Benedict XVI Homilies 14059

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“May the peace of the Risen Christ reign in your hearts, for as members of the one body you have been called to that peace!” (
Col 3,15). With these words of the Apostle Paul, I greet all of you with affection in the Lord. I rejoice to have come to Nazareth, the place blessed by the mystery of the Annunciation, the place which witnessed the hidden years of Christ’s growth in wisdom, age and grace (cf. Lc 2,52). I thank Archbishop Elias Chacour for his kind words of welcome, and I embrace with the sign of peace my brother Bishops, the priests and religious, and all the faithful of Galilee, who, in the diversity of their rites and traditions, give expression to the universality of Christ’s Church. In a special way I wish to thank all those who have helped to make this celebration possible, particularly those involved in the planning and construction of this new theatre with its splendid panorama of the city.

Here in the home town of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we have gathered to mark the conclusion of the Year of the Family celebrated by the Church in the Holy Land. As a sign of hope for the future I will bless the first stone of an International Center for the Family to be built in Nazareth. Let us pray that the Center will promote strong family life in this region, offer support and assistance to families everywhere, and encourage them in their irreplaceable mission to society.

This stage of my pilgrimage, I am confident, will draw the whole Church’s attention to this town of Nazareth. All of us need, as Pope Paul VI said here, to return to Nazareth, to contemplate ever anew the silence and love of the Holy Family, the model of all Christian family life. Here, in the example of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, we come to appreciate even more fully the sacredness of the family, which in God’s plan is based on the lifelong fidelity of a man and a woman consecrated by the marriage covenant and accepting of God’s gift of new life. How much the men and women of our time need to reappropriate this fundamental truth, which stands at the foundation of society, and how important is the witness of married couples for the formation of sound consciences and the building of a civilization of love!

In today’s first reading, drawn from the book of Sirach (Si 3,3-7 Si 3,14-17), the word of God presents the family as the first school of wisdom, a school which trains its members in the practice of those virtues which make for authentic happiness and lasting fulfilment. In God’s plan for the family, the love of husband and wife bears fruit in new life, and finds daily expression in the loving efforts of parents to ensure an integral human and spiritual formation for their children. In the family each person, whether the smallest child or the oldest relative, is valued for himself or herself, and not seen simply as a means to some other end. Here we begin to glimpse something of the essential role of the family as the first building-block of a well-ordered and welcoming society. We also come to appreciate, within the wider community, the duty of the State to support families in their mission of education, to protect the institution of the family and its inherent rights, and to ensure that all families can live and flourish in conditions of dignity.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Colossians, speaks instinctively of the family when he wishes to illustrate the virtues which build up the “one body” which is the Church. As “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved”, we are called to live in harmony and peace with one another, showing above all forbearance and forgiveness, with love as the highest bond of perfection (cf. Col 3,12-14). Just as in the marriage covenant, the love of man and woman is raised by grace to become a sharing in, and an expression of, the love of Christ and the Church (cf. Ep 5,32), so too the family, grounded in that love, is called to be a “domestic church”, a place of faith, of prayer and of loving concern for the true and enduring good of each of its members.

As we reflect on these realities here, in the town of the Annunciation, our thoughts naturally turn to Mary, “full of grace”, the mother of the Holy Family and our Mother. Nazareth reminds us of our need to acknowledge and respect the God-given dignity and proper role of women, as well as their particular charisms and talents. Whether as mothers in families, as a vital presence in the work force and the institutions of society, or in the particular vocation of following our Lord by the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, women have an indispensable role in creating that “human ecology” (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 39) which our world, and this land, so urgently needs: a milieu in which children learn to love and to cherish others, to be honest and respectful to all, to practice the virtues of mercy and forgiveness.

Here too, we think of Saint Joseph, the just man whom God wished to place over his household. From Joseph’s strong and fatherly example Jesus learned the virtues of a manly piety, fidelity to one’s word, integrity and hard work. In the carpenter of Nazareth he saw how authority placed at the service of love is infinitely more fruitful than the power which seeks to dominate. How much our world needs the example, guidance and quiet strength of men like Joseph!

