Wednesday, September 09, 2009

On "Making Silence Within"

Continuing his General Audience series on the "Great Monks" and the spirituality that made them tick, today the Pope turned to the 11th century Benedictine theologian St Peter Damian -- an "exuberant personality," he said, but one who knew the import of "being silent in ourselves to hear the voice of God":
Writer, Latin scholar, poet, "personally committed to the reform undertaken by the popes" in the eleventh century, but above all a monk, Pier Damiani was born in Ravenna in 1007. An orphan from an early age, his childhood "was not without pain. He received his formation first at Faenza and then Parma. He became a teacher, competent in law and had a "refined skill in the art of composition", becoming "one of the best Latinists of his time".

His "poetic contemplation of the world” pushed him to leave it in 1034, when he entered the recently founded monastery of Fonte Avellana. He described the life of the founder St. Romuald of Ravenna, and "especially the ideal of monastic hermitage”. In connection to this the Pope recalled that the hermit was dedicated to the Holy Cross, “the Christian mystery that fascinated him more than all others". "Those who do not love the Cross - he would say - do not love Christ"....

In Fonte Avellana Peter Damian also drafted the rule, "in the silence of the cloister, monks are called to a life of prayer," of "fasting," "brotherly love" and "availability to the superior". He emphasized the "mystical meanings of the Word of God", he defined the cell as a "parlour where God converses with man”. "This is still important for those of us who are not monks: knowing how to make silence within, to hear the voice of God”. "In prayer and meditation we learn the Word of God in the path of life”.

In his theological work Peter Damian "sets out with clarity and brilliance the doctrine of the Trinity" and describes the Church as Communion, "the Church is united by the bond of charity" and "the whole universal Church is rightly called the only bride of Christ, in the singular”. Peter Damian, however, knows that "this ideal image does not match the reality of his time; he does not hesitate to denounce the corruption that exists in the monasteries and the clergy in particular the practice of conferring on secular authorities the investiture of ecclesiastical offices. Several bishops and abbots behaved more like governors of subjects than pastors of souls". So in 1057 he accepted an appointment as Cardinal of Ostia and began working with the popes in the reform of the Church. "He renounced the beauty of the Hermitage and courageously undertook numerous journeys and missions”....

"It's a great grace - commented the Pope - that God raised such an exuberant personality in the life of the Church." "He was a monk to the end - he concluded - with forms of austerity that today might seem excessive, and thus made monastic life an eloquent testimony to the primacy of God", he is "a reminder to all to walk towards holiness free from any compromise with evil" not to "be entirely absorbed by the activities, problems and worries of every day, forgetting that Jesus must be truly in the centre of our lives".
Among others, B16 dedicated last week's reflection to another Benedictine -- the 10th century abbot St Odo of Cluny, breaking from the thread a week earlier to devote an audience not to a person, but an issue: the safeguarding of creation.

Though today's appearance took place at the Vatican, the pontiff choppered in for the morning from Castel Gandolfo; keeping with his custom, Papa Ratzi won't return to the Apostolic Palace full-time til month's end.