Pope Benedict XVI: October 2012 Archives

Credo

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Here is the Holy Father's first Catechesis of the Year of Faith, given at this morning's General Audience. It seems to me that during the Year of Faith, the Credo ought to be the object of systematic catechetical preaching every Sunday. I further thing that the Credo ought to be sung at every Sunday Mass during the Year of Faith, this being far better than any artificially contrived "theme song" for the Year of Faith. The headings below are my own.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Year of Faith

Today I will introduce the new cycle of catechesis, which will be developed throughout the Year of Faith that has just started and interrupt - for this period - the cycle dedicated to the school of prayer. With the Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei I chose this special year, so that the Church would renew its enthusiasm to believe in Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of the world, revive the joy of walking on the path that He has shown us, and witnesses in a concrete way the transforming power of the faith.

Encounter With Christ

The fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council is an important occasion to return to God, to deepen and live with greater courage one's own faith, to strengthen membership of the Church, "the teacher of humanity," which, through the proclamation of the Word, the celebration of the Sacraments and the work of charity leads us to encounter and know Christ, true God and true man. This is not an encounter with an idea or a life plan, but a living Person who deeply transforms us, revealing to us our true identity as children of God. Our encounter with Christ renews our human relationships, guiding them, day by day, to greater solidarity and fraternity, in the logic of love. Having faith in the Lord is not something that affects only our intelligence, the area of ​​intellectual knowledge, but it is a change that involves life, all of our being: feelings, heart, intellect, will, body, emotions, human relationships. With faith everything really changes everything in us and for us, and our future destiny is clearly revealed, the truth of our vocation in history, the meaning of life, the joy of being a pilgrim towards the heavenly Kingdom.

The New Barbarism Unmasked

But - we ask- is faith truly the transforming power in our lives? Or is it just one of the elements that that is part of our life, without being the determining one that completely involves it? With the catechesis of this Year of Faith we would like to go on a journey to strengthen the joy of faith, understanding that it is not something alien, disconnected from real life, but it is its very soul. Faith in a God who is love, and who came close to man, taking on his flesh and giving Himself on the cross to save us and open the gates of heaven to us once more, brightly indicates that the fullness of man is found only in love. Today we need to clearly repeat this, while the cultural transformations taking place often show many forms of barbarism, which pass under the sign of "conquests of civilization": faith affirms that there is no true humanity except in places, gestures, in the times and manner in which man is motivated by the love that comes from God, it is expressed as a gift, it is manifest in relationships full of love, compassion, care and selfless service to the other. Where there is domination, possession, exploitation, commodification of the other for pure selfishness, where there is the arrogance of the ego closed in on itself, man is depleted, degraded, disfigured. The Christian faith, active in charity and strong in hope, does not limit, but humanizes life, indeed it makes it fully human.

Faith Makes Us Grateful

Faith is welcoming this transforming message in our lives, it is accepting the revelation of God, which helps us know who He is, how He acts, what His plans are for us. Of course, the mystery of God is always beyond our concepts and our reason, our rituals and prayers. However, with the revelation it is God who communicates to Himself to us, who speaks to us of Himself, who makes Himself accessible. And we are enabled to listen to His Word and receive His truth. Here is the wonder of faith: God, in his love, creates in us - through the work of the Holy Spirit - the right conditions so that we can recognize His Word. God himself, in his will to manifest Himself to us, to enter into contact with us, to be present in human history, enables us to listen to and welcome Him. St. Paul expresses this with joy and gratitude: "And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe "(1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Kerygma

God has revealed Himself in words and deeds throughout a long history of friendship with man, which culminates in the Incarnation of the Son of God and His mystery of death and resurrection. God has not only revealed Himself in the history of a people, not only has He spoken through the Prophets, but He has crossed heaven to enter the land of men as a man, so that we could meet Him and listen to Him. And from Jerusalem the proclamation of the Gospel of Salvation has spread to the ends of the earth. The Church was born from the side of Christ, she has become the bearer of a new solid hope: Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified and Risen Savior of the world, who sits at the right hand of God and is the judge of the living and the dead. This is the kerygma, the central and unsettling proclamation of faith. But from the beginning there arose the problem of the "rule of faith", in short, the faithfulness of believers to the truth of the Gospel, to which we must remain firm, to the saving truth about God and man to be preserved and passed on. St. Paul writes: "Through it [the Gospel] you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain"(1 Cor 15:2).

