to those who perform in the Church the fundamental service of preaching or who undertake the delicate task of theological teaching and research, that the doctrine professed and proclaimed by a certain person can be a reference point, not only because it conforms to revealed truth, but also because it sheds new light on the mysteries of the faith, a deeper understanding of Christ's mystery. The Council reminded us that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, understanding of the "depositum fidei" continually grows in the Church, and not only does the richly contemplative study to which theologians are called, not only does the Magisterium of pastors, endowed with the "sure charism of truth", contribute to this growth process, but also that "profound understanding of spiritual things" which is given through experience, with the wealth and diversity of gifts, to all those who let themselves be docilely led by God's Spirit (cf. Dei Verbum DV 8). Lumen gentium, for its part, teaches that God himself "speaks to us" (n. 50) in his saints. It is for this reason that the spiritual experience of the saints has a special value for deepening our knowledge of the divine mysteries, which remain ever greater than our thoughts, and not by chance does the Church choose only saints to be distinguished with the title of "doctor".

4. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face is the youngest of all the "doctors of the Church" , but her ardent spiritual journey shows such maturity, and the insights of faith expressed in her writings are so vast and profound that they deserve a place among the great spiritual masters.

In the Apostolic Letter which I wrote for this occasion, I stressed several salient aspects of her doctrine. But how can we fail to recall here what can be considered its high point, starting with the account of the moving discovery of her special vocation in the Church? "Charity", she wrote, "gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that if the Church had a body composed of different members, the most necessary and most noble of all could not be lacking to it, and so I understood that the Church had a heart and that this heart was burning with love. I understood that it was love alone that made the Church's members act, that if love were ever extinguished, apostles would not proclaim the Gospel and martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. I understood that love includes all vocations.... Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: "O Jesus, my Love ... at last I have found my vocation; my vocation is Love!'" (Ms B, 3vº). This is a wonderful passage which suffices itself to show that one can apply to St Thérèse the Gospel passage we heard in the Liturgy of the Word: "I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes" (Mt 11,25).

5. Thérèse of Lisieux did not only grasp and describe the profound truth of Love as the centre and heart of the Church, but in her short life she lived it intensely. It is precisely this convergence of doctrine and concrete experience, of truth and life, of teaching and practice, which shines with particular brightness in this saint, and which makes her an attractive model especially for young people and for those who are seeking true meaning for their life.

Before the emptiness of so many words, Thérèse offers another solution, the one Word of salvation which, understood and lived in silence, becomes a source of renewed life. She counters a rational culture, so often overcome by practical materialism, with the disarming simplicity of the "little way" which, by returning to the essentials, leads to the secret of all life: the divine Love that surrounds and penetrates every human venture. In a time like ours, so frequently marked by an ephemeral and hedonistic culture, this new doctor of the Church proves to be remarkably effective in enlightening the mind and heart of those who hunger and thirst for truth and love.

6. St Thérèse is presented as a doctor of the Church on the day we are celebrating World Mission Sunday. She had the ardent desire to dedicate herself to proclaiming the Gospel, and she would have liked to have crowned her witness with the supreme sacrifice of martyrdom (cf. Ms B, 3rº). Moreover, her intense personal commitment supporting the apostolic work of Fr Maurice Bellière and Fr Adolphe Rulland, missionaries respectively in Africa and China, is well-known. In her zealous love for evangelization, Thérèse had one ideal, as she herself says: "What we ask of him is to work for his glory, to love him and to make him loved" (Letter 220).

The way she took to reach this ideal of life is not that of the great undertakings reserved for the few, but on the contrary, a way within everyone's reach, the "little way", a path of trust and total self-abandonment to the Lord's grace. It is not a prosaic way, as if it were less demanding. It is in fact a demanding reality, as the Gospel always is. But it is a way in which one is imbued with a sense of trusting abandonment to divine mercy, which makes even the most rigorous spiritual commitment light.

789 Because of this way in which she receives everything as "grace", because she puts her relationship with Christ and her choice of love at the centre of everything, because of the place she gives to the ardent impulses of the heart on her spiritual journey, Thérèse of Lisieux is a saint who remains young despite the passing years, and she is held up as an eminent model and guide on the path of Christians, as we approach the third millennium.

7. Therefore the Church' s joy is great on this day that crowns the expectations and prayers of so many who have understood, in requesting the title of doctor, this special gift of God and have supported its recognition and acceptance. We would all like to give thanks to the Lord together, particularly with the professors and students of Rome's ecclesiastical universities, who in recent days have begun the new academic year.

Yes, O Father, we bless you, together with Jesus (cf. Mt
Mt 11,25), because you have "hidden your secrets from the wise and understanding" and have revealed them to this "little one" whom today you hold up again for our attention and imitation.

Thank you for the wisdom you gave her, making her an exceptional witness and teacher of life for the whole Church!

Thank you for the love you poured out upon her and which continues to illumine and warm hearts, spurring them to holiness.

The desire Thérèse expressed to "spend her heaven doing good on earth" (Opere Complete, p. 1050), continues to be fulfilled in a marvellous way.

Thank you Father, for making her close to us today with a new title, to the praise and glory of your name for ever and ever. Amen!

S. John Paul II Homil. 782