Finally, in contemplating the Holy Family of Nazareth, we turn to the child Jesus, who in the home of Mary and Joseph grew in wisdom and understanding, until the day he began his public ministry. Here I would simply like to leave a particular thought with the young people here. The Second Vatican Council teaches that children have a special role to play in the growth of their parents in holiness (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 48). I urge you to reflect on this, and to let the example of Jesus guide you, not only in showing respect for your parents, but also helping them to discover more fully the love which gives our lives their deepest meaning. In the Holy Family of Nazareth, it was Jesus who taught Mary and Joseph something of the greatness of the love of God his heavenly Father, the ultimate source of all love, the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name (cf. Ep 3,14-15).

Dear friends, in the Opening Prayer of today’s Mass we asked the Father to “help us to live as the Holy Family, united in respect and love”. Let us reaffirm here our commitment to be a leaven of respect and love in the world around us. This Mount of the Precipice reminds us, as it has generations of pilgrims, that our Lord’s message was at times a source of contradiction and conflict with his hearers. Sadly, as the world knows, Nazareth has experienced tensions in recent years which have harmed relations between its Christian and Muslim communities. I urge people of good will in both communities to repair the damage that has been done, and in fidelity to our common belief in one God, the Father of the human family, to work to build bridges and find the way to a peaceful coexistence. Let everyone reject the destructive power of hatred and prejudice, which kills men’s souls before it kills their bodies!

Allow me to conclude with a word of gratitude and praise for all those who strive to bring God’s love to the children of this town, and to educate new generations in the ways of peace. I think in a special way of the local Churches, particularly in their schools and charitable institutions, to break down walls and to be a seedbed of encounter, dialogue, reconciliation and solidarity. I encourage the dedicated priests, religious, catechists and teachers, together with parents and all concerned for the good of our children, to persevere in bearing witness to the Gospel, to be confident in the triumph of goodness and truth, and to trust that God will give growth to every initiative which aims at the extension of his Kingdom of holiness, solidarity, justice and peace. At the same time I acknowledge with gratitude the solidarity which so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world show towards the faithful of the Holy Land by supporting the praiseworthy programs and activities of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

“Let it be done to me according to your word” (Lc 1,38). May our Lady of the Annunciation, who courageously opened her heart to God’s mysterious plan, and became the Mother of all believers, guide and sustain us by her prayers. May she obtain for us and our families the grace to open our ears to that word of the Lord which has the power to build us up (cf. Ac 20,32), to inspire courageous decisions, and to guide our feet into the path of peace!


Upper Basilica of the Annunciation - Nazareth - Thursday, 14 May 2009


Brother Bishops,
Father Custos,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is profoundly moving for me to be present with you today in the very place where the Word of God was made flesh and came to dwell among us. How fitting that we should gather here to sing the Evening Prayer of the Church, giving praise and thanks to God for the marvels he has done for us! I thank Archbishop Sayah for his words of welcome and through him I greet all the members of the Maronite community here in the Holy Land. I greet the priests, religious, members of ecclesial movements and pastoral workers from all over Galilee. Once again I pay tribute to the care shown by the Friars of the Custody, over many centuries, in maintaining holy places such as this. I greet the Latin Patriarch Emeritus, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, who for more than twenty years presided over his flock in these lands. I greet the faithful of the Latin Patriarchate and their current Patriarch, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, as well as the members of the Greek-Melkite community, represented here by Archbishop Elias Chacour. And in this place where Jesus himself grew to maturity and learned the Hebrew tongue, I greet the Hebrew-speaking Christians, a reminder to us of the Jewish roots of our faith.

What happened here in Nazareth, far from the gaze of the world, was a singular act of God, a powerful intervention in history, through which a child was conceived who was to bring salvation to the whole world. The wonder of the Incarnation continues to challenge us to open up our understanding to the limitless possibilities of God’s transforming power, of his love for us, his desire to be united with us. Here the eternally begotten Son of God became man, and so made it possible for us, his brothers and sisters, to share in his divine sonship. That downward movement of self-emptying love made possible the upward movement of exaltation in which we too are raised to share in the life of God himself (cf.
Ph 2,6-11).

