Audiences 2005-2013 9060
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I wish to reflect on my Apostolic Journey to Cyprus which in many ways was in continuity with my previous Journeys to the Holy Land and to Malta. Thanks be to God this Pastoral Visit went very well, since it has felicitously achieved its object. Already in itself it was an historic event; in fact, never before had the Bishop of Rome visited that land blessed by the apostolic work of St Paul and St Barnabas and traditionally considered a part of the Holy Land. In the footsteps of the Apostle to the Gentiles I became a pilgrim of the Gospel, primarily to strengthen the faith of the Catholic communities that form a small but lively minority on the Island and to encourage them to continue on the path to full Christian unity, especially with our Orthodox brethren. At the same time I wanted to embrace in spirit all the Middle Eastern people and to bless them in the Lord's Name, invoking from God the gift of peace. I was given a warm welcome everywhere I went and I gladly take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude once again in the first place to Archbishop Joseph Soueif of Cyprus for Maronites, and to H.B. Archbishop Fouad Twal, together with their collaborators, as I renew to each one my appreciation of their apostolic action. My heartfelt gratitude then goes to the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, and first of all to H.B. Chrysostomos ii, Archbishop of Nea Justiniana and All Cyprus, whom I had the joy to embrace with brotherly affection, as well as the President of the Republic, all the Civil Authorities and all those who laudably did their utmost, in their various capacities, to ensure the success of my Pastoral Visit.
It began on 4 June in the ancient city of Paphos where I felt enveloped in an atmosphere that seemed, as it were, a perceptible synthesis of 2,000 years of Christian history. The archaeological remains here testify to an ancient and glorious spiritual heritage that still has a strong impact on the country's life today. A moving ecumenical celebration took place at the Church of Agia Kiriaki Chrysopolitissa an Orthodox place of worship also open to Catholics and Anglicans that is located within the archaeological site. Together with the Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostomos II and the representatives of the Armenian, Lutheran and Anglican communities, we fraternally renewed our reciprocal and irreversible ecumenical commitment. I later expressed these sentiments to H.B. Chrysostomos II during our cordial Meeting at his residence, at which I also noted that the Orthodox Church of Cyprus is bound to the destiny of this people, preserving devout and grateful memories of Archbishop Makarios III, commonly considered the father and benefactor of the nation. I too desired to pay homage to him, pausing briefly by the monument in his honour that portrays him. This attachment to tradition does not prevent the Orthodox Community from engaging in the ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic community with determination; both are motivated by the sincere wish to re-establish full and visible communion between the Churches of the East and of the West.
I began the second stage of my Journey on 5 June, in Nicosia, the capital of the Island, by calling on the President of the Republic who received me with great courtesy. In meeting the Civil Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps, I reaffirmed the importance of basing positive law upon the ethical principles of natural law in order to promote moral truth in public life. It was an appeal to reason, based on ethical principles and full of demanding implications for contemporary society that all to often no longer recognizes the cultural tradition on which it is founded.
The Liturgy of the Word, celebrated at St Maron's Elementary School, was one of the most evocative meetings with the Catholic community of Cyprus, with its Maronite and Latin-Rite members, and enabled me to become closely acquainted with the apostolic fervour of Cypriot Catholics. It is also expressed through educational activities and social assistance. The dozens of structures that serve society as a whole are appreciated by the Government authorities as well as by the entire population. It was a festive, joyful moment enlivened by the enthusiasm of numerous children and young people. The dimension of remembrance was not lacking and made movingly perceptible the heart of the Maronite Church, which in this very year is celebrating the 1,600th anniversary of the death of its Founder, St Maron. Particularly important in this regard is the presence of some Maronite Catholics who came from the four villages of the Island where Christians are a people that suffers and hopes. I wanted to express to them my fatherly understanding of their aspirations and difficulties.
During that same celebration I was able to admire the apostolic commitment of the Latin community, guided by the solicitude of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and by the apostolic zeal of the Friars Minor of the Holy Land, who with persevering generosity make themselves available to serving the people. Latin-Rite Catholics, very active in the area of charity, pay special attention to the workers and to the neediest. To all, Latins and Maronites alike I assure my remembrance in prayer, encouraging them to witness to the Gospel also through a patient effort of reciprocal trust between Christians and non-Christians, in order to build a lasting peace and harmony among the peoples.
