Audiences 2005-2013 23021


A new and powerful earthquake, even more devastating than the one last September, has struck the city of Christchurch, in New Zealand, causing considerable loss of life and the disappearance of many people, to say nothing of the damage to buildings. At this time, my thoughts turn especially to the people there who are being severely tested by this tragedy. Let us ask God to relieve their suffering and to support all who are involved in the rescue operations. I also ask you to join me in praying for all who have lost their lives.

To special groups:

Finally, I would like to greet the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Sweden, Japan and the United States. I also thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.

Lastly I address an affectionate thought to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Today we are celebrating the liturgical memorial of St Polycarp. May the example of his fidelity to Christ inspire in you, dear young people, resolutions of courageous Gospel witness. May it help you, dear sick people, to offer your daily sufferings so that the civilization of love may spread throughout the world. May it support you, dear newlyweds, in your commitment to found your family on close union with God.
* * *

A new and powerful earthquake, even more devastating than the one last September, has struck the city of Christchurch, in New Zealand, causing considerable loss of life and the disappearance of many people, to say nothing of the damage to buildings. At this time, my thoughts turn especially to the people there who are being severely tested by this tragedy. Let us ask God to relieve their suffering and to support all who are involved in the rescue operations. I also ask you to join me in praying for all who have lost their lives.

Paul VI Audience Hall

Wednesday, 2 March 2011 - Saint Francis de Sales

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“God is God of the human heart” (The Treatise on the Love of God, I, XV). These apparently simple words give us an impression of the spirituality of a great teacher of whom I would like to speak to you today: St Francis de Sales, a Bishop and Doctor of the Church.

Born in 1567, in a French border region, he was the son of the Lord of Boisy, an ancient and noble family of Savoy. His life straddled two centuries, the 16th and 17th, and he summed up in himself the best of the teachings and cultural achievements of the century drawing to a close, reconciling the heritage of humanism striving for the Absolute that is proper to mystical currents.

He received a very careful education; he undertook higher studies in Paris, where he dedicated himself to theology, and at the University of Padua, where he studied jurisprudence, complying with his father’s wishes and graduating brilliantly with degrees in utroque iure, in canon law and in civil law.

In his harmonious youth, reflection on the thought of St Augustine and of St Thomas Aquinas led to a deep crisis. This prompted him to question his own eternal salvation and the predestination of God concerning himself; he suffered as a true spiritual drama the principal theological issues of his time. He prayed intensely but was so fiercely tormented by doubt that for a few weeks he could barely eat or sleep.

At the climax of his trial, he went to the Dominicans’ church in Paris, opened his heart and prayed in these words: “Whatever happens, Lord, you who hold all things in your hand and whose ways are justice and truth; whatever you have ordained for me... you who are ever a just judge and a merciful Father, I will love you Lord.... I will love you here, O my God, and I will always hope in your mercy and will always repeat your praise.... O Lord Jesus you will always be my hope and my salvation in the land of the living” (I Proc. Canon., Vol. I, art. 4).

The 20-year-old Francis found peace in the radical and liberating love of God: loving him without asking anything in return and trusting in divine love; no longer asking what will God do with me: I simply love him, independently of all that he gives me or does not give me. Thus I find peace and the question of predestination — which was being discussed at that time — was resolved, because he no longer sought what he might receive from God; he simply loved God and abandoned himself to his goodness. And this was to be the secret of his life which would shine out in his main work: the The Treatise on the Love of God.

Overcoming his father’s resistance, Francis followed the Lord’s call and was ordained a priest on 18 December 1593. In 1602, he became Bishop of Geneva, in a period in which the city was the stronghold of Calvinism so that his episcopal see was transferred, “in exile” to Annecy.

As the Pastor of a poor and tormented diocese in a mountainous area whose harshness was as well known as its beauty, he wrote: “I found [God] sweet and gentle among our loftiest rugged mountains, where many simple souls love him and worship him in all truth and sincerity; and mountain goats and chamois leap here and there between the fearful frozen peaks to proclaim his praise” (Letter to Mother de Chantal, October 1606, in Oeuvres, éd. Mackey, t. XIII, p. 223).