The Creed

But where do we find the essential formula of faith? Where do we find the truths that we have been faithfully transmitted and which are the light for our daily life? The answer is simple: in the Creed, in the Profession of Faith or Symbol of the Faith, we reconnect to the original event of the person and history of Jesus of Nazareth, it makes concrete what the Apostle of the Gentiles said to the Christians of Corinth: " For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3).

The Creed Known, Understood, Prayed

Even today the Creed needs to be better known, understood and prayed. Above all it is important that the Creed is, so to speak, 'recognized'. In fact, knowing it, could only be an intellectual operation, while "recognizing" it means the need to discover the deep connection between the truths we profess in the Creed and our daily lives, so that these truths may truly and effectively be - as they always were - light for the steps to our living, water that irrigates the scorching heat of our journey, life that conquers certain deserts of contemporary life. The moral life of the Christian is interwoven in the Creed, in which it finds its foundation and justification.

Life Without Clear Ideals and Hopes

It is no accident that the Blessed John Paul II wished that the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a sure norm for teaching the faith and reliable source for a catechesis renewed at the sources of faith, be set on the Creed. This was to confirm and protect this core of the truths of faith, rendering it in a language that is more intelligible to the people of our time. It is the Churches' duty to transmit the faith, communicate the Gospel, so that the truths of Christianity illuminate new cultural transformations, and Christians be able to account for the hope that carry (cf. 1 Pt 3:14). Today we live in a profoundly changed society even compared to the recent past and one that is in constant motion. The processes of secularization and a widespread nihilistic mentality, where everything is relative, have a crucial impact on the general mentality. So, life is often lived lightly, without clear ideals or sound hopes, in transient and provisional social and family ties.

Young People Not Educated in the Faith

Above all the younger generations are not educated in the search for truth or the deeper meaning of existence that goes beyond the contingent, to a stability of affection, trust. On the contrary, relativism leads to not having any fixed points, suspicion and inconstancy cause ruptures in human relationships, and life is lived in experiments that do not last long, or shoulder any responsibilities. If individualism and relativism seem to dominate the mind of many of contemporaries, we can not say that believers remain totally immune from these dangers, with which we are confronted in the transmission of the faith. The survey promoted in all continents for the celebration of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, has highlighted some: a living faith that is passive and private, rejection of faith formation, the rupture between faith and life.

Ignorance

Christians often do not even know the core of their Catholic faith, the Creed, so as to leave room for a certain syncretism and religious relativism, without clarity on the truths to be believed and the salvific uniqueness of Christianity. The risk is not far off today of people building a so-called "do-it-yourself" religion. Instead, we should return to God, the God of Jesus Christ, we must rediscover the message of the Gospel, to bring it into more deeply into our minds and our daily lives.

Faith Shapes Life

In the catechesis of this Year of Faith I would like to offer some help to making this journey, to take up once again and deepen the central truths of the faith of God, man, the Church, of all the social and cosmic realities, meditating and reflecting on the statements of the Creed. And I would like to clarify that such content or truth of faith are directly connected to our lives; they require conversion of existence, which gives life to a new way of believing in God (fides qua). Knowing God, encountering Him, explore the features of His face brings our lives into play, because He enters the deep dynamics of the human being.

The Good and Beautiful Life of the Gospel

May the journey that we are about to set out on in the year help us grow in faith and love to Christ, that we might learn to live, in our choices and daily actions, the good and beautiful life of the Gospel.

God's Own Gaze, Full of Love

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The Face of Christ or, if you will, the Gaze of Christ, is a motif that recurs frequently in the preaching of Pope Benedict XVI, as well as in his writings. In today's Angelus Address, the Holy Father alludes to that mysterious exchange of gazes, by which a particular vocation -- and often one to the priesthood or monastic life -- is both offered and received. That exchange of gazes is, of course, but the beginning. A priestly or monastic (or religious) vocation cannot be sustained except by growing into an exchange of gazes that becomes habitual. And this habitual exchange of gazes is, in fact, the gift of contemplation.

There may be readers of Vultus Christi who have, at one time or another, recognized the gaze of Christ resting upon with with an unspeakable tenderness. This sometimes happens when one is lingering in the radiance of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus. It may also happen when one is bent over the Word of God, or praying the Psalms. Meet the gaze of Christ with your own gaze. Look at Him. Begin to live, as Blessed Elisabeth of the Trinity says, with "your eyes in His eyes." And should He call you to monastic life, communicate with us at Silverstream Priory. Do not go away sad. Say "yes" to the joy of having nought but Christ, and of preferring nothing whatsoever to His love.