At Holy Mass celebrated in the Parish Church of Holy Cross in the presence of priests, consecrated people, deacons, catechists and representatives of the Island's lay associations and movements, I wished to repeat my invitation to trust and hope. Starting from a reflection on the mystery of the Cross, I then addressed a heartfelt appeal to all the Catholics of the Middle East so that, despite the great trials and well-known difficulties, they will not give in to the hardship and the temptation to emigrate, since their presence in the region is an indispensable sign of hope. I guaranteed to them, and especially to the priests and religious, the affectionate and intense solidarity of the Church as a whole, as well as constant prayers, so that the Lord may help them always to be an active and peaceful presence.
The culminating moment of the Apostolic Journey was certainly the consignment of the Instrumentum Laboris of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. This event took place on Sunday, 6 June, at the Sport Centre in Nicosia, at the end of the solemn celebration of the Eucharist in which the Patriarchs and Bishops of the various ecclesial communities of the Middle East took part. The participation of the People of God was unanimous: "with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival", as the Psalm says (Ps 42,4 : 4). We experienced it in practice, partly thanks to the presence of so many immigrants who form a significant group among the Island's Catholic population, into which they have integrated without difficulty. We prayed together for the soul of the late Bishop Luigi Padovese, President of the Turkish Bishops' Conference, whose unexpected and tragic death has left us saddened and dismayed.
The theme of the Synodal Assembly for the Middle East that will be taking place in Rome next October, speaks of communion and the openness to hope: "The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness". In fact the important event is a gathering of the Catholic Christianity of that region, with its different rites, that at the same time seeks to renew dialogue and courage for the future. It will therefore be accompanied by the prayerful affection of the entire Church in whose heart the Middle East has a special place, since it is here that God made himself known to our fathers in the faith. However attention to other topics of our global society will not be lacking, particularly of the protagonists of public life, called to work with constant commitment to enable this region to surmount the situations of suffering and conflict that still afflict it and to rediscover peace in justice at last.
Before taking my leave of Cyprus, I wished to visit the Maronite Cathedral in Nicosia where Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Patriarch of Antiochs for Maronites, was also present. I renewed my sincere closeness and fervent comprehension to every community of the ancient Maronite Church throughout the Island, on whose shores the Maronites arrived in various periods and were often hard put to stay faithful to their specific Christian heritage, the memories of whose art and history constitute a cultural patrimony for the whole of humanity.
Dear brothers and sisters, I returned to the Vatican my heart brimming with gratitude to God and with sentiments of sincere affection and esteem for the inhabitants of Cyprus by whom I felt welcomed and understood. In the noble land of Cyprus I was able to see the apostolic work of the different traditions of the one Church of Christ and I could almost feel many hearts beating in unison just as the Journey's theme said: "One heart, one soul". The Catholic Cypriot community, in its Maronite, Armenian and Latin branches, strives ceaselessly to be of one heart and one soul, both within itself and in cordial and constructive relations with its Orthodox brethren and with the other Christian denominations. May the Cypriot people and the other nations of the Middle East, with their government leaders and the representatives of the different religions, build together a future of peace, friendship and fraternal collaboration. And let us also pray that through the intercession of Mary Most Holy the Holy Spirit may make this Apostolic Journey fruitful and enliven throughout the world the Church's mission, established by Christ to proclaim to all peoples the Gospel of truth, love and peace.
To Special Groups
I offer a warm welcome to the ecumenical study group from the School of Theology at Seton Hall University, and to the members of the International Leadership Programme for LaSallian Universities. My cordial greetings also go to the scholars and experts taking part in the international conference sponsored by the International Insolvency Institute. I greet the many student groups present, and I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from Ireland, the Philippines and the United States, I invoke Almighty God's blessings of joy and peace.