The Spirit who “came upon Mary” (cf. Lc 1,35) is the same Spirit who hovered over the waters at the dawn of Creation (cf. Gn 1,2). We are reminded that the Incarnation was a new creative act. When our Lord Jesus Christ was conceived in Mary’s virginal womb through the power of the Holy Spirit, God united himself with our created humanity, entering into a permanent new relationship with us and ushering in a new Creation. The narrative of the Annunciation illustrates God’s extraordinary courtesy (cf. Mother Julian of Norwich, Revelations 77-79). He does not impose himself, he does not simply pre-determine the part that Mary will play in his plan for our salvation: he first seeks her consent. In the original Creation there was clearly no question of God seeking the consent of his creatures, but in this new Creation he does so. Mary stands in the place of all humanity. She speaks for us all when she responds to the angel’s invitation. Saint Bernard describes how the whole court of heaven was waiting with eager anticipation for her word of consent that consummated the nuptial union between God and humanity. The attention of all the choirs of angels was riveted on this spot, where a dialogue took place that would launch a new and definitive chapter in world history. Mary said, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” And the Word of God became flesh.

When we reflect on this joyful mystery, it gives us hope, the sure hope that God will continue to reach into our history, to act with creative power so as to achieve goals which by human reckoning seem impossible. It challenges us to open ourselves to the transforming action of the Creator Spirit who makes us new, makes us one with him, and fills us with his life. It invites us, with exquisite courtesy, to consent to his dwelling within us, to welcome the Word of God into our hearts, enabling us to respond to him in love and to reach out in love towards one another.

In the State of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Christians form a minority of the population. Perhaps at times you feel that your voice counts for little. Many of your fellow Christians have emigrated, in the hope of finding greater security and better prospects elsewhere. Your situation calls to mind that of the young virgin Mary, who led a hidden life in Nazareth, with little by way of worldly wealth or influence. Yet to quote Mary’s words in her great hymn of praise, the Magnificat, God has looked upon his servant in her lowliness, he has filled the hungry with good things. Draw strength from Mary’s canticle, which very soon we will be singing in union with the whole Church throughout the world! Have the confidence to be faithful to Christ and to remain here in the land that he sanctified with his own presence! Like Mary, you have a part to play in God’s plan for salvation, by bringing Christ forth into the world, by bearing witness to him and spreading his message of peace and unity. For this, it is essential that you should be united among yourselves, so that the Church in the Holy Land can be clearly recognized as “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium LG 1). Your unity in faith, hope and love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit dwelling within you, enabling you to be effective instruments of God’s peace, helping to build genuine reconciliation between the different peoples who recognize Abraham as their father in faith. For, as Mary joyfully proclaimed in her Magnificat, God is ever “mindful of his mercy, the mercy promised to our forefathers, to Abraham and his children for ever” (Lc 1,54-55).

Dear friends in Christ, be assured that I constantly remember you in my prayer, and I ask you to do the same for me. Let us turn now towards our heavenly Father, who in this place looked upon his servant in her lowliness, and let us sing his praises in union with the Blessed Virgin Mary, with all the choirs of angels and saints, and with the whole Church in every part of the world.


Cassino, Piazza Miranda, Sunday, 24 May 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (
Ac 1,8). With these words, Jesus took his leave of the Apostles, as we heard in the First Reading. Immediately afterwards the sacred Author adds that "as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight" (Ac 1,9). This is the mystery of the Ascension that we are celebrating today. But what do the Bible and the Liturgy wish to tell us by saying that Jesus "was lifted up"? We cannot understand the meaning of these words from a single text or from a single book of the New Testament but rather by listening attentively to the whole of Sacred Scripture. In fact the verb "to lift up" was originally used in the Old Testament and refers to royal enthronement. Thus Christ's Ascension means in the first place the enthronement of the Crucified and Risen Son of Man, the manifestation of God's kingship over the world.