Here is the text of the Holy Father's Angelus Address:

Dear brothers and sisters!

When God Conquers a Heart

Wealth is the principal topic of this Sunday's Gospel (Mark 10:17-30). Jesus teaches that it is very difficult for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God, but not impossible; in fact, God can conquer the heart of a person who has many possessions and move him to solidarity and sharing with the needy, with the poor, to enter into the logic of the gift. This is how wealth presents itself in the life of Jesus Christ, who - as the Apostle Paul writes - "rich though he was, he became poor for us so that we might become rich though his poverty" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

After Life in Its Fullness

As often happens in the Gospels, everything begins from an encounter. In this case Jesus' meeting with a man who "had many possessions" (Mark 10:22). He was a person who from his youth had faithfully observed the commandments of God's Law, but he had not yet found true happiness; this is why he asks Jesus what he must do to "inherit eternal life" (10:17). On the one hand, like everyone else, he is after life in its fullness. On the other hand, being used to depending on his wealth, he thinks that he might be able to "buy" eternal life in some way, perhaps by observing some special commandment.

He Went Away Sad

Jesus welcomes the profound desire that is in him and, the evangelist notes, casts a gaze full of love upon him, God's own gaze (cf. 10:21). But Jesus also understands what the man's weakness is: it is precisely his attachment to his many possessions, and this is why he invites him to give everything to the poor, so that his treasure - and thus his heart - will no longer be on earth but in heaven, and adds: "Come! Follow me!" (10:22). That man, instead of accepting Jesus' invitation, goes away sad (10:23) since he is unable to give up his wealth, which can never give him happiness and eternal life.

Not Impossible for God

It is at this point that Jesus offers his teaching to the disciples, and to us today: "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" (10:23). The disciples are puzzled, and even more so when Jesus adds: "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." But seeing that the disciples are astonished he says: "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.

Saints Poor and Rich

All things are possible for God" (10:24-27). St. Clement comments on the episode in this way: "The story teaches the rich that they must not neglect their salvation as if they were already condemned. They need not throw their wealth into the sea or condemn it as insidious and hostile to life, but they must learn how to use their wealth and obtain life" ("What rich person will be saved?" 27, 1-2). The Church's history is full of examples of rich people who used their possessions in an evangelical way, achieving sanctity. We need only think of St. Francis, St. Elizabeth or St. Charles Borromeo. May the Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom, help us to welcome Jesus' invitation with joy so that we might enter into the fullness of life.

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The Council did not formulate anything new in matters of faith, nor did it wish to replace what was ancient. (Pope Benedict XVI)

Here is the text of the homily given by the Holy Father this morning on the occasion o the inauguration of The Year of Faith, and the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. The headings are my own.

Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, fifty years from the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, we begin with great joy the Year of Faith. I am delighted to greet all of you, particularly His Holiness Bartholomaeus I, Patriarch of Constantinople, and His Grace Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. A special greeting goes to the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches, and to the Presidents of the Bishops' Conferences.

Prominence Given to the Catechism

In order to evoke the Council, which some present had the grace to experience for themselves - and I greet them with particular affection - this celebration has been enriched by several special signs: the opening procession, intended to recall the memorable one of the Council Fathers when they entered this Basilica; the enthronement of a copy of the Book of the Gospels used at the Council; the consignment of the seven final Messages of the Council, and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I will do before the final blessing. These signs help us not only to remember, they also offer us the possibility of going beyond commemorating. They invite us to enter more deeply into the spiritual movement which characterized Vatican II, to make it ours and to develop it according to its true meaning. And its true meaning was and remains faith in Christ, the apostolic faith, animated by the inner desire to communicate Christ to individuals and all people, in the Church's pilgrimage along the pathways of history.

The Face of God Revealed in Jesus Christ

The Year of Faith which we launch today is linked harmoniously with the Church's whole path over the last fifty years: from the Council, through the Magisterium of the Servant of God Paul VI, who proclaimed a Year of Faith in 1967, up to the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, with which Blessed John Paul II re-proposed to all humanity Jesus Christ as the one Saviour, yesterday, today and forever. Between these two Popes, Paul VI and John Paul II, there was a deep and profound convergence, precisely upon Christ as the centre of the cosmos and of history, and upon the apostolic eagerness to announce him to the world. Jesus is the centre of the Christian faith. The Christian believes in God whose face was revealed by Jesus Christ. He is the fulfilment of the Scriptures and their definitive interpreter. Jesus Christ is not only the object of the faith but, as it says in the Letter to the Hebrews, he is "the pioneer and the perfecter of our faith" (12:2).