Saint Peter's Square16060
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I would like to continue the presentation of St Thomas Aquinas, a theologian of such value that the study of his thought was explicitly recommended by the Second Vatican Council in two documents, the Decree Optatam totius on the Training of Priests, and the Declaration Gravissimum Educationis, which addresses Christian Education. Indeed, already in 1880 Pope Leo XIII, who held St Thomas in high esteem as a guide and encouraged Thomistic studies, chose to declare him Patron of Catholic Schools and Universities.
The main reason for this appreciation is not only explained by the content of his teaching but also by the method he used, especially his new synthesis and distinction between philosophy and theology. The Fathers of the Church were confronted by different philosophies of a Platonic type in which a complete vision of the world and of life was presented, including the subject of God and of religion. In comparison with these philosophies they themselves had worked out a complete vision of reality, starting with faith and using elements of Platonism to respond to the essential questions of men and women. They called this vision, based on biblical revelation and formulated with a correct Platonism in the light of faith: "our philosophy". The word "philosophy" was not, therefore, an expression of a purely rational system and, as such, distinct from faith but rather indicated a comprehensive vision of reality, constructed in the light of faith but used and conceived of by reason; a vision that naturally exceeded the capacities proper to reason but as such also fulfilled it. For St Thomas the encounter with the pre-Christian philosophy of Aristotle (who died in about 322 b.c.) opened up a new perspective. Aristotelian philosophy was obviously a philosophy worked out without the knowledge of the Old and New Testaments, an explanation of the world without revelation through reason alone. And this consequent rationality was convincing. Thus the old form of the Fathers' "our philosophy" no longer worked. The relationship between philosophy and theology, between faith and reason, needed to be rethought. A "philosophy" existed that was complete and convincing in itself, a rationality that preceded the faith, followed by "theology", a form of thinking with the faith and in the faith. The pressing question was this: are the world of rationality, philosophy conceived of without Christ, and the world of faith compatible? Or are they mutually exclusive? Elements that affirmed the incompatibility of these two worlds were not lacking, but St Thomas was firmly convinced of their compatibility indeed that philosophy worked out without the knowledge of Christ was awaiting, as it were, the light of Jesus to be complete. This was the great "surprise" of St Thomas that determined the path he took as a thinker. Showing this independence of philosophy and theology and, at the same time, their reciprocal relationality was the historic mission of the great teacher. And thus it can be understood that in the 19th century, when the incompatibility of modern reason and faith was strongly declared, Pope Leo XIII pointed to St Thomas as a guide in the dialogue between them. In his theological work, St Thomas supposes and concretizes this relationality. Faith consolidates, integrates and illumines the heritage of truth that human reason acquires. The trust with which St Thomas endows these two instruments of knowledge faith and reason may be traced back to the conviction that both stem from the one source of all truth, the divine Logos, which is active in both contexts, that of Creation and that of redemption.
Together with the agreement between reason and faith, we must recognize on the other hand that they avail themselves of different cognitive procedures. Reason receives a truth by virtue of its intrinsic evidence, mediated or unmediated; faith, on the contrary, accepts a truth on the basis of the authority of the Word of God that is revealed. St Thomas writes at the beginning of his Summa Theologiae: "We must bear in mind that there are two kinds of sciences. There are some which proceed from a principle known by the natural light of the intelligence, such as arithmetic and geometry and the like. There are some which proceed from principles known by the light of a higher science: thus the science of perspective proceeds from principles established by geometry, and music from principles established by arithmetic. So it is that sacred doctrine is a science, because it proceeds from principles established by the light of a higher science, namely, the science of God and the blessed" (I 1,2).
This distinction guarantees the autonomy of both the human and the theological sciences. However, it is not equivalent to separation but, rather, implies a reciprocal and advantageous collaboration. Faith, in fact, protects reason from any temptation to distrust its own abilities, stimulates it to be open to ever broader horizons, keeps alive in it the search for foundations and, when reason itself is applied to the supernatural sphere of the relationship between God and man, faith enriches his work. According to St Thomas, for example, human reason can certainly reach the affirmation of the existence of one God, but only faith, which receives the divine Revelation, is able to draw from the mystery of the Love of the Triune God.
