The Holy Father dedicated his Sunday homily to reflections on the life of St. Celestine as he visited the Italian city where the relics of the 13th century saint and Pope are kept. In a message filled with lessons on life, the Pope especially highlighted the importance of silence to finding God, the fact that faith is a gift and the lasting power of holiness.
Pope Benedict XVI began his pastoral visit to Sulmona, Italy by flying over the grotto, now a hermitage, where Peter of Morrone spent years in contemplation and prayer as a monk. Peter later became Pope Celestine V and was canonized relatively shortly after his death. St. Celestine's life is being celebrated this year, declared by the Pope a "Jubilee Year" for the 800th anniversary since the saint's birth.
In his words during the Eucharistic Celebration in the open air of the city square, Pope Benedict XVI remembered the St. Celestine as a "seeker of God," a man who turned to interior and exterior silence in his life as a hermit to perceive His voice.
This example is important also for us today, said the Pope, as "we live in a society in which every space, every moment seems like it must be filled by initiatives, by activities, by sounds; often there isn't even time for listening and speaking.
"Dear brothers and sisters," he said, "if we wish to be able not only to perceive the voice of God, but also that of who is alongside of us, of others, let us not be afraid to create silence outside and inside of ourselves."
Benedict XVI added that the hermit's "discovery of the Lord" was not a product of his own efforts, "but it was made possible by the very Grace of God, that precedes it (...) everything essential in our existence has been given without our contribution."
And it is for this very reason, he explained, that "we must be aware, keeping our 'interior eyes,' those of our hearts, always open. And if we learn to know God in his infinite goodness, then we will be able also to see, with amazement, in our lives - as the saints (have) - signs of the God that is ever near to us, is always good to us, (and) who says to us: 'Have faith in me!'"
Remembering the lasting quality of St. Celestine's holy life, Pope Benedict said that "holiness, in fact, never loses its attractive force, it does not fall into oblivion, it never goes out of style, actually, with the passing of time, it shines with ever greater brightness..."
The Holy Father concluded his homily by making an exhortation that we remain firm in the faith we have received, "which gives sense to life and gives us the strength to love."