Nevertheless the influence of his life and his teaching on Europe in that period and in the following centuries is immense. He was an apostle, preacher, writer, man of action and of prayer dedicated to implanting the ideals of the Council of Trent; he was involved in controversial issues dialogue with the Protestants, experiencing increasingly, over and above the necessary theological confrontation, the effectiveness of personal relationship and of charity; he was charged with diplomatic missions in Europe and with social duties of mediation and reconciliation.

Yet above all St Francis de Sales was a director: from his encounter with a young woman, Madame de Charmoisy, he was to draw the inspiration to write one of the most widely read books of the modern age, The Introduction to a Devout Life.

A new religious family was to come into being from his profound spiritual communion with an exceptional figure, St Jane Frances de Chantal: The Foundation of the Visitation, as the Saint wished, was characterized by total consecration to God lived in simplicity and humility, in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well: “I want my Daughters”, he wrote, not to have any other ideal than that of glorifying [Our Lord] with their humility” (Letter to Bishop de Marquemond, June 1615). He died in 1622, at the age of 55, after a life marked by the hardness of the times and by his apostolic effort.

The life of St Francis de Sales was a relatively short life but was lived with great intensity. The figure of this Saint radiates an impression of rare fullness, demonstrated in the serenity of his intellectual research, but also in the riches of his affection and the “sweetness” of his teachings, which had an important influence on the Christian conscience.

He embodied the different meanings of the word “humanity” which this term can assume today, as it could in the past: culture and courtesy, freedom and tenderness, nobility and solidarity. His appearance reflected something of the majesty of the landscape in which he lived and preserved its simplicity and naturalness. Moreover the words of the past and the images he used resonate unexpectedly in the ears of men and women today, as a native and familiar language.

To Philotea, the ideal person to whom he dedicated his Introduction to a Devout Life (1607), Francis de Sales addressed an invitation that might well have seemed revolutionary at the time. It is the invitation to belong completely to God, while living to the full her presence in the world and the tasks proper to her state. “My intention is to teach those who are living in towns, in the conjugal state, at court” (Preface to The Introduction to a Devout Life). The Document with which Pope Leo xiii, more than two centuries later, was to proclaim him a Doctor of the Church, would insist on this expansion of the call to perfection, to holiness.

It says: “[true piety] shone its light everywhere and gained entrance to the thrones of kings, the tents of generals, the courts of judges, custom houses, workshops, and even the huts of herdsmen” (cf. Brief, Dives in Misericordia, 16 November 1877).

Thus came into being the appeal to lay people and the care for the consecration of temporal things and for the sanctification of daily life on which the Second Vatican Council and the spirituality of our time were to insist.

The ideal of a reconciled humanity was expressed in the harmony between prayer and action in the world, between the search for perfection and the secular condition, with the help of God’s grace that permeates the human being and, without destroying him, purifies him, raising him to divine heights. To Theotimus, the spiritually mature Christian adult to whom a few years later he addressed his Treatise on the Love of God, St Francis de Sales offered a more complex lesson.

At the beginning it presents a precise vision of the human being, an anthropology: human “reason”, indeed “our soul in so far as it is reasonable”, is seen there as harmonious architecture, a temple, divided into various courts around a centre, which, together with the great mystics he calls the “extremity and summit of our soul, this highest point of our spirit”.

This is the point where reason, having ascended all its steps, “closes its eyes” and knowledge becomes one with love (cf. Book I, chapter XII). The fact that love in its theological and divine dimension, may be the raison d’être of all things, on an ascending ladder that does not seem to experience breaks or abysses, St Francis de Sales summed up in a famous sentence: “man is the perfection of the universe; the spirit is the perfection of man; love, that of the spirit; and charity, that of love” (ibid., Book X, chap. 1).