Moreover, it is not only faith that helps reason. Reason too, with its own means can do something important for faith, making it a threefold service which St Thomas sums up in the preface to his commentary on the De Trinitate of Boethius: "demonstrating those truths that are preambles of the faith; giving a clearer notion, by certain similitudes, of the truths of the faith; resisting those who speak against the faith, either by showing that their statements are false, or by showing that they are not necessarily true" (q. 2, a.3). The entire history of theology is basically the exercise of this task of the mind which shows the intelligibility of faith, its articulation and inner harmony, its reasonableness and its ability to further human good. The correctness of theological reasoning and its real cognitive meaning is based on the value of theological language which, in St Thomas' opinion, is principally an analogical language. The distance between God, the Creator, and the being of his creatures is infinite; dissimilitude is ever greater than similitude (cf. DS 806). Nevertheless in the whole difference between Creator and creatures an analogy exists between the created being and the being of the Creator, which enables us to speak about God with human words.
St Thomas not only based the doctrine of analogy on exquisitely philosophical argumentation but also on the fact that with the Revelation God himself spoke to us and therefore authorized us to speak of him. I consider it important to recall this doctrine. In fact, it helps us get the better of certain objections of contemporary atheism which denies that religious language is provided with an objective meaning and instead maintains that it has solely a subjective or merely emotional value. This objection derives from the fact that positivist thought is convinced that man does not know being but solely the functions of reality that can be experienced. With St Thomas and with the great philosophical tradition we are convinced that, in reality, man does not only know the functions, the object of the natural sciences, but also knows something of being itself for example, he knows the person, the You of the other, and not only the physical and biological aspect of his being.
In the light of this teaching of St Thomas theology says that however limited it may be, religious language is endowed with sense because we touch being like an arrow aimed at the reality it signifies. This fundamental agreement between human reason and Christian faith is recognized in another basic principle of Aquinas' thought. Divine Grace does not annihilate but presupposes and perfects human nature. The latter, in fact, even after sin, is not completely corrupt but wounded and weakened. Grace, lavished upon us by God and communicated through the Mystery of the Incarnate Word, is an absolutely free gift with which nature is healed, strengthened and assisted in pursuing the innate desire for happiness in the heart of every man and of every woman. All the faculties of the human being are purified, transformed and uplifted by divine Grace.
An important application of this relationship between nature and Grace is recognized in the moral theology of St Thomas Aquinas, which proves to be of great timeliness. At the centre of his teaching in this field, he places the new law which is the law of the Holy Spirit. With a profoundly evangelical gaze he insists on the fact that this law is the Grace of the Holy Spirit given to all who believe in Christ. The written and oral teaching of the doctrinal and moral truths transmitted by the Church is united to this Grace. St Thomas, emphasizing the fundamental role in moral life of the action of the Holy Spirit, of Grace, from which flow the theological and moral virtues, makes us understand that all Christians can attain the lofty perspectives of the "Sermon on the Mount", if they live an authentic relationship of faith in Christ, if they are open to the action of his Holy Spirit. However, Aquinas adds, "Although Grace is more efficacious than nature, yet nature is more essential to man, and therefore more enduring" (Summa Theologiae, I-II 94,6, ad 2), which is why, in the Christian moral perspective, there is a place for reason which is capable of discerning natural moral law. Reason can recognize this by considering what it is good to do and what it is good to avoid in order to achieve that felicity which everyone has at heart, which also implies a responsibility towards others and, therefore, the search for the common good. In other words, the human, theological and moral virtues are rooted in human nature. Divine Grace accompanies, sustains and impels ethical commitment but, according to St Thomas, all human beings, believers and non-believers alike, are called to recognize the needs of human nature expressed in natural law and to draw inspiration from it in the formulation of positive laws, namely those issued by the civil and political authorities to regulate human coexistence.
When natural law and the responsibility it entails are denied this dramatically paves the way to ethical relativism at the individual level and to totalitarianism of the State at the political level. The defence of universal human rights and the affirmation of the absolute value of the person's dignity postulate a foundation. Does not natural law constitute this foundation, with the non-negotiable values that it indicates? Venerable John Paul II wrote in his Encyclical Evangelium Vitae words that are still very up to date: "It is therefore urgently necessary, for the future of society and the development of a sound democracy, to rediscover those essential and innate human and moral values which flow from the very truth of the human being and express and safeguard the dignity of the person: values which no individual, no majority and no State can ever create, modify or destroy, but must only acknowledge, respect and promote" (EV 71).
