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INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR SILENCE TO PERCEIVE THE VOICE OF GOD
VATICAN CITY, 4 JUL 2010 (VIS) - Benedict XVI today made a pastoral visit to the town of Sulmona, in the Italian region of Abruzzo, to mark the eighth centenary of the birth of St. Celestine V, the hermit Pope.
At 10 a.m. he presided at a Eucharistic concelebration in the town's Piazza Garibaldi, attended by some 25,000 faithful.
The Holy Father began his homily with a reference to the difficulties the local people have to face every day, giving them assurances of his "closeness and recollection in prayer", especially for "those who live their lives in precarious situations due to a lack of work, uncertainty over the future, and with physical and moral suffering and a sense of loss due to the earthquake of 6 April 2009".
Speaking then of Celestine V, known as Pietro da Morrone because he lived in seclusion on a mountain of that name until his election as Pope in 1294, the Holy Father highlighted how "he abides in history, ... above all for his sanctity. Sanctity, indeed, never loses its power of attraction, it does not fall into oblivion, it never goes out of fashion; rather, with the passing of time it becomes ever brighter, expressing man's perennial striving after God".
This saint was, "from his youth, a 'seeker after God', a man who wished to find answers to the great questions of existence: Who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I alive? For whom do I live? ... In exterior silence, but above all in interior silence, he managed to perceive the voice of God which was able to guide his life".
In this context, the Holy Father noted how "we live in a society in which every space, every moment must be 'filled' with initiatives, activities, sounds. Often there is not even time to listen or to converse. Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be afraid to create silence inside and outside ourselves if we wish to be capable not only of hearing the voice of God, but also the voice of those near us, the voice of our fellow man".
Another element of St. Celestine's life was his recognition of the work of Grace. "What he had and what he was did not come from him, it was given to him. It was the work of Grace and, therefore, constituted a responsibility before God and before others".
"God anticipates us always. Each individual life contains good and beautiful things that we can easily recognise as His Grace. ... If we learn to recognise God in His infinite goodness then we will be able to see, with wonder, the signs of God in our lives, just as the saints did". The signs of a God "Who is always close, Who is always good to us, Who says: 'Have faith in me'".
"The cross", said Benedict XVI, "was the focal point of Pietro da Morrone's life, it gave him the strength to face harsh penance and the most difficult moments, from his youth until his final hour. ... When he was elected to the See of the Apostle Peter he chose to grant a special indulgence called 'La Perdonanza'".
Pope Celestine, "though leading a hermit's life, was not 'closed in on himself', but was seized with the passion to carry the good news of the Gospel to his brothers and sisters", said the Holy Father.
The Church's mission, he explained, consists "in the calm, clear and courageous announcement of the evangelical message - even in moments of persecution - without surrendering to the lure of fashion, or of violence and imposition". It consists "in detachment from concern for things (money or clothes), trusting in the Providence of the Father; in particular attention and concern towards those sick in body or in spirit".
At the end of Mass and before praying the Angelus, the Holy Father entrusted the local Church to the Virgin Mary, venerated in Sulmona at the shrine of the "Madonna della Libera". He said: "May you walk united and joyful in the way of faith, hope and charity. Faithful to the heritage of St. Celestine V, always combine evangelical radicalism with mercy, so that all those who seek God may find Him.
"In Mary, Virgin of silence and of listening, St, Peter da Morrone found the perfect model of obedience to divine will, in his simple and humble life directed at the search for what is truly essential", the Pope added.
"We too, who live in an age of greater comfort and of more possibilities, are called to appreciate a sober lifestyle, to keep our minds and hearts free in order to share our goods with our brothers and sisters".
After praying the Angelus, the Pope went to the House for Clergy at the diocesan pastoral centre of Sulmona where he had lunch with bishops of the Abruzzo region. The House for Clergy, built to accommodate sick and elderly priests, was inaugurated today following restoration work and is dedicated to Benedict XVI.