Pope Benedict XVI held the last general audience today ahead of next week’s papal trip to the United States, urging a renewal of the Christian faith in Europe.
With Easter celebrations subsiding, Pope Benedict returned to his teachings on the lives of the Early Fathers of the Church this Wednesday, as he greeted 20,000 visitors and pilgrims in an overcast St. Peter's Square.
This week the Pope began a catechesis on the Father of Western monasticism, St. Benedict:
"Dear Brothers and Sisters,….the most important source of information on his life is the Second Book of the Dialogues of Pope Saint Gregory the Great. Writing in a time of turmoil and moral decadence following the fall of the Roman Empire, Pope Gregory believed that the life and Rule of Benedict could be a light leading the people of Europe out of darkness".
St. Benedict was born in 480 in the region of Nursia. He came to Rome to study but soon left the city so as to live in silence and to please God alone. He spent some time in a religious community before becoming a hermit in a cave.
"After struggling victoriously against the fundamental human temptations of pride, sensuality and anger, he decided to found a monastery at Subiaco. Years later he established a new community on a mountain, Montecassino, to symbolize the public role of a monastery called to be a light shining for the good of the Church and society. Indeed, when he died in 547 Saint Benedict left behind a thriving spiritual family and a Rule, which invites us to search for God in prayer, obedience and humility while attending faithfully to daily duties and to those in need," the Pope said.
Throughout his life St. Benedict "was immersed in an atmosphere of prayer, the main foundation of his existence. Without prayer there is no experience of God, but Benedict's spirituality was not an interior life divorced from reality. In the disquiet and confusion of his time, he lived under the gaze of God and with his own gaze fixed upon God, though without losing sight of his daily duties and the concrete needs of mankind".
In 1964, Pope Paul VI proclaimed Saint Benedict Patron of Europe recognizing the role that his teaching and his disciples had played in shaping Europe's spiritual life and culture. "Having just emerged from a century profoundly marked by two world wars and following the collapse of the great ideologies, ... Europe today is searching for its own identity", remarked Benedict XVI.
The Holy Father concluded his teaching with a fervent wish that Europe's new unity may be enlightened and nourished by a religious and moral renewal drawn from its Christian roots.
"May your lives, after the example of Saint Benedict, be lived in humility, prayer, obedience to God and faithful service to your neighbor. May the Lord bless you and your families!" Pope Benedict exclaimed.