Pope Benedict on St. Jerome

Continuation of his catechesis on the Fathers, from Asia News Italy:

 The figure of St Jerome, was instead at the centre of his discourse to over 20 thousand pilgrims in St Peter’s square, despite the cold and threat of rain.  Today the Pope underlined the instead of education to responsibility, central to the teachings and example of the Saint, declared “eminent doctor of the Church” by Benedict XV, for his interpretations of scripture. An education to responsibility “before God and before man is the true condition for progress, peace and reconciliation and as a result the exclusion of violence”.

Love for Sacred scripture, the need for coherence between life and faith, especially for “preachers” so that they may not become like “that master who with a full stomach preaches of fasting”, the need for personal formation, from early childhood and for communion with the pope.  These are just some of the factors which St Jerome urged – to whom pope Benedict already dedicated last weeks catechesis – together with “the importance of a broad and disciplined Christian education for the young, including women”- quite unexpected in ancient times.

For St. Jerome “familiarising oneself with biblical texts above all the New Testament is essential for the believer, because ignoring the Sacred Scripture means ignoring Christ”. “Truly enamoured with the Word of God he would ask how one could live without the scriptures”, without the Bible “which is the source of  Christian life, for every person in every situation”.  It means “conversing with God”.  Its study and meditation “makes man wise and serene”.

At the same time it is our duty to  “unite our lives with the Word of God”.  Coherence “is necessary for each and every Christian and particularly for those who preach so that their actions do not undermine their words or embarrass them”.  As is the case with “that master who with a full stomach preaches of fasting”.

Teaching the Faith means Not Appearing Like a “Clown”

Pope Benedict continues his catechesis on the Fathers of the Church, today talking about St. Ambrose and using an image that will spark some headlines, from Asia News Italy:

 Those who teach the faith “cannot run the risk of appearing like a type of clown who is playing a part; rather he must be like the beloved disciple who rested his head on the Master’s heart and learned therein how to think, speak and act”.  Because “at the end of it all a true disciple is he who announces the Gospel in a credible and effective way”, in short “authentic witness”, as was the case with Saint Ambrose.

The figure of the bishop and saint from Milan, who lived between 340 and 397, and in particular his influence on Saint Augustine’s conversion, was at the heart of Benedict XVI’s address to the 30 thousand people gathered today for the general audience.

According to the Pope, an effective announcing of the Gospel can only occur there where the “witness” of the preacher’s life and the “exemplary conduct of the Christian community” are credible, as was the case with Saint Ambrose and his Church.  As Augustine himself writes in his ”Confessions” what urged the young sceptical and desperate African to convert was in fact “Saint Augustine’s witness and that of his Milanese Church, which sang and prayed as one united body, capable of resisting the arrogance of the Emperor and his mother”, who demanded a building for the Arians. But in that building “the people held vigil ready to die together with their bishop”. “It is all too clear – commented Benedict XVI – which the witness of the preacher and the exemplary conduct of the Christian community condition the effectiveness of the spreading of the faith”.

What Augustine tells us of his meeting with Ambrose, defined as “an historical event in the history of the Church”, Benedict XVI highlighted among other things, the “the singular capacity of reading and familiarity with the Scriptures” to underline that kind of “reading where the heart commits itself to intelligently reach the Word of God”.  It is the “prayerful reading” of the Sacred Scripture which is particularly dear to the Pope and figures often throughout his speeches.  With reference to this today he recalled “Dei Verbum”, the document on the Sacred Scripture of the Second Vatican Council:  “it is necessary that all catechists and those who legitimately take part in the liturgy of the Word, engage constantly in the Scriptures, through deep and spiritual reading and careful study so they do not become a vain preacher of the Lord’s Word on the outside without ever hearing it within”.

Pope: “well prepared married couples close the door to divorce ”

The pope continues his teaching on the Fathers of the Church, from Asia News Italy:

“Well prepared married couples close the door to divorce”: this urges the necessity of a Christian formation from early childhood.  It is also the “most current” lesson of “the authentic presence of Christian lay faithful in families and in society” which comes from St John Chrysostom and which Benedict XVI indicated to the 20 thousand people present at the general audience.

The figure of the great IV century bishop, St John of Antioch, also known as Chrysostom, mouth of gold, for his rhetoric capacity which makes him the “greates orator of all times” also gave the Pope food for an aside, when tracing the life of the saint he recalled the Antioch Sedition of 387, “when the people tore down the imperial statues to protest rising taxes”.  “We can see that some things never change over the course of time”.

Born in 349 in Antioch, modern day Southern Turkey, St John Chrysostom – the first phase of whose life the Pope discussed today – became the Bishop of Constantinople after a period spent as a hermit.  He was exiled twice in 403 and 407. He was among the most prolific fathers of the Church, counting over 700 homilies, 241 letters and many other writings, thus “we can say he is still alive today through his many works”.

His was a pastoral theology, based on preaching “which aims to develop the intellect of the faithful to understand and live the faith”, in so far as “the value of a man lies in his consciousness of the truth and rectitude of life”, “the conscience must be translated into life”.

In this logic of understanding and translating into practise the moral and spiritual exigencies of the faith to arrive at an integral development of the person, the great orator underlined the importance of Christian education from early childhood, a phase in which the consciousness of good and evil is introduced.   This is why “God’s laws must be impressed as if on a wax tablet”.  The formation must follow on in adolescence and marriage.  In the family, which St John Chrysostom defined “the small domestic Church”, “well prepared married couplet close the door to divorce”.

And from the family it follows on that each one of us “is in some way responsible for the salvation of the other, this is the principal of our social life: not being only self-interested”.

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