· Cardinal Bertone at Les Combes ·
“ Affectionate remembrance of the victims” of the massacre last Friday in Oslo and on the Norwegian Island of Utøya due to the criminal attack of Andhjers Behering Breivik, was proposed yesterday, Sunday 24 July, by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, at Les Combes in the Valle d'Aosta where he is spending a period of rest. “The people of Norway”, the Cardin al said, “are continuing on their way in Europe in accordance with the values that have characterized their history”. The Cardinal dedicated this Sunday to blessing the projects promoted by the community of the valley in memory of Pope Wojtyła: The “John Paul II Foyer” and the “John Paul II Path”. The following is a translation of his homily, which was given in Italian.
I first of all bring you the greeting and blessing of our beloved Pope Benedict XVI. He remembers us, is praying for us and is close to us with his fatherly affection.
We are immersed in the beauty of nature and this open space today becomes a temple, a church, a cathedral to welcome our Eucharistic celebration and to unite our hearts in a unanimous prayer of thanksgiving and praise to the Lord. Let us thank the Lord for having given to Les Combes and to this splendid valley a special mission that is recognized throughout the world: they have served as a setting for rest, for reflection, for personal prayer and for the public prayer of the Sunday Angelus by two Popes: John Paul II who stayed here 10 times from 1989 to 2004, and Benedict XVI three times in 2005, 2006 and 2009.
The rite of the blessing of the house that welcomed such distinguished guests and that we hope will continue to welcome them in the future has just ended. It is the Foyer which has taken the name of John Paul II , parts of which have been enlarged and made more functional thanks to the contribution of generous benefactors and workers.
Let us ask the Lord, however, to extend his blessing to all the homes in the Municipality of Introd, the roads in the valley, the footpaths, the pastures and the woods, where the good inhabitants of the area live and work.
To do this we shall make our own the beautiful words of the blessing of houses, passed down through the centuries, that decorate the dwellings of people who live in the countryside in Hungary and in Transylvania and that can be interpreted as a testimony of their faith.
Where there is faith, there is love.
Where there is love, there is peace.
Where there is peace, there is blessing.
Where there is blessing, there is God.
Where there is God, there is no need!
This concentrated human and spiritual reality is the best of what the human being can desire; it is in harmony with the good offered by God through Creation.
I would like to take this opportunity to mention briefly the importance of allowing this nature, these mountains and this good fresh air to restore our strength. In his time Don Bosco was also an innovator on the subject of rest and recreation. We must not forget that the Salesians immediately entered the context of the difficult and complex working world of the 19th century — which later prompted Pope Leo XIII to write his first social Encyclical, Rerum Novarum (1891) — not only with the first contracts for apprentices but with an original “Association” in the interest of workers, affirming, among other things, the right to rest and to free time, as well as the right to instruction, especially for minors, and the need to recompose the family as the fundamental cell of society, supporting every effort to put man with his lofty aims at the centre of the economy and of production. Indeed, it is an act of human honesty to know when to stop, to take that time for relaxation and peace assigned to the human creature. The Salesians encouraged leisure time and rest for young people and consequently for their families with the creation of numerous summer holiday camps scattered everywhere, one of which has also sprung up here in Introd.
Let us now pause for a brief reflection on the biblical readings that have been proposed to us by this Eucharistic liturgy. The clarity of the message they wish to pass on to us is striking.
In the First Reading from the Book of Kings, Solomon, invited by the Lord to ask for what he wanted most, asks nothing for himself, neither health nor riches nor victory over his enemies, but only the wisdom to govern well: “Give your servant therefore an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong”. The request was pleasing in the eyes of the Lord who granted him a wise and intelligent heart.
The wisdom of knowing how to distinguish “between right and wrong” is exalted by the most beautiful Psalm 119 which describes poetically the value of the law impressed on Creation by the Lord and the joy of human beings at being able to be with God always in all his hours and in the decisions of his life, to the extent that it makes him exclaim: “O Lord… I find my delight in your commandments, which I love”.
Next, the Letter of St Paul to the Romans is also an invitation in our day — even in our Western world so imbued with a pessimistic atmosphere — to have an optimistic outlook, since it says: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him”. Experience teaches that often sorrow and suffering are teachers who teach many things. The obstacles that we meet sooner or later on the journey through life can bring out the most beautiful things we bear within us. This is the gift of an inner gaze at the events of life given to “those who love God”.
Lastly, let us reflect on the Gospel passage that extends our gaze to contemplation of the “Kingdom of God”; a reality which according to the Evangelist surpasses all the good things that man can possess, but that do not correspond to his true need.
The hidden treasure and the pearl of great value, of which the Evangelist Matthew speaks, are evocative images for expressing the true riches of a God who makes himself close to us, who communicates himself to us, who makes himself one with us to reign in us and among us, as the foundation of a society built in accordance with the laws of the Gospel. Giuseppe Tovini, who died in 1897 and was beatified by John Paul II in 1998, a lawyer and banker, the father of ten children concerned about defending the faith, said at a congress: “without faith our children will never be rich, with faith they will never be poor”. The primary wealth, for the disciple, does not consist in the excessive possession of things, but in being a friend of God.
Finally, I would like to remember what John Paul II, now Blessed, said to young people during the World Youth Day of 2000, opening up to them the real prospects of an authentic and lasting good that must be sought like the most precious treasure: “It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal”.
May this be the commitment of us all. Amen.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 22, 2020
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