Pope Benedict greeted pilgrims in Paul VI Hall this morning as he held his weekly general audience. Continuing his catechesis on ancient Church figures, he spoke today about Boethius and Cassiodorus, two great Christian writers who lived in Italy during the years following the fall of the Roman Empire.
Boethius, best known for his work “On the Consolation of Philosophy”, was born in Rome in 480, and entered public life as a senator at the age of 25. However, he continued his philosophical and religious studies alongside his public responsibilities, anxious to preserve the heritage of Greek and Roman learning for future generations.
Unjustly imprisoned and later executed by King Theodoric for allegedly plotting to assassinate him, he wrote his greatest philosophical work in prison. In reflecting on the injustice of his situation in the light of biblical Wisdom literature and classical authors, he concluded that true happiness lies in continuing to hope in God, despite adversity.
The Holy Father said, that indeed, "Boethius is a symbol of a huge number of prisoners unjustly condemned throughout all times and across all latitudes. His life is in fact a place to enter into the contemplation of the mystery of the Crucifixion of Golgotha."
Speaking of Cassiodorus, Boethius' contemporary, Pope Benedict said, "Indeed, harsh fortune helps us to distinguish true friends from false ones, and there can be few greater consolations than that of true friendship."
Cassiodorus also sought to preserve the heritage of Greek and Roman learning and devoted much time and energy to promoting the monastic movement. He did so because he believed that monks were the people best placed to preserve and hand on the heritage of Classical Christian culture.
He conceived the idea of entrusting to monks the task recovering, preserving and passing on to posterity the immense cultural heritage of the ancients. With this purpose in mind, Cassiodorus founded a monastery, and ensured that monks were trained not only in manual and agricultural labor, but in transcribing and preserving manuscripts.
At the same time, Cassiodorus maintained the monastic spiritual ideals of contemplation and charitable service to the poor. Pope Benedict remarked that, "We would do well to take note of his advice to his monks: 'Meditate day and night on the law of the Lord and always focus your attention upon Christ'."
In closing, Pope Benedict invoked his blessing on all the pilgrims present saying, "Upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace."