Religion is intrinsic to man, Pope Benedict XVI noted at his weekly General Audience on May 11.
“The human being is religious by nature. The image of the Creator is engraved on human beings, who feel the need to find a light to answer the questions regarding the profound meaning of reality.”
It is “an answer that we cannot find in ourselves, in progress, or in empirical science,” the Pope told pilgrims.
Hence, he continued, we find a sense of disappointment and futility among today’s radical secularists.
“Looking at recent history, the predictions of those who, from the age of Enlightenment, foretold the disappearance of religions and exalted absolute reason, separated from faith, have failed.”
This was the second in the Pope’s new series of Wednesday audiences focusing on prayer. For the past two years he had been examining the lives of the saints. That series concluded prior to Lent.
The Pope explained the source of man’s religious instincts. “(H)umanity bears within it a thirst for the infinite, a yearning for eternity, a search for beauty, a desire for love, a need for light and truth, which impel us toward the Absolute. We carry within us the desire for God. In some way, we know that we can turn to God, that we can pray to Him.
“Saint Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest theologians of history, defined prayer as ‘the expression of humanity’s desire for God’.”
Hence the impulse to pray. “In prayer, human beings experience themselves as creatures in need of help, incapable of attaining the fulfillment of their existence or their hopes alone. In the experience of prayer we orient our very souls to that Mystery from which we look for the fulfillment of our deepest desires and help to overcome the poverty of our lives.
“In looking to the Other, in directing ourselves ‘beyond’, is found the essence of prayer, the experience of a reality that goes beyond the apparent and the contingent,” the pontiff added.
And despite living in an age that seems to be “marked by an apparent eclipse of God” the Pope observed there are also clear “signs of a renewed religious sense.” He concluded by urging those present to learn how to pray more often.
“We must learn to spend more time in front of God, before the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ; we must learn to recognize in silence, within our very selves, his voice that calls us and leads us to the depth of our existence, to the fount of life and the source of salvation, so that we might overcome the limit of our lives and open ourselves to the measure of God, the relationship with He who is Infinite Love.”