Evangelization

Today's Gospel tells us that Jesus Christ, consecrated by the Father in the Holy Spirit, is the true and perennial subject of evangelization. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor" (Lk 4:18). This mission of Christ, this movement of his continues in space and time, over centuries and continents. It is a movement which starts with the Father and, in the power of the Spirit, goes forth to bring the good news to the poor, in both a material and a spiritual sense. The Church is the first and necessary instrument of this work of Christ because it is united to him as a body to its head. "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (Jn 20:21), says the Risen One to his disciples, and breathing upon them, adds, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (v.22). Through Christ, God is the principal subject of evangelization in the world; but Christ himself wished to pass on his own mission to the Church; he did so, and continues to do so, until the end of time pouring out his Spirit upon the disciples, the same Spirit who came upon him and remained in him during all his earthly life, giving him the strength "to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed" and "to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Lk 4:18-19).

Faith

The Second Vatican Council did not wish to deal with the theme of faith in one specific document. It was, however, animated by a desire, as it were, to immerse itself anew in the Christian mystery so as to re-propose it fruitfully to contemporary man. The Servant of God Paul VI, two years after the end of the Council session, expressed it in this way: "Even if the Council does not deal expressly with the faith, it talks about it on every page, it recognizes its vital and supernatural character, it assumes it to be whole and strong, and it builds upon its teachings. We need only recall some of the Council's statements in order to realize the essential importance that the Council, consistent with the doctrinal tradition of the Church, attributes to the faith, the true faith, which has Christ for its source and the Church's Magisterium for its channel" (General Audience, 8 March 1967). Thus said Paul VI.

Certain and Immutable Doctrine Safeguarded and Taught

We now turn to the one who convoked the Second Vatican Council and inaugurated it: Blessed John XXIII. In his opening speech, he presented the principal purpose of the Council in this way: "What above all concerns the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine be safeguarded and taught more effectively [...] Therefore, the principal purpose of this Council is not the discussion of this or that doctrinal theme... a Council is not required for that... [but] this certain and immutable doctrine, which is to be faithfully respected, needs to be explored and presented in a way which responds to the needs of our time" (AAS 54 [1962], 790,791-792).

The "Letter" of the Council

In the light of these words, we can understand what I myself felt at the time: during the Council there was an emotional tension as we faced the common task of making the truth and beauty of the faith shine out in our time, without sacrificing it to the demands of the present or leaving it tied to the past: the eternal presence of God resounds in the faith, transcending time, yet it can only be welcomed by us in our own unrepeatable today. Therefore I believe that the most important thing, especially on such a significant occasion as this, is to revive in the whole Church that positive tension, that yearning to announce Christ again to contemporary man. But, so that this interior thrust towards the new evangelization neither remain just an idea nor be lost in confusion, it needs to be built on a concrete and precise basis, and this basis is the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the place where it found expression. This is why I have often insisted on the need to return, as it were, to the "letter" of the Council - that is to its texts - also to draw from them its authentic spirit, and why I have repeated that the true legacy of Vatican II is to be found in them. Reference to the documents saves us from extremes of anachronistic nostalgia and running too far ahead, and allows what is new to be welcomed in a context of continuity. The Council did not formulate anything new in matters of faith, nor did it wish to replace what was ancient. Rather, it concerned itself with seeing that the same faith might continue to be lived in the present day, that it might remain a living faith in a world of change.

Il Concilio non ha escogitato nulla di nuovo come materia di fede, né ha voluto sostituire quanto è antico.

Post-Conciliar Crisis

If we place ourselves in harmony with the authentic approach which Blessed John XXIII wished to give to Vatican II, we will be able to realize it during this Year of Faith, following the same path of the Church as she continuously endeavours to deepen the deposit of faith entrusted to her by Christ. The Council Fathers wished to present the faith in a meaningful way; and if they opened themselves trustingly to dialogue with the modern world it is because they were certain of their faith, of the solid rock on which they stood. In the years following, however, many embraced uncritically the dominant mentality, placing in doubt the very foundations of the deposit of faith, which they sadly no longer felt able to accept as truths.

Spiritual Desertification

If today the Church proposes a new Year of Faith and a new evangelization, it is not to honour an anniversary, but because there is more need of it, even more than there was fifty years ago! And the reply to be given to this need is the one desired by the Popes, by the Council Fathers and contained in its documents. Even the initiative to create a Pontifical Council for the promotion of the new evangelization, which I thank for its special effort for the Year of Faith, is to be understood in this context. Recent decades have seen the advance of a spiritual "desertification". In the Council's time it was already possible from a few tragic pages of history to know what a life or a world without God looked like, but now we see it every day around us. This void has spread. But it is in starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us, men and women.