To conclude, Thomas presents to us a broad and confident concept of human reason: broad because it is not limited to the spaces of the so-called "empirical-scientific" reason, but open to the whole being and thus also to the fundamental and inalienable questions of human life; and confident because human reason, especially if it accepts the inspirations of Christian faith, is a promoter of a civilization that recognizes the dignity of the person, the intangibility of his rights and the cogency of his or her duties. It is not surprising that the doctrine on the dignity of the person, fundamental for the recognition of the inviolability of human rights, developed in schools of thought that accepted the legacy of St Thomas Aquinas, who had a very lofty conception of the human creature. He defined it, with his rigorously philosophical language, as "what is most perfect to be found in all nature - that is, a subsistent individual of a rational nature" (Summa Theologiae, I 29,3).
The depth of St Thomas Aquinas' thought let us never forget it flows from his living faith and fervent piety, which he expressed in inspired prayers such as this one in which he asks God: "Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you".
To Special Groups
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially the many parish and student groups. I offer a warm welcome to all who have come from Hong Kong, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Upon all of you I invoke God's Blessings of joy and peace!
Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear young people, may you always find in Christ present in the Eucharist the spiritual nourishment to advance on the path of holiness; may Christ be for you, dear sick people, a support and comfort in trial and in suffering; and for you, dear newlyweds, may the sacrament that has rooted you in Christ be the source that feeds your daily love.
Paul VI Hall23060
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I would like to complete, with a third instalment, my Catecheses on St Thomas Aquinas. Even more than 700 years after his death we can learn much from him. My Predecessor, Pope Paul VI, also said this, in a Discourse he gave at Fossanova on 14 September 1974 on the occasion of the seventh centenary of St Thomas' death. He asked himself: "Thomas, our Teacher, what lesson can you give us?". And he answered with these words: "trust in the truth of Catholic religious thought, as defended, expounded and offered by him to the capacities of the human mind" (Address in honour of St Thomas Aquinas in the Basilica, 14 September 1974; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, [ore], 26 September 1974, p. 4). In Aquino moreover, on that same day, again with reference to St Thomas, Paul VI said, "all of us who are faithful sons and daughters of the Church can and must be his disciples, at least to some extent!" (Address to people in the Square at Aquino, 14 September 1974; ORE, p. 5).
Let us too, therefore, learn from the teaching of St Thomas and from his masterpiece, the Summa Theologiae. It was left unfinished, yet it is a monumental work: it contains 512 questions and 2,669 articles. It consists of concentrated reasoning in which the human mind is applied to the mysteries of faith, with clarity and depth to the mysteries of faith, alternating questions with answers in which St Thomas deepens the teaching that comes from Sacred Scripture and from the Fathers of the Church, especially St Augustine. In this reflection, in meeting the true questions of his time, that are also often our own questions, St Thomas, also by employing the method and thought of the ancient philosophers, and of Aristotle in particular, thus arrives at precise, lucid and pertinent formulations of the truths of faith in which truth is a gift of faith, shines out and becomes accessible to us, for our reflection. However, this effort of the human mind Aquinas reminds us with his own life is always illumined by prayer, by the light that comes from on high. Only those who live with God and with his mysteries can also understand what they say to us.
In the Summa of theology, St Thomas starts from the fact that God has three different ways of being and existing: God exists in himself, he is the beginning and end of all things, which is why all creatures proceed from him and depend on him: then God is present through his Grace in the life and activity of the Christian, of the saints; lastly, God is present in an altogether special way in the Person of Christ, here truly united to the man Jesus, and active in the Sacraments that derive from his work of redemption. Therefore, the structure of this monumental work (cf. Jean-Pierre Torrell, La "Summa" di San Tommaso, Milan 2003, pp. 29-75), a quest with "a theological vision" for the fullness of God (cf. Summa Theologiae, I 1,7), is divided into three parts and is illustrated by the Doctor Communis himself St Thomas with these words: "Because the chief aim of sacred doctrine is to teach the knowledge of God, not only as he is in himself, but also as he is the beginning of things and their last end, and especially of rational creatures, as is clear from what has already been said, therefore, we shall treat: (1) Of God; (2) Of the rational creature's advance towards God; (3) Of Christ, Who as man, is our way to God" (ibid., I 2,0). It is a circle: God in himself, who comes out of himself and takes us by the hand, in such a way that with Christ we return to God, we are united to God, and God will be all things to all people.
