Benedict XVI meditated on the figure of St. John of the Cross during general audience.
He was a priest of the Order of Discalced Carmelites and doctor of the Church (1542-1591). In 1567, he was ordained priest. He later met Teresa of Jesus. "The meeting was decisive for both", the Holy Father explained, "Teresa set forth her plan for the reform of Carmel also in the masculine branch, and suggested that John adhere to it "for the greater glory of God."
"The young priest was fascinated by Teresa's ideas, to the point of becoming a great supporter of the project."
With John, the first masculine community of Discalced Carmelites was formed with three other companions. "Adherence to the Carmelite reform was not easy," the Pope explained, "and it even resulted in grave suffering for John. The most dramatic incident was his seizure and imprisonment in 1577 in the convent of the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance of Toledo, which was the result of an unjust accusation."
Finally, on the night of Aug. 16-17, 1578, he was able to escape in a hazardous way, taking refuge in the monastery of the Discalced Carmelites of the city.
Despite persecution and misunderstanding from within his own Order, the Pope continued, John produced some of the most illuminating and insightful treatises in all of Western spirituality. His four major writings are The Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Dark Night of the Soul, The Spiritual Canticle, and The Living Flame of Love.
One of the themes much developed by John was that of the purification of the soul: by
means of created things, we can discover traces of the living God in this world.
Faith, however, is the unique means by which we can come to know God as he is in himself. The demanding process of purification, at times active and at others passive, requires our determined effort, but it is God who is the real centre; all man can do is dispose himself and humble himself before the loving work of God in the soul.
The Pontiff asked, "Does this saint with his lofty mysticism, with this arduous way to the summit of perfection, have something to say to us, to the ordinary Christian who lives in the circumstances of today's life, or is he only an example, a model for a few chosen souls who can really undertake this way of purification, of mystical ascent?"
John of the Cross lived, a very hard life, very practical and concrete; it "was not a 'flight through mystical clouds. "If a man has a great love within him, it's as if this love gives him wings, and he endures life's problems more easily, because he has in himself that light, which is faith: to be loved by God and to let oneself be loved by God in Christ Jesus."
In this sense, John is for us a model of humble dedication and of faithful perseverance on the road to spiritual maturity. VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2011
"Our perfection is to live as children of God in humility concretely doing his will." The Holy Father affirmed at the Angelus.
He explained that
Jesus himself says: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you will
be children of your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:44-45).
"He who welcomes the Lord in his life and loves him with all of his heart can begin again. He is able to do God's will: to realize a new form of existence animated by love and destined for eternity." He said.
The Pope mentioned the words of Paul the Apostle: "Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16). "If we are truly aware of this reality and our life is deeply formed by it, then our witness becomes clear, eloquent and efficacious." He continued.
"We call on the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, that she teach us how to love each other and to welcome each other as brothers, children of the same heavenly Father". VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2011
Other papal messages and activities
The Holy Father will visit the northern Italian cities of Aquileia, Venice and Mestre,in May. The program was published today by the Holy See. VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2011
Benedict XVI received the first of
thousands of World Youth Day backpacks to be distributed to participants ahead of the
August event. Cardinal Antonio María Rouco, the archbishop of Madrid, gave it to him.
The World Youth Day backpack is yellow and red -- the colors of the Spanish flag -- and carries the official 2011 World Youth Day logo. In side the pack, participants will find a rosary, a Pilgrim's Booklet, a guidebook to World Youth Day, a Youcat (the youth catechism), an access pass for public transportation, a cap, and a fan. VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2011,
Benedict XVI will preside over an ordinary public consistory regarding the cause
of canonization of three blessed. The consistory will be held for Blessed Guido Maria Conforti,
Blessed Luigi Guanella, and Blessed Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro. VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15,
"Make room in your heart for Jesus and spread his joy and his peace." The Pope said at the weekly general audience as he addressed the youth, the sick and newlyweds. He urged the sick to "offer your moments of trial to the Lord so that the doors of hearts will open to the proclamation of the Gospel."
"And you, dear newlyweds," he concluded, "always be witnesses of the love of Christ, who has called you to realize a common project of life." VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2011
The Schoenstatt Movement is preparing for Benedict XVI's visit to his home country of Germany in September. Members are organizing a crusade of love and support of the Pontiff called "Postcard Action," gathering prayers for the upcoming event. SCHOENSTATT, Germany, FEB. 16, 2011
Benedict XVI received in audience the president of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev. A Vatican press statement released after the meeting stated that the "cordial" discussions also addressed "the positive contribution interreligious dialogue can make to society," as well as "the international situation, with particular reference to the Middle East." VATICAN CITY, FEB. 17, 2011
"The path to rediscovering humanity's true destiny can only be found in the re-establishment of the priority of God in the heart and mind of every person." Benedict XVI said upon receiving in audience bishops from the Philippines, who are in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visit. "Your great task in evangelization is therefore to propose a personal relationship with Christ as key to complete fulfilment." He affirmed.
"In order to confront the questions of our times, the laity need to hear the Gospel
message in its fullness, to understand its implications for their personal lives and for society in
general, and thus be constantly converted to the Lord," he added. VATICAN CITY, FEB. 18,
A prayer for the Holy Father
Christ Jesus, King and
Lord of the Church, in your presence I renew my unconditional loyalty to your Vicar on earth, the
Pope. In him you have chosen to show us the safe and sure path that we must follow in the midst of
confusion, uneasiness, and unrest. I firmly believe that through him you govern, teach, and sanctify
us; with him as our shepherd, we form the true Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Grant me
the grace to love, live, and spread faithfully our Holy Father's teachings. Watch over his
life, enlighten his mind, strengthen his spirit, defend him from calumny and evil. Calm the erosive
winds of infidelity and disobedience. Hear our prayer and keep your Church united around him, firm
in its belief and action, that it may truly be the instrument of your redemption. Amen.
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