In an intensely flourishing season of mysticism The Treatise on the Love of God was a true and proper summa and at the same time a fascinating literary work. St Francis’ description of the journey towards God starts from recognition of the “natural inclination” (ibid., Book 1, chapter XVI), planted in man’s heart — although he is a sinner — to love God above all things.

According to the model of Sacred Scripture, St Francis de Sales speaks of the union between God and man, developing a whole series of images and interpersonal relationships. His God is Father and Lord, husband and friend, who has the characteristics of mother and of wet-nurse and is the sun of which even the night is a mysterious revelation. Such a God draws man to himself with bonds of love, namely, true freedom for: “love has neither convicts nor slaves, but brings all things under its obedience with a force so delightful, that as nothing is so strong as love nothing also is so sweet as its strength” (ibid., Book 1, chapter VI).

In our Saint’s Treatise we find a profound meditation on the human will and the description of its flowing, passing and dying in order to live (cf. ibid. Book IX, chapter XIII) in complete surrender not only to God’s will but also to what pleases him, to his “bon plaisir”, his good pleasure (cf. ibid., Book IX, chapter I).

As well as by raptures of contemplative ecstasy, union with God is crowned by that reappearance of charitable action that is attentive to all the needs of others and which he calls “the ecstasy of action and life” (ibid., Book VII, chapter VI).

In reading his book on the love of God and especially his many letters of spiritual direction and friendship one clearly perceives that St Francis was well acquainted with the human heart. He wrote to St Jane de Chantal: “... this is the rule of our obedience, which I write for you in capital letters: do all through love, nothing through constraint; love obedience more than you fear disobedience. I leave you the spirit of freedom, not that which excludes obedience, which is the freedom of the world, but that liberty that excludes violence, anxiety and scruples” (Letter of 14 October 1604).

It is not for nothing that we rediscover traces precisely of this teacher at the origin of many contemporary paths of pedagogy and spirituality; without him neither St John Bosco nor the heroic “Little Way” of St Thérèse of Lisieux would have have come into being.

Dear brothers and sisters, in an age such as ours that seeks freedom, even with violence and unrest, the timeliness of this great teacher of spirituality and peace who gave his followers the “spirit of freedom”, the true spirit.

St Francis de Sales is an exemplary witness of Christian humanism; with his familiar style, with words which at times have a poetic touch, he reminds us that human beings have planted in their innermost depths the longing for God and that in him alone can they find true joy and the most complete fulfilment.

To special groups:

I am happy to greet the pilgrims from St Mary’s University College, Twickenham; I vividly recall their warm welcome during my recent Apostolic Visit to England. I also greet the group from St Norbert’s Catholic School in Denmark. To the choirs I express my gratitude for their praise of God in song. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from Ireland, Finland, Singapore and the United States, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.

Lastly I greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear young people, prepare yourselves to face the important stages of life with spiritual commitment, building all your projects on the sound foundations of fidelity to God. Dear sick people, may you be aware that you make a mysterious contribution to building God’s Kingdom, by offering your suffering to the heavenly Father, united with those of Christ. And you, dear newlyweds, may you seek every day to build your family by listening to God, in faithful reciprocal love and in the acceptance of those in the greatest need.

Paul VI Audience Hall

Wednesday, 9 March 2011 - Ash Wednesday

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this day, marked by the austere symbol of ashes, we enter the Season of Lent, beginning a spiritual journey that prepares us for celebrating worthily the Easter Mysteries. The blessed ashes imposed upon our forehead are a sign that reminds us of our condition as creatures, that invites us to repent, and to intensify our commitment to convert, to follow the Lord ever more closely.

Lent is a journey, it means accompanying Jesus who goes up to Jerusalem, the place of the fulfilment of his mystery of Passion, death and Resurrection; it reminds us that Christian life is a “way” to take, not so much consistent with a law to observe as with the very Person of Christ, to encounter, to welcome, to follow.

