Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Deus Caritas Est: CONCLUSION

40. Finally, let us consider the saints, who exercised charity in an exemplary way. Our thoughts turn especially to Martin of Tours († 397), the soldier who became a monk and a bishop: he is almost like an icon, illustrating the irreplaceable value of the individual testimony to charity. At the gates of Amiens, Martin gave half of his cloak to a poor man: Jesus himself, that night, appeared to him in a dream wearing that cloak, confirming the permanent validity of the Gospel saying: “I was naked and you clothed me ... as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:36, 40).[36] Yet in the history of the Church, how many other testimonies to charity could be quoted! In particular, the entire monastic movement, from its origins with Saint Anthony the Abbot († 356), expresses an immense service of charity towards neighbour. In his encounter “face to face” with the God who is Love, the monk senses the impelling need to transform his whole life into service of neighbour, in addition to service of God. This explains the great emphasis on hospitality, refuge and care of the infirm in the vicinity of the monasteries. It also explains the immense initiatives of human welfare and Christian formation, aimed above all at the very poor, who became the object of care firstly for the monastic and mendicant orders, and later for the various male and female religious institutes all through the history of the Church. The figures of saints such as Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, John of God, Camillus of Lellis, Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Giuseppe B. Cottolengo, John Bosco, Luigi Orione, Teresa of Calcutta to name but a few—stand out as lasting models of social charity for all people of good will. The saints are the true bearers of light within history, for they are men and women of faith, hope and love.

41. Outstanding among the saints is Mary, Mother of the Lord and mirror of all holiness. In the Gospel of Luke we find her engaged in a service of charity to her cousin Elizabeth, with whom she remained for “about three months” (1:56) so as to assist her in the final phase of her pregnancy. “Magnificat anima mea Dominum”, she says on the occasion of that visit, “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Lk 1:46). In these words she expresses her whole programme of life: not setting herself at the centre, but leaving space for God, who is encountered both in prayer and in service of neighbour—only then does goodness enter the world. Mary's greatness consists in the fact that she wants to magnify God, not herself. She is lowly: her only desire is to be the handmaid of the Lord (cf. Lk 1:38, 48). She knows that she will only contribute to the salvation of the world if, rather than carrying out her own projects, she places herself completely at the disposal of God's initiatives. Mary is a woman of hope: only because she believes in God's promises and awaits the salvation of Israel, can the angel visit her and call her to the decisive service of these promises. Mary is a woman of faith: “Blessed are you who believed”, Elizabeth says to her (cf. Lk 1:45). The Magnificat—a portrait, so to speak, of her soul—is entirely woven from threads of Holy Scripture, threads drawn from the Word of God. Here we see how completely at home Mary is with the Word of God, with ease she moves in and out of it. She speaks and thinks with the Word of God; the Word of God becomes her word, and her word issues from the Word of God. Here we see how her thoughts are attuned to the thoughts of God, how her will is one with the will of God. Since Mary is completely imbued with the Word of God, she is able to become the Mother of the Word Incarnate. Finally, Mary is a woman who loves. How could it be otherwise? As a believer who in faith thinks with God's thoughts and wills with God's will, she cannot fail to be a woman who loves. We sense this in her quiet gestures, as recounted by the infancy narratives in the Gospel. We see it in the delicacy with which she recognizes the need of the spouses at Cana and makes it known to Jesus. We see it in the humility with which she recedes into the background during Jesus' public life, knowing that the Son must establish a new family and that the Mother's hour will come only with the Cross, which will be Jesus' true hour (cf. Jn 2:4; 13:1). When the disciples flee, Mary will remain beneath the Cross (cf. Jn 19:25-27); later, at the hour of Pentecost, it will be they who gather around her as they wait for the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14).