The First Part of the Summa Theologiae thus investigates God in himself, the mystery of the Trinity and of the creative activity of God. In this part we also find a profound reflection on the authentic reality of the human being, inasmuch as he has emerged from the creative hands of God as the fruit of his love. On the one hand we are dependent created beings, we do not come from ourselves; yet, on the other, we have a true autonomy so that we are not only something apparent as certain Platonic philosophers say but a reality desired by God as such and possessing an inherent value.
In the Second Part St Thomas considers man, impelled by Grace, in his aspiration to know and love God in order to be happy in time and in eternity. First of all the Author presents the theological principles of moral action, studying how, in the free choice of the human being to do good acts, reason, will and passions are integrated, to which is added the power given by God's Grace through the virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as the help offered by moral law. Hence the human being is a dynamic being who seeks himself, seeks to become himself, and, in this regard, seeks to do actions that build him up, that make him truly man; and here the moral law comes into it. Grace and reason itself, the will and the passions enter too. On this basis St Thomas describes the profile of the man who lives in accordance with the Spirit and thus becomes an image of God.
Here Aquinas pauses to study the three theological virtues faith, hope and charity followed by a critical examination of more than 50 moral virtues, organized around the four cardinal virtues prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. He then ends with a reflection on the different vocations in the Church.
In the Third Part of the Summa, St Thomas studies the Mystery of Christ the way and the truth through which we can reach God the Father. In this section he writes almost unparalleled pages on the Mystery of Jesus' Incarnation and Passion, adding a broad treatise on the seven sacraments, for it is in them that the Divine Word Incarnate extends the benefits of the Incarnation for our salvation, for our journey of faith towards God and eternal life. He is, as it were, materially present with the realities of creation, and thus touches us in our inmost depths.
In speaking of the sacraments, St Thomas reflects in a special way on the Mystery of the Eucharist, for which he had such great devotion, the early biographers claim, that he would lean his head against the Tabernacle, as if to feel the throbbing of Jesus' divine and human heart. In one of his works, commenting on Scripture, St Thomas helps us to understand the excellence of the sacrament of the Eucharist, when he writes: "Since this [the Eucharist] is the sacrament of Our Lord's Passion, it contains in itself the Jesus Christ who suffered for us. Thus, whatever is an effect of Our Lord's Passion is also an effect of this sacrament. For this sacrament is nothing other than the application of Our Lord's Passion to us" (cf. Commentary on John, chapter 6, lecture 6, n. 963). We clearly understand why St Thomas and other Saints celebrated Holy Mass shedding tears of compassion for the Lord who gave himself as a sacrifice for us, tears of joy and gratitude.
Dear brothers and sisters, at the school of the Saints, let us fall in love with this sacrament! Let us participate in Holy Mass with recollection, to obtain its spiritual fruits, let us nourish ourselves with this Body and Blood of Our Lord, to be ceaselessly fed by divine Grace! Let us willingly and frequently linger in the company of the Blessed Sacrament in heart-to-heart conversation!
All that St Thomas described with scientific rigour in his major theological works, such as, precisely, the Summa Theologiae, and the Summa contra gentiles, was also explained in his preaching, both to his students and to the faithful. In 1273, a year before he died, he preached throughout Lent in the Church of San Domenico Maggiore in Naples. The content of those sermons was gathered and preserved: they are the Opuscoli in which he explains the Apostles' Creed, interprets the Prayer of the Our Father, explains the Ten Commandments and comments on the Hail Mary.