Indeed, Jesus says to us: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (
Lc 9,23). In other words he tells us that in order to attain, with him, the light and joy of the Resurrection, the victory of life, of love and of goodness, we too must take up our daily cross, as a beautiful passage from the Imitation of Christ urges us: “Take up your cross, therefore, and follow Jesus, and you shall enter eternal life. He himself opened the way before you in carrying his Cross (Jn 19,17), and upon it he died for you, that you too, might take up your cross and long to die upon it. If you die with him, you shall also live with him, and if you share his suffering, you shall also share his glory” (Book 2, chapter 12, n. 2).

In Holy Mass of the First Sunday of Lent we shall pray: “Father, through our observance of Lent, sign of the sacrament of our conversion, help us to understand the meaning of your Son’s death and Resurrection, and teach us to reflect it in our lives” (Opening Prayer).

This is an invocation that we address to God because we know that he alone can convert our hearts. And it is above all in the Liturgy, by participating in the holy mysteries, that we are led to make this journey with the Lord; it means learning at the school of Jesus, reviewing the events that brought salvation to us but not as a mere commemoration, a remembrance of past events. In the liturgical actions Christ makes himself present through the power of the Holy Spirit and these saving events become real.

There is a keyword that recurs frequently in the Liturgy to indicate this: the word “today”; and it should be understood in its original and practical, rather than metaphorical, sense. Today God reveals his law and we are granted to choose today between good and evil, between life and death (cf. Dt 30,19). Today “the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mc 1,15). Today Christ died on Calvary and rose from the dead; he ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father; today the Holy Spirit is given to us; today is a favourable time.

Taking part in the Liturgy thus means immersing our life in the mystery of Christ, in his enduring presence so as to follow a path on which we enter his death and Resurrection in order to have life. The Sundays of Lent, in this liturgical year of Cycle A in a quite particular way, introduce us to the experience of a baptismal journey, almost as if we were retracing the path of the catechumens, of those who are preparing to receive Baptism, in order to rekindle this gift within us and to ensure that our life may recover a sense of the demands and commitments of this sacrament which is at the root of our Christian life.

In the Message for this Lent I wished to recall the particular connection that binds Baptism to the Season of Lent. The Church has always associated the Easter Vigil with the celebration of Baptism, step by step. In it is brought about that great mystery through which man, dead to sin, is enabled to share in new life in the Risen Christ and receives the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead (cf. Rm 8,11).

The Readings we shall listen to on the coming Sundays and to which I ask you to pay special attention are taken up precisely by the ancient tradition which accompanied catechumens in the discovery of Baptism. These Readings are the great proclamation of what God brings about in this sacrament, a wonderful baptismal catechesis addressed to each one of us.

The First Sunday of Lent, known as the “Sunday of the Temptation” because it presents Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness, invites us to renew our definitive adherence to God and, in order to remain faithful to him, to face courageously the struggle that awaits us.

Over and over again we need determination, resistance to evil, we need to follow Jesus. On this Sunday, after hearing the testimony of the godparents and catechists, the Church celebrates the election of those who are admitted to the Easter sacraments.

The Second Sunday is called “of Abraham and of the Transfiguration”. Baptism is the sacrament of faith and of divine sonship; like Abraham, Father of believers, we too are asked to set out, to depart from our land, to give up the security we have created for ourselves in order to place our trust in God; the destination is glimpsed in the Transfiguration of Christ, the beloved Son, in whom we too become “sons of God”.

On the following Sundays, Baptism is presented in images of water, light and life. The Third Sunday makes us meet the Samaritan woman (cf Jn 4,5-42). Like Israel in the Exodus, in Baptism we too have received the water that saves; Jesus, as the Samaritan woman says, has living water that quenches all thirst; and this water is the Spirit himself. On this Sunday the Church celebrates the First Scrutiny of the catechumens and during the week presents to them the Creed: the profession of faith.

The Fourth Sunday makes us reflect on the experience of the “man blind from birth” (cf. Jn 9,1-41). In Baptism, we are set free from the shadow of evil and receive Christ’s light in order to live as children of light. We too must learn to see in Christ’s Face God’s presence, hence light. The Second Scrutiny on the catechumen’s journey is celebrated.