However, there is an even deeper meaning that is not immediately perceptible. In the passage from the Acts of the Apostles it is said first that Jesus was "lifted up" (Ac 1,9) and then it says "taken up" (Ac 1,11). The event is not described as a journey to on high but rather as an action of the power of God who introduces Jesus into the space of closeness to the Divine. The presence of the cloud that "took him out of their sight" (Ac 1,9), recalls a very ancient image of Old Testament theology and integrates the account of the Ascension into the history of God with Israel, from the cloud of Sinai and above the tent of the Covenant in the desert, to the luminous cloud on the mountain of the Transfiguration.
To present the Lord wrapped in clouds calls to mind once and for all the same mystery expressed in the symbolism of the phrase, "seated at the right hand of God". In Christ ascended into Heaven, the human being has entered into intimacy with God in a new and unheard-of way; man henceforth finds room in God for ever. "Heaven": this word Heaven does not indicate a place above the stars but something far more daring and sublime: it indicates Christ himself, the divine Person who welcomes humanity fully and for ever, the One in whom God and man are inseparably united for ever. Man's being in God, this is Heaven. And we draw close to Heaven, indeed, we enter Heaven to the extent that we draw close to Jesus and enter into communion with him. For this reason today's Solemnity of the Ascension invites us to be in profound communion with the dead and Risen Jesus, invisibly present in the life of each one of us.

In this perspective we understand why the Evangelist Luke says that after the Ascension the disciples returned to Jerusalem "with great joy" (Lc 24,52). Their joy stems from the fact that what had happened was not really a separation, the Lord's permanent absence: on the contrary, they were then certain that the Crucified-Risen One was alive and that in him God's gates, the gates of eternal life, had been opened to humanity for ever. In other words, his Ascension did not imply a temporary absence from the world but rather inaugurated the new, definitive and insuppressible form of his presence by virtue of his participation in the royal power of God. It was to be up to them, the disciples emboldened by the power of the Holy Spirit, to make his presence visible by their witness, preaching and missionary zeal. The Solemnity of the Lord's Ascension must also fill us with serenity and enthusiasm, just as it did the Apostles who set out again from the Mount of Olives "with great joy". Like them, we too, accepting the invitation of the "two men in dazzling apparel", must not stay gazing up at the sky, but, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit must go everywhere and proclaim the saving message of Christ's death and Resurrection. His very words, with which the Gospel according to St Matthew ends, accompany and comfort us: "and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,19).

Dear brothers and sisters, the historical character of the mystery of Christ's Resurrection and Ascension helps us to recognize and understand the transcendent condition of the Church which was not born and does not live to compensate for the absence of her Lord who has "disappeared" but on the contrary finds the reason for her existence and mission in the invisible presence of Jesus, a presence working through the power of his Spirit. In other words, we might say that the Church does not carry out the role of preparing for the return of an "absent" Jesus, but, on the contrary, lives and works to proclaim his "glorious presence" in a historical and existential way. Since the day of the Ascension, every Christian community has advanced on its earthly pilgrimage toward the fulfilment of the messianic promises, fed by the word of God and nourished by the Body and Blood of her Lord. This is the condition of the Church, the Second Vatican Council recalls, as she " "presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God', announcing the Cross and death of the Lord until he comes" (Lumen Gentium LG 8).

Brothers and sisters of this beloved diocesan community, today's Solemnity urges us to consolidate our faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in history: without him we can do nothing effective in our life or our apostolate. It is he, as the Apostle Paul recalls in the Second Reading, whose "gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ", that is, the Church. And this is in order that we "attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God" (Ep 4,11-13), since the common vocation of one and all is to form "one body and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call" (Ep 4,41). My Visit today fits into this perspective. As your Pastor noted, its purpose is to encourage you "to build, found and rebuild" your diocesan community ceaselessly on Christ. How? St Benedict himself points out the way to us in his Rule when he recommends that we prefer nothing to Christ: "Christo nihil omnino praeponere" (RB 42,11).

