Pope Benedict XVI greeted thousands of pilgrims gathered under a warm Roman sun in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday. In his address, the Pope focused on how Christians must live out their faith by uniting contemplation with action.
Continuing his catechetical series on ancient figures in the Church, the Pope turned his attention to the St. Isidore of Seville, the brother of Saint Leander and a contemporary and friend of Saint Gregory the Great.
Isidore, under his brother's guidance, became disciplined and studious. Their house had a large library of pagan and Christian works, and hence Isidore's writings "reveal an encyclopedic knowledge of classical pagan culture as well as a profound understanding of Christian culture."
The Holy Father also noted that St. Isidore lived during the Visigothic invasions of Spain, devoted much energy to converting the barbarian tribes from heresy and preserving the best fruits of classical and Christian culture.
Despite the tendency to think of ancient writings as irrelevant to modern society, Pope Benedict said Saint Isidore’s reflections, which "gather and express the full Christian life,” are still valid today.
Isidore worked to bring the richness of pagan, Jewish and Christian learning to the rapidly changing political, social and religious situations in which he lived.
Another observation about St. Isidore that was highlighted by the Pope as worthy of reflection is how, throughout his life, Isidore was torn between his devotion to study and contemplation, and the demands made by his responsibilities as a bishop, especially towards the poor and those in need.
He found his model in Christ, who joined both the active and contemplative life, and sought to "love God in contemplation and one's neighbor in action."
The Pope explained that St. Isidore’s writings are relevant today because they bring clarity to “the relation between life active and contemplative life."
Quoting St. Isidore, Pope Benedict said, “The servant of God is wholeheartedly devoted to contemplation without denying the working life. To behave otherwise would not be right…. Just as you should love God with contemplation, so you must love one's neighbor with action.”
Pope Benedict concluded, “This synthesis is the lesson that the great bishop of Seville leaves us Christians today, called to bear witness to Christ at the beginning of a new millennium."
At the end of his catechesis, Pope Benedict encouraged young people still in the midst of exams, and urged youth to “take advantage of summer vacation for meaningful social and religious experiences."