Lastly, the Fifth Sunday presents to us the raising of Lazarus (cf. Jn 11,1-45). In Baptism we passed from death to life and were enabled to please God, to make the former person die so as to live by the Spirit of the Risen One. The Third Scrutiny for the catechumens is celebrated and during the week the Lord’s Prayer is presented to them.

In the Church’s tradition, this journey we are asked to take in Lent is marked by certain practices: fasting, almsgiving and prayer. Fasting means abstinence from food but includes other forms of privation for a more modest life. However, all this is not yet the full reality of fasting: it is an outer sign of an inner reality, of our commitment, with God’s help, to abstain from evil and to live by the Gospel. Those who are unable to nourish themselves with the word of God do not fast properly.

In the Christian tradition fasting is closely linked to almsgiving. St Leo the Great taught in one of his Discourses on Lent: “All that each Christian is bound to do in every season he must now do with greater solicitude and devotion in order to fulfil the apostolic prescription of Lenten fasting consistently, not only in abstinence from food but also and above all from sin. Furthermore, with this holy fasting which is only right, no work may be more fruitfully associated than almsgiving which, under the one name of ‘mercy’, embraces many good works. The field of works of mercy is immense. It is not only the rich and the well-off who can benefit others with almsgiving, but also those of modest means and even the poor. Thus, although their futures differ, all may be the same in the soul’s sentiments of piety” (Sermon VI on Lent, 2: PL 54, 286).

St Gregory the Great recalled in his Pastoral Rule that fasting is sanctified by the virtues that go with it, especially by charity, by every act of generosity, giving to the poor and needy the equivalent of something we ourselves have given up (cf. 19, 10-11). Lent, moreover, is a privileged period for prayer. St Augustine said that fasting and almsgiving are “the two wings of prayer” which enable it to gain momentum and more easily reach even to God.

He said: “In this way our prayers, made in humility and charity, in fasting and almsgiving, in temperance and in the forgiveness of offences, giving good things and not returning those that are bad, keeping away from evil and doing good, seek peace and achieve it. On the wings of these virtues our prayers fly safely and are more easily carried to Heaven, where Christ our Peace has preceded us” (Sermon 206, 3 on Lent: PL 38, 1042).

The Church knows that because of our weakness it is difficult to create silence in order to come before God and to acquire an awareness of our condition as creatures who depend on him, as sinners in need of his love. It is for this reason that in Lent she asks us to pray more faithfully, more intensely, and to prolong our meditation on the word of God.

St John Chrysostom urged: “Embellish your house with modesty and humility with the practice of prayer. Make your dwelling place shine with the light of justice; adorn its walls with good works, like a lustre of pure gold, and replace walls and precious stones with faith and supernatural magnanimity, putting prayer above all other things, high up in the gables, to give the whole complex decorum.

“You will thus prepare a worthy dwelling place for the Lord, you will welcome him in a splendid palace. He will grant you to transform your soul into a temple of his presence” (Homily 6 on Prayer: ).

Dear friends, on this Lenten journey let us be careful to accept Christ’s invitation to follow him more decisively and consistently, renewing the grace and commitments of our Baptism, to cast off the former person within us and put on Christ, in order to arrive at Easter renewed and able to say, with St Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Ga 2,20). I wish you all a good Lenten journey! Thank you!

To special groups:

I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from Ireland, Japan, South Korea and the United States. I also greet the pilgrims from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. With prayerful good wishes for a spiritually fruitful Lent, I cordially invoke upon you and your families God’s Blessings of joy and peace!

Lastly, I extend my greeting to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. May the Lenten Season which we are beginning today lead each one to an ever more intimate knowledge of Christ, so that in the different situations in which you live you may have his same sentiments and do all things in communion with him.

