Sunday, August 27, 2006

Saints Monica & Augustine - Models for Our Time {a word from Papa Benedict}

Looking back at the saints commemorated in these days, the pope referred to the difficulties faced by mothers and families to communicate the faith to their children. He also mentioned the duty to safeguard creation to help the poor of the earth.

Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) – Only Christ, “fullness of Truth and Love”, “can quench the profound desires of the human heart”: this is what Benedict XVI had to say to all youth who “thirsting for happiness, seek it by travelling down wrong roads and get lost in dead ends”. He said this to comfort mothers who suffer “the spiritual labour of prayer and tears” so that their children may come to embrace the Christian faith. Making these remarks during the reflection before today’s Angelus, the pope cited as an example the saints whose feast the Church is celebrating today and tomorrow: St Monica and St Augustine: “Their witness can be of great comfort and help to so many families of our time too.”

The pope presented Monica, a Christian from Tagaste (modern-day Tunisia), who, after the death of her husband, “dedicated herself, with courage, to the care of her three sons, including Augustine who initially caused her to suffer because of his somewhat rebellious temperament. As Augustine himself would say, his mother delivered him twice; the second time called for a long spiritual labour, made of prayer and tears but finally crowned with the joy of seeing him entirely in the service of Christ.” The comparison with current reality is clear: “How many difficulties there are today too in family ties, and how many mothers are anguished because their sons take wrong roads! Monica, a wise woman and firm in her faith, invites them not to get discouraged but to persevere in their mission as spouses and mothers, keeping their faith in God firm and holding onto prayer with perseverance.” While Benedict XVI described these situations, the silence and tacit participation of many women in the public expressed their agreement.

But the life of St Augustine, who became bishop of Hippo after a chaotic youth, is also of comfort. “All his existence was an impassioned search for truth,” said the pope. “At the end, not without prolonged interior torment, he discovered in Christ the ultimate and full meaning of his own life and of the entire history of mankind. In his adolescence, drawn to earthly beauty, ‘he threw himself’ into it – as he himself admits (cfr Confess.10:27-38) – in an egotistical and possessive manner, with behaviour that caused his pious mother no mean sorrow. But by following a tiring path, also thanks to her prayers, Augustine increasingly opened up to the fullness of truth and love, to the point of his onversion, which took place in Milan under the guidance of the bishop, St Ambrose. He thus would remain as a model of the journey towards God, supreme Truth and greatest Good. ‘Late have I loved you,’ he wrote in his renowned book of Confessions, “O Beauty, so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!

And behold, you were within me and I was outside… You were with me, and I was not with you… You called, and cried out to me and broke open my deafness; you shone forth upon me and you scattered my blindness’ (ibid).May St Augustine obtain the gift of a sincere and profound encounter with Christ for all those youth who, thirsting for happiness, seek it by travelling down wrong roads and get lost in dead ends.”

“St Monica and St Augustine invite us to turn to Mary, seat of wisdom, with faith. To her, we entrust Christian parents who, like Monica, accompany by example and prayer their children’s journey. To the Virgin, Mother of God, we commend youth so that, like Augustine, they will lean ever more towards the fullness of Truth and Love that is Christ: He alone can quench the profound desires of the human heart.”

After the Marian prayer, the pope recalled the “Day for safeguarding creation” that the Italian church will mark on 1 September. Creation, this “great gift of God”, said the pontiff, “is exposed to serious risks by choices and lifestyles that may degrade it. Environmental degradation makes unsustainable especially the existence of the poor of the earth. In dialogue with Christians of different denominations, we should commit ourselves to taking care of creation, without depleting its resources and sharing them with solidarity.”

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