He who prays is saved. He who prays not is damned!
. ~St Alphonsus Liguori
Archive for the ‘Pope Benedict XVI’ category
This is my 54th Christmas. Surely I have no conscious memory of the first few. Each of the rest have been different in their own way, but they all have had many of the same things in common: decorations, a Christmas tree, Christmas carols, presents, Mass in a church with a Nativity crèche, family gatherings. Over the years, the joy of giving has surpassed the happiness of receiving. But for the most part, it’s the same routine every year, almost ‘same’ enough to yield a complacency of sorts.
This past Thursday, as I began to read Pope Benedict’s weekly General Audience address which he had given the previous day, I stopped after just the first sentence to consider one of the words used in that sentence: tremulous. [Note: Our Holy Father did not give his address in English, so this is the word used by the Zenit translator, which I assume is accurate]
With this last audience before the Christmas celebrations, tremulous and full of astonishment, we approach the “place” where everything began for us and for our salvation, where everything found its fulfillment, where the hopes of the world and of the human heart met and interlaced with the presence of God.
“Tremulous” is not a word that I encounter very often in my reading. So I paused to verify its exact meaning:
1 — characterized by or affected with trembling or tremors
2 — affected with timidity: timorous
3 — such as is or might be caused by nervousness or shakiness
4 — exceedingly sensitive: easily shaken or disordered
While the routine and complacency of my Christmas celebrations have certainly not overshadowed the real meaning of Christmas – the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ – as I approached the crèche each year, as I heard the Gospel reading describing Jesus’ birth read at Mass, my countenance could not be described as “tremulous.” Until this year, that is, when the Pope’s exhortation to be “tremulous and full of astonishment” brought it to my attention.
As I prayed over the past couple days for the grace to have a heart that would be more tremulous and full of astonishment before our Lord in the manger, I was also led to reflect on what may be one of the keys to attaining this disposition: the gift of the Holy Spirit known as the “fear of the Lord.” One of my resources described this gift as follows:
The Gift of Fear of the Lord enables the person “to avoid sin and attachment to created things out of reverence and love of God.” Primarily, this gift entails a profound respect for the majesty of God who is the Supreme Being. Here, a person realizes his “creatureliness” and dependency upon God, and never would want to be separated from this loving God. This gift of fear arouses in the soul a vibrant sense of adoration and reverence for the majesty of God and a sense of horror and sorrow for sin.
I pray for this gift to work in my heart to give me a much deeper appreciation for what it means for God to become man in Jesus. Then I’ll be better prepared to respond to the challenge issued by our Holy Father near the end of that General Audience talk:
In the night of the world, we must let ourselves be amazed and illumined by this act of God, which is totally unexpected: God becomes a Child. We must let ourselves be amazed, illumined by the Star that inundated the universe with joy. May the Child Jesus, in coming to us, not find us unprepared, busy only in making the exterior reality more beautiful and attractive. May the care we give to making our streets and homes more resplendent impel us even more to predispose our soul to encounter him who will come to visit us. Let us purify our conscience and our life of what is contrary to this coming: thoughts, words, attitudes and deeds — impelling us to do good and to contribute to bring about in our world peace and justice for every man and thus walk toward our encounter with the Lord.
Today the Church remembers St Albert the Great. Back in March, Pope Benedict devoted one of his General Audience teachings to St Albert. Albert was extremely gifted intellectually, and did not allow his gifts to go to waste.
Prior to his detailed account of St Albert’s life, our Holy Father highlighted some reasons why Albert was able to achieve excellence in the different areas of his life:
God often speaks to us in the years of our youth and points out to us the project of our life. As it was for Albert, so also for all of us, personal prayer, nourished by the Lord’s word, frequent reception of the Sacraments and the spiritual guidance of enlightened people are the means to discover and follow God’s voice.
