B16 on William of St Thierry

In yesterday’s weekly General Audience, Pope Benedict taught us about William of St Thierry, a 12th century Cistercian monk. Our Holy Father summarized William’s vision for the spiritual journey in this paragraph:

To learn to love requires a long and demanding journey, which William articulated in four stages, corresponding to man’s age: infancy, youth, maturity and old age. In this itinerary the person must impose on himself an effective ascesis, a strong control of himself to eliminate every disordered affection, every shadow of egoism, and to unify his life in God, source, goal and force of love, until attaining the summit of the spiritual life, which William defines as “wisdom.” At the conclusion of this ascetic itinerary, one feels great serenity and sweetness. All man’s faculties — intelligence, will, affection — rest in God, known and loved in Christ.

He also affirmed William’s teaching on growing in heartfelt intimacy with our Lord:

…William speaks of this radical vocation of love for God, which is the secret of a successful and happy life, and which he describes as an incessant and growing desire, inspired by God himself in the heart of man…Striking is the fact that William, in speaking of the love of God, attributes notable importance to the emotional dimension. Indeed, dear friends, our heart is made of flesh, and when we love God, who is Love itself, how can we not express in this relationship with the Lord also our most human feelings, such as tenderness, sensitivity, delicacy? The Lord himself, becoming man, wished to love us with a heart of flesh!

If you’re looking for reading material, a book containing some of William’s advice to his brother monks — which the Pope mentions in his talk — is available from Amazon.

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