The content of the Doctor Angelicus' preaching corresponds with virtually the whole structure of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Actually, in catechesis and preaching, in a time like ours of renewed commitment to evangelization, these fundamental subjects should never be lacking: what we believe, and here is the Creed of the faith; what we pray, and here is the Our Father and the Hail Mary; and what we live, as we are taught by biblical Revelation, and here is the law of the love of God and neighbour and the Ten Commandments, as an explanation of this mandate of love.
I would like to propose some simple, essential and convincing examples of the content of St Thomas' teaching. In his booklet on The Apostles' Creed he explains the value of faith. Through it, he says, the soul is united to God and produces, as it were, a shot of eternal life; life receives a reliable orientation and we overcome temptations with ease. To those who object that faith is foolishness because it leads to belief in something that does not come within the experience of the senses, St Thomas gives a very articulate answer and recalls that this is an inconsistent doubt, for human intelligence is limited and cannot know everything. Only if we were able to know all visible and invisible things perfectly would it be genuinely foolish to accept truths out of pure faith. Moreover, it is impossible to live, St Thomas observes, without trusting in the experience of others, wherever one's own knowledge falls short. It is thus reasonable to believe in God, who reveals himself, and to the testimony of the Apostles: they were few, simple and poor, grief-stricken by the Crucifixion of their Teacher. Yet many wise, noble and rich people converted very soon after hearing their preaching. In fact this is a miraculous phenomenon of history, to which it is far from easy to give a convincing answer other than that of the Apostle's encounter with the Risen Lord.
In commenting on the article of the Creed on the Incarnation of the divine Word St Thomas makes a few reflections. He says that the Christian faith is strengthened in considering the mystery of the Incarnation; hope is strengthened at the thought that the Son of God came among us, as one of us, to communicate his own divinity to human beings; charity is revived because there is no more obvious sign of God's love for us than the sight of the Creator of the universe making himself a creature, one of us. Finally, in contemplating the mystery of God's Incarnation, we feel kindled within us our desire to reach Christ in glory. Using a simple and effective comparison, St Thomas remarks: "If the brother of a king were to be far away, he would certainly long to live beside him. Well, Christ is a brother to us; we must therefore long for his company and become of one heart with him" (Opuscoli teologico-spirituali, Rome 1976, p. 64).
In presenting the prayer of the Our Father, St Thomas shows that it is perfect in itself, since it has all five of the characteristics that a well-made prayer must possess: trusting, calm abandonment; a fitting content because, St Thomas observes, "it is quite difficult to know exactly what it is appropriate and inappropriate to ask for, since choosing among our wishes puts us in difficulty" (ibid., p. 120); and then an appropriate order of requests, the fervour of love and the sincerity of humility.
Like all the Saints, St Thomas had a great devotion to Our Lady. He described her with a wonderful title: Triclinium totius Trinitatis; triclinium, that is, a place where the Trinity finds rest since, because of the Incarnation, in no creature as in her do the three divine Persons dwell and feel delight and joy at dwelling in her soul full of Grace. Through her intercession we may obtain every help.
With a prayer that is traditionally attributed to St Thomas and that in any case reflects the elements of his profound Marian devotion we too say: "O most Blessed and sweet Virgin Mary, Mother of God... I entrust to your merciful heart... my entire life.... Obtain for me as well, O most sweet Lady, true charity with which from the depths of my heart I may love your most Holy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and, after him, love you above all other things... and my neighbour, in God and for God".
To Special Groups:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I offer a warm welcome to the numerous student groups present, and in a special way to those taking part in the programmes sponsored by the Foyer Unitas Lay Centre, the Anglican Centre of Rome and the Midwest Theological Forum. I also thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially those from Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, the Bahamas and the United States of America, I invoke God's abundant Blessings.
I now greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Today is the liturgical Memorial of St Joseph Cafasso and the 150th anniversary of his death. May the example of this attractive figure of an exemplary priest, to which I want to devote the next Wednesday Catechesis, help you, dear young people to experience personally the liberating power of Christ's love that profoundly renews human life; may it sustain you, dear sick people, in offering up your suffering for the conversion of those who are prisoners of evil; may it encourage you, dear newlyweds, to be a sign of God's faithfulness, also with mutual forgiveness, motivated by love.
Saint Peter's Square
Audiences 2005-2013 9060