Journey Through the Desert

In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today's world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. And in the desert people of faith are needed who, with their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive. Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism. Today, more than ever, evangelizing means witnessing to the new life, transformed by God, and thus showing the path. The first reading spoke to us of the wisdom of the wayfarer (cf. Sir 34:9-13): the journey is a metaphor for life, and the wise wayfarer is one who has learned the art of living, and can share it with his brethren - as happens to pilgrims along the Way of Saint James or similar routes which, not by chance, have again become popular in recent years. How come so many people today feel the need to make these journeys? Is it not because they find there, or at least intuit, the meaning of our existence in the world? This, then, is how we can picture the Year of Faith: a pilgrimage in the deserts of today's world, taking with us only what is necessary: neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money, nor two tunics - as the Lord said to those he was sending out on mission (cf. Lk 9:3), but the Gospel and the faith of the Church, of which the Council documents are a luminous expression, as is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published twenty years ago.

Mary Most Holy, Mother of God

Venerable and dear Brothers, 11 October 1962 was the Feast of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. Let us entrust to her the Year of Faith, as I did last week when I went on pilgrimage to Loreto. May the Virgin Mary always shine out as a star along the way of the new evangelization. May she help us to put into practice the Apostle Paul's exhortation, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom [...] And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col 3:16-17). Amen.

Let us Fix Our Gaze Upon Christ

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Homily of Pope Benedict XVI
Opening of the 13th Ordinary General Assembly
of the Synod of Bishops
on the New Evangelisation

7 October 2012

Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear brothers and sisters,

Transmission of the Christian Faith

With this solemn concelebration we open the thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. This theme reflects a programmatic direction for the life of the Church, its members, families, its communities and institutions. And this outline is reinforced by the fact that it coincides with the beginning of the Year of Faith, starting on 11 October, on the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. I give a cordial and grateful welcome to you who have come to be part of the Synodal Assembly, in particular to the Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops, and to his colleagues. I salute the fraternal delegates of the other churches and ecclesial communities as well as all present, inviting them to accompany in daily prayer the deliberations which will take place over the next three weeks.

Fix Our Gaze Upon the Lord Jesus

The readings for this Sunday's Liturgy of the Word propose to us two principal points of reflection: the first on matrimony, which I will touch shortly; and the second on Jesus Christ, which I will discuss now. We do not have time to comment upon the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews but, at the beginning of this Synodal Assembly, we ought to welcome the invitation to fix our gaze upon the Lord Jesus, "crowned with glory and honour, because of the suffering of death (2:9). The word of God places us before the glorious One who was crucified, so that our whole lives, and in particular the commitment of this Synodal session, will take place in the sight of him and in the light of his mystery. In every time and place, evangelisation always has as its starting and finishing points Jesus Christ, the Son of God (cf. Mk 1:1); and the Crucifix is the supremely distinctive sign of him who announces the Gospel: a sign of love and peace, a call to conversion and reconciliation. My dear Brother Bishops, starting with ourselves, let us fix our gaze upon him and let us be purified by his grace.

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Two Radiant Figures, Doctors of the Church

I would now like briefly to examine the new evangelisation, and its relation to ordinary evangelisation and the mission ad Gentes. The Church exists to evangelize. Faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ's command, his disciples went out to the whole world to announce the Good News, spreading Christian communities everywhere. With time, these became well-organized churches with many faithful. At various times in history, divine providence has given birth to a renewed dynamism in Church's evangelizing activity. We need only think of the evangelisation of the Anglo-Saxon peoples or the Slavs, or the transmission of the faith on the continent of America, or the missionary undertakings among the peoples of Africa, Asia and Oceania. It is against this dynamic background that I like to look at the two radiant figures that I have just proclaimed Doctors of the Church, Saint John of Avila and Saint Hildegard of Bingen. Even in our own times, the Holy Spirit has nurtured in the Church a new effort to announce the Good News, a pastoral and spiritual dynamism which found a more universal expression and its most authoritative impulse in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Such renewed evangelical dynamism produces a beneficent influence on the two specific "branches" developed by it, that is, on the one hand the Missio ad Gentes or announcement of the Gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and his message of salvation, and on the other the New Evangelisation, directed principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life. The Synodal Assembly which opens today is dedicated to this new evangelisation, to help these people encounter the Lord, who alone who fills our existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favour the rediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life. Obviously, such a special focus must not diminish either missionary efforts in the strict sense or the ordinary activity of evangelisation in our Christian communities, as these are three aspects of the one reality of evangelisation which complement and enrich each other.

