Image by Catholic Church (England and Wales) via Flickr
PRAYER IS NEVER DETACHED FROM REALITY
VATICAN CITY, 4 JUL 2010 (VIS) - Today at 4.30 p.m., before leaving the House for Clergy in Sulmona, the Holy Father greeted members of the committee that had organised his visit to that Italian town. He subsequently received a delegation from the nearby high-security prison made up of the director, chaplains, warders and a number of prisoners.
Benedict XVI then travelled to the cathedral for a meeting with local youth. On arrival he paused for a few moments of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament then, following some words of greeting from Bishop Angelo Spina of Sulmona-Valva, addressed the young people gathered in the building.
The Pope began by praising their "historical memory", evident in their belief that Celestine V is a figure who still retains all his relevance today. "Without memory", said the Holy Father, "there is no future. It used to be said that history is a teacher of life, but consumer culture tends to limit man to the present, to make him lose his sense of the past, of history. But by so doing, it also deprives him of the capacity to understand himself, to perceive problems and build the future. Therefore, dear young people, I wish to tell you that a Christian is someone who has a good memory, who loves history and seeks to understand it".
Reflecting then on how to evaluate Pietro da Morrone's life today in the twenty-first century, the Pope highlighted how certain things are perennial and enduring, "for example the capacity to listen to God in exterior silence, and above all in interior silence. ... It is important to learn how to experience moments of interior silence in our daily lives in order to be capable of hearing the voice of the Lord", he said.
"Be sure that if someone learns to listen to this voice and to follow it with generosity, he is afraid of nothing, he knows and feels that God is with him. ... The secret of vocation lies in the relationship with God, in prayer. ... And this remains true both before making the choice - in other words, at the moment of deciding to start on the journey - and afterwards, if we wish to be faithful and persevere. St. Celestine V was first and foremost... a man of prayer, a man of God".
But "authentic prayer is not detached from reality. If prayer alienates you, removes you from real life, be aware that it is not authentic prayer. ... It is not a question of simply multiplying the number of words", the Pope explained, "but of being in God's presence, making the expressions of the 'Our Father' present in our minds and our hearts, or adoring the Eucharist, ... or meditating on the Gospel, ... or participating in the liturgy. All this does not detach us from life; rather, it helps us truly to be ourselves in all environments, faithful to the voice of God which speaks to our conscience, free from the conditioning of the present moment".
"Faith and prayer do not resolve problems, but enable them to be faced with a new light and a new strength, in a manner worthy of man, more serenely and more effectively. If we look at the history of the Church we see that it is rich in saints and blesseds who, on the basis of an intense and constant dialogue with God, illuminated by faith, were able to find creative and novel solutions to respond to the concrete human needs of all times: health, education, work, etc. Their resourcefulness was animated by the Holy Spirit and by a strong and generous love for their brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and most disadvantaged.
"Dear young people", the Pope added, "allow yourselves to be conquered by Christ. Start decisively down the path of sanctity, the path (which is open to everyone) of contact with and conformity to God. Thus you too will become more creative in seeking solutions to the problems you encounter and in seeking them together; for this is another distinctive sign of Christians: they are never individualists".
In this context, Benedict XVI explained that by choosing the hermit life Pietro da Morrone's was not fleeing responsibility because, "in the experiences approved by the Church, the solitary life of prayer and penance is always at the service of the community, it is open to others, it never contrasts with the needs of the community. Hermitages and monasteries are oases and wellsprings of spiritual life from which everyone can draw. The monk lives not for himself, but for others. It is for the good of the Church and society that he cultivates the contemplative life, that the Church and society may be ever irrigated with new energies, with the action of the Lord".
The Pope concluded by telling the young people to "love the Church: she gave you the faith, she brought you to know Christ. ... Conserve your enthusiasm, your joy, the joy that comes from having met the Lord, and communicate this to your friends and peers. ... In you, I feel, the Church is young. ... Walk in the way of the Gospel; love the Church our mother: be simple and pure of heart; be mild and strong in the truth; be humble and generous".
At the end of the meeting the Pope descended to the crypt where he venerated the relics of St. Panfilo and St. Celestine V. He then travelled to the nearby Pallozzi Stadium where he bid farewell to the authorities and, at 5.45 p.m., departed by helicopter for the Vatican.