St. Peter's Square

Wednesday, 23 March 2011 - Saint Lawrence of Brindisi

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I still remember with joy the festive welcome I was given in Brindisi in 2008. It was in this city that in 1559 was born a distinguished Doctor of the Church, St Lawrence of Brindisi, the name that Julius Caesar Russo took upon entering the Capuchin Order.

He had been attracted since childhood by the family of St Francis of Assisi. In fact, his father died when he was seven years old and his mother entrusted him to the care of the Friars Minor Conventual in his hometown. A few years later, however, Lawrence and his mother moved to Venice and it was precisely there that he became acquainted with the Capuchins who in that period were generously dedicated to serving the whole Church in order to further the important spiritual reform promoted by the Council of Trent.

With his religious profession in 1575, Lawrence became a Capuchin friar and in 1582 he was ordained a priest. During his ecclesiastical studies for the priesthood he already showed the eminent intellectual qualities with which he had been endowed. He learned with ease the ancient languages, such as Greek, Hebrew and Syriac, as well as modern languages, such as French and German. He added these to his knowledge of Italian and of Latin that was once spoken fluently by all clerics and by all cultured people.

Thanks to his mastery of so many languages, Lawrence was able to carry out a busy apostolate among the different categories of people. As an effective preacher, his knowledge, not only of the Bible but also of the rabbinic literature was so profound that even the Rabbis, impressed and full of admiration, treated him with esteem and respect.

As a theologian steeped in Sacred Scripture and in the Fathers of the Church, he was also able to illustrate Catholic doctrine in an exemplary manner to Christians who, especially in Germany, had adhered to the Reformation. With his calm, clear exposition he demonstrated the biblical and patristic foundation of all the articles of faith disputed by Martin Luther. These included the primacy of St Peter and of his Successors, the divine origin of the Episcopate, justification as an inner transformation of man, and the need to do good works for salvation.

Lawrence’s success helps us to realize that today too, in pursuing ecumenical dialogue with such great hope, the reference to Sacred Scripture, interpreted in accordance with the Tradition of the Church, is an indispensable element of fundamental importance. I wished to recall this in my Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini (n. 46)

Even the simplest members of the faithful, those not endowed with great culture, benefited from the convincing words of Lawrence, who addressed humble people to remind them all to make their lives consistent with the faith they professed.

This was a great merit of the Capuchins and of other religious Orders which, in the 16th and 17th centuries, contributed to the renewal of Christian life, penetrating the depths of society with their witness of life and their teaching. Today too, the new evangelization stands in need of well-trained apostles, zealous and courageous, so that the light and beauty of the Gospel may prevail over the cultural tendencies of ethical relativism and religious indifference and transform the various ways of thinking and acting into genuine Christian humanism.

It is surprising that St Lawrence of Brindisi was able to continue without interruption his work as an appreciated and unflagging preacher in many cities of Italy and in different countries, in spite of holding other burdensome offices of great responsibility.

Indeed, within the Order of Capuchins he was professor of theology, novice master, for several mandates minister provincial and definitor general, and finally, from 1602 to 1605, minister general.

In the midst of this mountain of work, Lawrence cultivated an exceptionally fervent spiritual life. He devoted much time to prayer and, especially, to the celebration of Holy Mass — often protracted for hours — caught up in and moved by the memorial of the Passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord.

At the school of the saints, every priest, as was emphasized frequently during the recent Year for Priests, may only avoid the danger of activism — acting, that is, without remembering the profound motives of his ministry — if he attends to his own inner life.

In speaking to priests and seminarians in the Cathedral of Brindisi, St Lawrence’s birthplace, I recalled that “the time he spends in prayer is the most important time in a priest's life, in which divine grace acts with greater effectiveness, making his ministry fruitful. The first service to render to the community is prayer. And, therefore, time for prayer must be given true priority in our life... if we are not interiorly in communion with God we cannot even give anything to others. Therefore, God is the first priority. We must always reserve the time necessary to be in communion of prayer with Our Lord” (Address of Benedict XVI to priests, deacons and seminarians of the Archdiocese of Brindisi, Cathedral of Brindisi, 15 June 2008).