Link Between the Crisis in Faith
and the Crisis in Marriage

The theme of marriage, found in the Gospel and the first reading, deserves special attention. The message of the word of God may be summed up in the expression found in the Book of Genesis and taken up by Jesus himself: "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gen 2:24; Mk 10:7-8). What does this word say to us today? It seems to me that it invites us to be more aware of a reality, already well known but not fully appreciated: that matrimony is a Gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today, especially the dechristianized world. The union of a man and a woman, their becoming "one flesh" in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God with a force and an eloquence which in our days has become greater because unfortunately, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelized, is going through a profound crisis. And it is not by chance. Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a general way. Marriage, as a union of faithful and indissoluble love, is based upon the grace that comes from the triune God, who in Christ loved us with a faithful love, even to the Cross. Today we ought to grasp the full truth of this statement, in contrast to the painful reality of many marriages which, unhappily, end badly. There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage. And, as the Church has said and witnessed for a long time now, marriage is called to be not only an object but a subject of the new evangelisation. This is already being seen in the many experiences of communities and movements, but its realization is also growing in dioceses and parishes, as shown in the recent World Meeting of Families.

The Saints Are the True Actors in Evangelisation

One of the important ideas of the renewed impulse that the Second Vatican Council gave to evangelisation is that of the universal call to holiness, which in itself concerns all Christians (cf. Lumen Gentium, 39-42). The saints are the true actors in evangelisation in all its expressions. In a special way they are even pioneers and bringers of the new evangelisation: with their intercession and the example of lives attentive to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they show the beauty of the Gospel to those who are indifferent or even hostile, and they invite, as it were tepid believers, to live with the joy of faith, hope and charity, to rediscover the taste for the word of God and for the sacraments, especially for the bread of life, the Eucharist. Holy men and women bloom among the generous missionaries who announce the Good News to non-Christians, in the past in mission countries and now in any place where there are non-Christians. Holiness is not confined by cultural, social, political or religious barriers. Its language, that of love and truth, is understandable to all people of good will and it draws them to Jesus Christ, the inexhaustible source of new life.

John of Avila, Man of God

At this point, let us pause for a moment to appreciate the two saints who today have been added to the elect number of Doctors of the Church. Saint John of Avila lived in the sixteenth century. A profound expert on the sacred Scriptures, he was gifted with an ardent missionary spirit. He knew how to penetrate in a uniquely profound way the mysteries of the redemption worked by Christ for humanity. A man of God, he united constant prayer to apostolic action. He dedicated himself to preaching and to the more frequent practice of the sacraments, concentrating his commitment on improving the formation of candidates for the priesthood, of religious and of lay people, with a view to a fruitful reform of the Church.

Hildegard of Bingen: A Recognized Spiritual Authority

Saint Hildegard of Bingen, an important female figure of the twelfth century, offered her precious contribution to the growth of the Church of her time, employing the gifts received from God and showing herself to be a woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognized spiritual authority. The Lord granted her a prophetic spirit and fervent capacity to discern the signs of the times. Hildegard nurtured an evident love of creation, and was learned in medicine, poetry and music. Above all, she maintained a great and faithful love for Christ and his Church.

Sin: Obstacle to Evangelisation

This summary of the ideal in Christian life, expressed in the call to holiness, draws us to look with humility at the fragility, even sin, of many Christians, as individuals and communities, which is a great obstacle to evangelisation and to recognizing the force of God that, in faith, meets human weakness. Thus, we cannot speak about the new evangelisation without a sincere desire for conversion. The best path to the new evangelisation is to let ourselves be reconciled with God and with each other (cf. 2 Cor 5:20). Solemnly purified, Christians can regain a legitimate pride in their dignity as children of God, created in his image and redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and they can experience his joy in order to share it with everyone, both near and far.

Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelisation

Dear brothers and sisters, let us entrust the work of the Synod meeting to God, sustained by the communion of saints, invoking in particular the intercession of great evangelizers, among whom, with much affection, we ought to number Blessed Pope John Paul II, whose long pontificate was an example of the new evangelisation. Let us place ourselves under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelisation. With her let us invoke a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that from on high he may illumine the Synodal assembly and make it fruitful for the Church's journey today, in our time. Amen.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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