Saturday, October 7, 2006

Pope Benedict to Theologians: We must purify our thoughts in silence - then talk

Here is a post made by "Teresa Benedetta" in the Papa Ratzinger Forums (Italy), which is a full translation of the Pope's recent homily to theologians. It was done without a prepared script. It's a joy to watch Pope Benedict in a magnificent teaching moment. To my mind, some of his words to theologians could apply to others, such as Catholic bloggers. A deep prayer life must be at the forefront of everyone's life, but especially for anyone who is doing any "work" for God. This is especially true in communication. Blogging can be an apostolate. But, it can also become a place to exhibit personal pride.


Here is a translation of the homily delivered extemporaneously by the Holy Father today at the Mass he concelebrated in the Redemptoris Mater chapel of the Vatican with priests who are members of the International Theological Commission:


Dear brothers and sisters,

I did not really prepare a homily today, just some notes on which to meditate. The mission of St. Bruno, the saint of the day, appears clearly interpreted, we might say, in the prayer for the day which reminds us that his mission was silence and contemplation.

Silence and contemplation have a purpose: they serve to keep - amid the daily distraction of daily life - (a space for) continuing union with God. That is the purpose: that union with God should always be in our spirit and transform all our being.

Silence and contemplation - St. Bruno's characteristics - help us to find amid the distractions of every day a profound and continuing union with God.

Silence and contemplation! But the calling of a theologian, a beautiful calling, is to talk. That is his mission: amid the loquacity of our time, and other times, amid the inflation of words, to keep the essential words alive and present. To present with words the Word that comes from God, the Word that is God.

But how can we, being part of this world with all its words, present the Word in words, if not through a process of purifying our own thoughts, which above, all should also be a purification of our words?

How can we open the world - ourselves, first of all - to the Word, without first entering into the silence of God, from which the Word proceeds?

For the purification of our words, and therefore, for the purification of words in the world, we need that silence which becomes meditation, which makes us enter into the silence of God and thus arrive at the point from which the Word was born, the redemptive Word.

St. Thomas Aquinas, following a long tradition, says that in theology, God is not the object that we speak of. This is our normal idea. In fact, God is not the object but the subject of theology.

He who speaks in theology should be God himself. Our thoughts and words should serve only so that God's word can be heard, can find room in the world.

So we find ourselves invited anew to this path of renouncing our own words, on a path of purification so that our words may only be an instrument through which God can speak, so that God is not the object but the subject of theology.

In this context, I am reminded of a beautiful sentence in the first Letter of St. Peter, chapter 1, verse 22. In Latin, it says - «Castificantes animas nostras in oboedentia veritatis» . Obedience to truth should castify our souls - and thus, guide us to right words and right actions.

In other words, to speak in search of applause, to speak according to what we think others want to hear, to speak in obedience to the dictatorship of common opinion, may be considered a prostitution of words and of the spirit.

The "chastity" that the apostle Peter refers to means not submitting ourselves to common standards, not to seek applause, but rather, obedience to the truth.

I think that is the fundamental virtue of theology, this difficult discipline of obedience to the truth - which makes us co-workers in the truth, the voice of truth, because we do not speak in the rivers of words that characterizes the world today, but in words that are purified and made chaste by obedience to the truth. And therefore, we can be truly bearers of the truth.

This also reminds me of St. Ignatius of Antioch who had this beautiful thought: "Wheover has understood the words of the Lord understands His silence, because the Lord can be known in His silence."

The analysis of Jesus's words can only go up to a certain point, which remains our thought. Only when we reach the silence of the Lord, in His being with the Father from whom the words come, only then can we really begin to understand the profundity of these words.

The words of Jesus were born from His silence on the mountain, as the Scriptures tell us, when He was with His Father. From the silence of His communion with the Father, from being immersed in the Father, His words were born.

(Likewise), only by arriving at this point of communion, and taking off from this point, we reach the true depth of the Word and we can be its authentic interpreters.

In talking to us, the Lord invites us to join him on the Mountain, and in silence, learn anew the true sense of His words.

Having said this, we come to the two readings today. Job had cried out to God, he had even struggled with God in the face of the evident injustices he had to deal with. And then he is confronted with the greatness of God. And he understands that in the face of the true greatness of God, our words are mere poverty and cannot even remotely approach the greatness of God, and so he says: "I have spoken twice, I will say no more."

Silence before the greatness of God, because our words become too puny. It reminds me of the last weeks of St. Thomas's life - when he stopped writing, he stopped speaking. His friends asked him: "Master, why don't you speak, why don't you write?" And he says, "Before what I have seen, all my words seem to me like straw."

The great expert on St.Thomas, Fr. Jean-Pierre Torrel, tells us not to misunderstand these words. Straw is not nothing. Straw carries the grain, and that is its great value. It carries the grain. So even the straw of words remains valid as a bearer of the grain.

This, I would say, even for us, is a relativization of our work as well as a valuation of it. It is also an indication to us so that the straw of our work should truly carry the grain of God's Word.

The Gospel today ends with, "Whoever listens to you, listens to me." What an admonition, what an examination of conscience these words require! Is it true that whoever hears me really hears the Lord? Let us pray and work that it may always be true that whoever listens to us, listens to Christ. Amen!

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 06/10/2006 20.07]
Source (scroll down to entry 10/6/2006)