I therefore thank God for the good that your community is doing under the guidance of Fr Abbot Dom Pietro Vittorelli, its Pastor, whom I greet with affection and thank for his courteous words to me on behalf of all. With him I greet the monastic community, the Bishops, priests and men and women religious present. I greet the civil and military Authorities and in the first place the Mayor to whom I am grateful for the welcome address with which he greeted me on my arrival in this Piazza Miranda, which from this day on will be called after me, although I do not deserve it. I greet the catechists, the pastoral workers, the young people and all those who in various ways see to spreading the Gospel in this region, laden with history, which experienced periods of great suffering during the Second World War. Silent witnesses of it are the numerous cemeteries that surround your rebuilt town: among them I remember in particular those of Poland, Germany and the Commonwealth. I extend my greeting, lastly, to all the inhabitants of Cassino and of the neighbouring towns: I reach out to each one, and especially to the sick and the suffering, with the assurance of my affection and my prayers.

Dear brothers and sisters, at this celebration we hear resonating St Benedict's appeal to keep our hearts fixed on Christ, to prefer nothing to him. This does not distract us, on the contrary it is an even greater incentive to build a society in which solidarity may be expressed by concrete signs. But how? Benedictine spirituality, well known to you, proposes an evangelical programme that is summed up in the motto: ora et labora et lege prayer, work and culture. First of all is prayer which is the most beautiful legacy that St Benedict bequeathed to the monks, but also to your particular Church: to your clergy, the majority of whom were trained at the Diocesan Seminary, for centuries housed in this same Abbey of Monte Cassino, to the seminarians, to the many people educated at the Benedictine schools and "recreation" centres and in your parishes, to all of you who live in this region. In lifting your gaze from every village and part of the diocese you can admire the Monastery of Monte Cassino, that constant reminder of Heaven, to which you climb every year in procession on the eve of Pentecost. Prayer, to which with its sonorous tolling the bell of St Benedict summons the monks every morning, is the silent path that leads us straight to God's Heart; it is the breath of the soul that restores peace to us in the storm of life. Furthermore, at the school of St Benedict, the monks have always cultivated a special love for the word of God in lectio divina, which today has become the common patrimony of many. I know that your diocesan Church, in adopting the guidelines of the Italian Bishops' Conference, takes great pains to acquire a deeper knowledge of the Bible and indeed has inaugurated a programme for the study of the Sacred Scriptures, this year dedicated to the Evangelist Mark, which will continue over the next four years and conclude, please God, with a diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land. May attentive listening to the divine word nourish your prayers and make you prophets of truth and love in a unanimous commitment to evangelization and human advancement.

Another pivot of Benedictine spirituality is work. Humanizing the working world is characteristic of the soul of monasticism and this is also an endeavour of your community that seeks to be beside the numerous workers in the large industry present at Cassino and in the businesses connected with it.
I know how critical the situation of many of the workers is. I express my solidarity to all those who are living in a worrying and precarious plight, to workers on redundancy pay or who have actually been discharged. May the wound of unemployment that afflicts this territory induce the public authorities, entrepreneurs and all who have means to seek, with the help of all, effective solutions to the employment crisis, creating employment in order to safeguard families. In this regard how can we forget that the family urgently needs better protection because this institution is dangerously threatened at its very roots? Then I am thinking of the young people who have difficulty in finding dignified work that will enable them to build a family. I would like to say to them: do not feel discouraged, dear friends, the Church does not abandon you! I know that at least 25 young people of your Diocese took part in the last World Youth Day in Sydney. In treasuring that extraordinary spiritual experience, may you be Gospel leaven among your friends and peers; with the power of the Holy Spirit, be new missionaries in this land of St Benedict!