42. The lives of the saints are not limited to their earthly biographies but also include their being and working in God after death. In the saints one thing becomes clear: those who draw near to God do not withdraw from men, but rather become truly close to them. In no one do we see this more clearly than in Mary. The words addressed by the crucified Lord to his disciple—to John and through him to all disciples of Jesus: “Behold, your mother!” (Jn 19:27)—are fulfilled anew in every generation. Mary has truly become the Mother of all believers. Men and women of every time and place have recourse to her motherly kindness and her virginal purity and grace, in all their needs and aspirations, their joys and sorrows, their moments of loneliness and their common endeavours. They constantly experience the gift of her goodness and the unfailing love which she pours out from the depths of her heart. The testimonials of gratitude, offered to her from every continent and culture, are a recognition of that pure love which is not self- seeking but simply benevolent. At the same time, the devotion of the faithful shows an infallible intuition of how such love is possible: it becomes so as a result of the most intimate union with God, through which the soul is totally pervaded by him—a condition which enables those who have drunk from the fountain of God's love to become in their turn a fountain from which “flow rivers of living water” (Jn 7:38). Mary, Virgin and Mother, shows us what love is and whence it draws its origin and its constantly renewed power. To her we entrust the Church and her mission in the service of love:

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
you have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son – the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely
to God's call
and thus became a wellspring
of the goodness which flows forth from him.
Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
Teach us to know and love him,
so that we too can become
capable of true love
and be fountains of living water
in the midst of a thirsting world.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 25 December, the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, in the year 2005, the first of my Pontificate.


[1] Cf. Jenseits von Gut und Böse, IV, 168.

[2] X, 69.

[3] Cf. R. Descartes, Œuvres, ed. V. Cousin, vol. 12, Paris 1824, pp. 95ff.

[4] II, 5: SCh 381, 196.

[5] Ibid., 198.

[6] Cf. Metaphysics, XII, 7.

[7] Cf. Ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite, who in his treatise The Divine Names, IV, 12-14: PG 3, 709-713 calls God both eros and agape.

[8] Plato, Symposium, XIV-XV, 189c-192d.

[9] Sallust, De coniuratione Catilinae, XX, 4.

[10] Cf. Saint Augustine, Confessions, III, 6, 11: CCL 27, 32.

[11] De Trinitate, VIII, 8, 12: CCL 50, 287.

[12] Cf. I Apologia, 67: PG 6, 429.

[13] Cf. Apologeticum, 39, 7: PL 1, 468.

[14] Ep. ad Rom., Inscr: PG 5, 801.

[15] Cf. Saint Ambrose, De officiis ministrorum, II, 28, 140: PL 16, 141.

[16] Cf. Ep. 83: J. Bidez, L'Empereur Julien. Œuvres complètes, Paris 19602, v. I, 2a, p. 145.

[17] Cf. Congregation for Bishops, Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops Apostolorum Successores (22 February 2004), 194, Vatican City 2004, p. 213.

[18] De Civitate Dei, IV, 4: CCL 47, 102.

[19] Cf. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 36.

[20] Cf. Congregation for Bishops, Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops Apostolorum Successores (22 February 2004), 197, Vatican City 2004, p. 217.

[21] John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (30 December 1988), 42: AAS 81 (1989), 472.

[22] Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life (24 November 2002), 1: L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 22 January 2003, p. 5.

[23] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1939.

[24] Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity Apostolicam Actuositatem, 8.

[25] Ibid., 14.

[26] Cf. Congregation for Bishops, Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops Apostolorum Successores (22 February 2004), 195, Vatican City 2004, pp. 214-216.

[27] Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (30 December 1988), 41: AAS 81 (1989), 470-472.

[28] Cf. No. 32: AAS 80 (1988), 556.

[29] No. 43: AAS 87 (1995), 946.

[30] Cf. Congregation for Bishops, Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops Apostolorum Successores (22 February 2004), 196, Vatican City 2004, p. 216.

[31] Cf. Pontificale Romanum, De ordinatione episcopi, 43.

[32] Cf. can. 394; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, can. 203.

[33] Cf. Nos. 193-198: pp. 212-219.

[34] Ibid., 194: pp. 213-214.

[35] Sermo 52, 16: PL 38, 360.

[36] Cf. Sulpicius Severus, Vita Sancti Martini, 3, 1-3: SCh 133, 256-258.

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