Moreover, with the unmistakable ardour of his style, Lawrence urged everyone, and not only priests, to cultivate a life of prayer, for it is through prayer that we speak to God and that God speaks to us: “Oh, if we were to consider this reality!”, he exclaimed. “In other words that God is truly present to us when we speak to him in prayer; that he truly listens to our prayers, even if we pray only with our hearts and minds. And that not only is he present and hears us, indeed he willingly and with the greatest of pleasure wishes to grant our requests”.

Another trait that characterizes the opus of this son of St Frances is his action for peace. Time and again both Supreme Pontiffs and Catholic Princes entrusted him with important diplomatic missions, to settle controversies and to encourage harmony among the European States, threatened in those days by the Ottoman Empire.

The moral authority he enjoyed made him a counsellor both sought after and listened to. Today, as in the times of St Lawrence, the world is in great need of peace, it needs peaceful and peacemaking men and women. All who believe in God must always be sources and artisans of peace.

It was precisely on the occasion of one of these diplomatic missions that Lawrence's earthly life ended, in 1619 in Lisbon, where he had gone to see King Philip iii of Spain, to plead the cause of the Neapolitan subjects oppressed by the local authorities.

He was canonized in 1881, and his vigorous and intense activity, his vast and harmonious knowledge, earned him the title of Doctor Apostolicus, “Apostolic Doctor”. The title was conferred on him by Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1959, on the occasion of the fourth centenary of his birth. This recognition was also granted to Lawrence of Brindisi because he was the author of numerous works of biblical exegesis, theology and sermons. In them he offers an organic presentation of the history of salvation, centred on the mystery of the Incarnation, the greatest expression of divine love for humankind.

Furthermore, since he was a highly qualified Mariologist, the author of a collection of sermons on Our Lady entitled “Mariale”, he highlighted the unique role of the Virgin Mary, whose Immaculate Conception and whose role in the redemption brought about by Christ he clearly affirms.

With a fine theological sensitivity, Lawrence of Brindisi also pointed out the Holy Spirit’s action in the believer’s life. He reminds us that the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity illumines and assists us with his gifts in our commitment to live joyously the Gospel message.

“The Holy Spirit”, St Lawrence wrote, “sweetens the yoke of the divine law and lightens its weight, so that we may observe God’s commandments with the greatest of ease and even with pleasure”.

I would like to complete this brief presentation of the life and doctrine of St Lawrence of Brindisi by underlining that the whole of his activity was inspired by great love for Sacred Scripture, which he knew thoroughly and by heart, and by the conviction that listening to and the reception of the word of God produces an inner transformation that leads us to holiness.

“The word of the Lord”, he said, “is a light for the mind and a fire for the will, so that man may know and love God. For the inner man, who lives through the living grace of God’s Spirit, it is bread and water, but bread sweeter than honey and water better than wine or milk.... It is a weapon against a heart stubbornly entrenched in vice. It is a sword against the flesh, the world and the devil, to destroy every sin”.

St Lawrence of Brindisi teaches us to love Sacred Scripture, to increase in familiarity with it, to cultivate daily relations of friendship with the Lord in prayer, so that our every action, our every activity, may have its beginning and its fulfilment in him. This is the source from which to draw so that our Christian witness may be luminous and able to lead the people of our time to God.

To special groups:

I am pleased to greet the members of the Catenian Association from England, the students of the combined Choir of St Anne and St Ib Schools, and the many university students present here today. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially the pilgrims from England, Ireland, Denmark, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States, I invoke God’s abundant Blessings.

I also extend an affectionate greeting to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear friends, the Lenten Season is a favourable opportunity to express in daily life, in accordance with the different situations in which each person lives, the same sentiments of the Saviour who gave his life for us on the Cross, finding comfort and support in his sacrifice, offered for the salvation of the whole of humanity.

St. Peter's Square

Wednesday, 30 March 2011 - Saint Alphonsus Liguori

Audiences 2005-2013 23021