Lastly, attention to the world of culture and education is part of your tradition. The famous Archives and Library of Monte Cassino contain innumerable testimonies of the commitment of men and women who meditated upon and sought ways to improve the spiritual and material life of human beings. In your Abbey the "quaerere Deum" is tangible, that is, it is possible to feel that European culture has consisted in the search for God and the readiness to listen to him and this also applies in our day. I know that you work with this same spirit in universities and schools so that they may become workshops of knowledge, research and enthusiasm for the future of the generations to come. I also know that in preparation for this Visit, you recently held a congress on the theme of education, to inspire in everyone a keen determination to pass on to the young the indispensable values of our human and Christian heritage. In today's cultural effort which aspires to creating a new humanism, faithful to the Benedictine tradition, you rightly intend also to pay attention to the frail or the weak, to the disabled and to immigrants. and I am grateful to you that you are giving me the opportunity to inaugurate on this very day the "House of Charity" at which a culture attentive to life is being built with deeds.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is not hard to see that your community, this portion of the Church which lives round Monte Cassino, is the heir and depositary of the mission steeped in St Benedict's spirit to proclaim that in our life no one and nothing must take priority over Jesus; the mission to construct, in Christ's name, a new humanity under the banner of acceptance and assistance to the weakest. May your holy Patriarch help you and accompany you together with St Scholastica, his sister; and may the holy Patrons and especially Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of our Hope protect you. Amen!


Benedictine Archabbey of Monte Cassino, Sunday, 24 May 2009


Dear Brothers and Sisters of the great Benedictine Family,

At the end of my Visit today I am particularly glad to pause in this sacred place, in this Abbey, four times destroyed and rebuilt for the last time after the bombing of the Second World War 65 years ago. "Succisa virescit": the words of the new coat of arms clearly convey its history. Monte Cassino, like the age-old oak planted by St Benedict, "stripped of its leaves" by the violence of the war, sprang up even more vigorously than before. More than once I have been able to enjoy the hospitality of the monks and have spent unforgettable moments of stillness and prayer in this Abbey. This evening we entered singing the Laudes regiae in order to celebrate Vespers together on the Solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus. I express to each one of you the joy of sharing this moment of prayer, as I greet you all with affection, grateful to you for your welcome and to all who have accompanied me on this Apostolic Pilgrimage. I greet in particular Dom Pietro Vittorelli, the Abbot, who has expressed your common sentiments. I extend my greeting to the Abbots, the Abbesses and the Benedictine communities who are present here.

The liturgy today invites us to contemplate the mystery of the Lord's Ascension. In the short Reading from the First Letter of Peter, we were urged to fix our gaze on our Redeemer who died "for sins once for all", that he might bring us back to God; he "has gone into Heaven" and is at the right hand of God "with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him" (cf.
1P 3,18). "Carried up into Heaven" and made invisible to the eyes of his disciples, Jesus nevertheless did not abandon them. Indeed, "put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit (1P 3,18), he is now present in a new way, within believers, and in him salvation is offered to every human being independently of his race, language or culture. The First Letter of Peter contains precise references to fundamental Christological events of the Christian faith. The Apostle is concerned to shed light on the universal significance of salvation in Christ. We find a similar incentive in St Paul, the 2,000th anniversary of whose birth we are celebrating and who wrote to the community at Corinth: "He (Christ) died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised" (2Co 5,15).

To live no longer for ourselves but for Christ: this is what gives full meaning to the life of those who let themselves be conquered by him. This is clearly demonstrated by the human and spiritual life of St Benedict who, having abandoned all things, set out to follow Jesus Christ faithfully. Embodying the Gospel in his life, he became the pioneer of a vast movement of spiritual and cultural rebirth in the West. I would like here to mention an extraordinary event in his life related by St Gregory the Great, his biographer, and which is certainly well known to you. One might almost say that the holy Patriarch was also "carried up into Heaven" in an indescribable mystic experience. On the night of 29 October 540, we read in the biography, while leaning out of the window, "his eyes fixed on the stars and wrapt in divine contemplation, the Saint felt that his heart was burning... for him the starry firmament was like the embroidered curtain that veiled the Holy of Holies. At a certain point, his soul felt transported to the other side of the veil, to contemplate unveiled the Face of the One who dwells in inaccessible brightness" (cf. A.I. Schuster, Storia di san Benedetto e dei suoi tempi, Ed. Abbazia di Viboldone, Milan, 1965, p. 11 and ff.). Of course, similarly to what happened for Paul after he had been taken up into Heaven, for St Benedict too subsequent to this extraordinary spiritual experience, a new life had to begin. Indeed, although the vision was but fleeting the effects endured, his features themselves, the biographers say, were altered by it, his expression always remained serene and his behaviour angelic and although he lived on earth it was obvious that his heart was already in Paradise.