I was trying to pray this evening, but kept nodding off. So I decided to catch up on some internet reading. (Can’t stay awake one hour with Jesus, but I have no problem on the worldwide web…what does that say about me?!) Here are a few things that caught my attention:
In his All Saints Day homily, Pope Benedict dropped this brief definition of holiness on us:
Sanctity, to imprint Christ in oneself, is the objective of a Christian’s life.
Clear. Direct. Succinct. “To imprint Christ in oneself.”
His teaching on St Bridget of Sweden a couple weeks ago contained this line about St Bridget’s husband:
Together with his wife, Ulf learned to improve his character and to advance in the Christian life.
I know he was speaking generally and summarizing, but it somehow implies an all-too-easy graceful ascent to sanctity. So does this line that the monks of Christ in the Desert monastery heard from Abbott Jerome Kodell OSB who is leading their annual retreat this week:
One of the statements of Abbot Jerome during our retreat struck me very much. The statement is something that probably all of us already know at one or the other level in our lives, but to which we don’t always give much attention. He said simply that all of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures can probably be summed up with these words of God: “I am with you. I love you. Trust me.”
True, of course. Yet, while sounding incredibly simple, it is extremely difficult to keep in mind and to live. We are so prone to put ourselves at the center and take control.
So just how do we “imprint Christ” in ourselves?
When Pope Benedict was fielding questions from some youth recently, he gave them this advice:
Dear children, dear young people: being “big” means loving Jesus very much, listening to him and talking to him in prayer, meeting him in the sacraments, in Holy Mass, in confession; it means getting to know him more and more and also letting others know about him, it means standing with our friends, the poorest ones too, the sick ones, to grow together.
Ahhh, we begin to see that there’s some hard work involved, and grace to be begged. We can’t just run ourselves through some kind of spiritual copier to have Christ imprinted in us. From that same group of youth, one of their teachers solicited instruction from our Holy Father, and was told:
I would say that being educators means having a joy in your heart and communicating it to all to make life beautiful and good; it means offering reasons and objectives for the journey of life, offering the beauty of the person of Jesus and making others fall in love with him, his way of life, his freedom, his great love full of confidence in God the Father. It means above all always keeping the goal of every existence high toward that “more” that comes from God. This demands a personal knowledge of Jesus, a personal, daily, loving contact with him in prayer, in meditation on God’s Word, in fidelity to the sacraments, to the Eucharist, to confession; it demands communicating the joy of being in the Church, of having friends to share not only problems but also the beautiful things and surprises of the life of faith.
So, let’s get to the task of imprinting Christ in ourselves!
Last week Pope Benedict XVI presided at the commissioning of a new fountain dedicated to St Joseph in the Vatican Gardens. His speech included the following:
…Entrusting oneself to God does not mean seeing everything clearly according to our own criteria, it does not mean doing what we have planned; entrusting oneself to God means emptying oneself of oneself, renouncing oneself, for only those who accept to lose themselves for God can be called “just”, like St Joseph, that is, can conform their will to God’s and so fulfill themselves.
Pope Benedict XVI teaches on the liturgy: (money quote in bold)
From this point of view, one can understand “the preoccupation of the Successor of Peter over all that which can obfuscate the more original aspect of the Catholic faith: Today Jesus Christ is alive and really present in the consecrated host and chalice.”
According to the Holy Father, “a lesser attention paid at times to the worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament is the sign and cause of the obfuscation of the Christian meaning of the mystery, as happens when in the Holy Mass Jesus is no longer preeminent and active, but a community exists busy with many things rather than being absorbed and attracted by the only thing necessary: its Lord.”
“The primary and essential attitude of the Christian faithful who participates in the liturgical celebration is not to do, but to listen, to be open, to receive,” he continued. “It is obvious that in this case to receive does not mean to remain passive or indifferent to what is happening, but to cooperate — because rendered capable of doing so by the grace of God.
“If in the liturgy the figure of Christ, who is its beginning and is really present to render it valid, does not emerge, we will no longer have the Christian liturgy.