St Benedict did not of course receive this divine gift to satisfy his intellectual curiosity, but rather so that the charism with which God had endowed him might enable him to reproduce in the monastery the very life of Heaven ven and to re-establish the harmony of creation through contemplation and work. Rightly, therefore, the Church venerates him as an "eminent teacher of monastic life" and a "doctor of spiritual wisdom in his love of prayer and work"; a luminous "guide of the peoples to the light of the Gospel" who, "lifted up to Heaven on a shining path", teaches men and women of all the epochs to seek God and the eternal riches prepared by him (cf. Preface of the Saint in the monastic supplement to MR, 1980, 153).

Yes, Benedict was a shining example of holiness and pointed Christ out to the monks as the one great ideal; he was a teacher of civilization who, in suggesting a balanced and adequate vision of the divine requirements and ultimate destiny of the human being, always also kept clearly in mind the needs and reasons of the heart, to teach and inspire authentic and constant brotherhood so that in the complex social relations people would not lose sight of a spiritual unity that would always be capable of building and fostering peace. It is not by chance that the word PAX is used to greet pilgrims and visitors at the entrance of this Abbey, rebuilt after the dreadful disaster of the Second World War; it rises like a silent warning to reject every form of violence in order to build peace: in families, in communities, among peoples and throughout humanity. St Benedict invites every person who climbs this hill to seek peace and to follow him: "inquire pacem et sequere eam (Ps 33,14-15)" (Rule, Prologue, RB 17).

At his school monasteries down the centuries became fervent centres of dialogue, encounter and a beneficial blending of different peoples, unified by the evangelical culture of peace. Monks have been able to teach the art of peace by word and example, putting into practice the three "bonds" that Benedict mentions as necessary to preserve the unity of the Spirit among human beings: the Cross, that is the very law of Christ; the book, or in other words culture; and the plough that implies work, the domination of matter and of time. Thanks to the activity of monasteries that is structured in accordance with the threefold daily commitment of prayer, study and work, entire peoples on the European continent have experienced authentic redemption and a beneficial moral, spiritual and cultural development, learning the meaning of continuity with the past, practical action for the common good, openness to God and the transcendent dimension. Let us pray that Europe may always be able to make the most of this patrimony of Christian principles and ideals that constitutes an immense cultural and spiritual wealth.

This is possible but only if one accepts the constant teaching of St Benedict, that is the "quaerere Deum", the quest for God, as man's fundamental commitment. Human beings cannot completely fulfil themselves, they cannot be truly happy without God. It is your task in particular, dear monks, to be living examples of this inner and profound relationship with him, implementing without compromise the programme that your Founder summed up in the "nihil amori Christi praeponere", "prefer nothing to the love of Christ" (Rule RB 4,21). Holiness consists of this, a valid proposal for every Christian, especially in our time, in which people feel the need to anchor life and history to sound spiritual references. For this reason, dear brothers and sisters, your vocation is more up to date than ever and your mission as monks and nuns is indispensable.

From this place, where his mortal remains rest, the holy Patron of Europe continues to invite everyone to pursue his work of evangelization and human promotion. In the first place he encourages you, dear monks, to stay faithful to the spirit of your origins and to be authentic interpreters of his programme of spiritual and social rebirth. May the Lord grant you this gift through the intercession of your Holy Founder, of St Scholastica, his sister, and of the Order's Saints. And may the heavenly Mother of the Lord, whom we invoke today as "Help of Christians," watch over you and protect this Abbey and all your monasteries as well as the diocesan community that has grown up around Monte Cassino. Amen!

Benedict XVI Homilies 14059