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Signs from a seismic land

Cold, mud and fatigue were not enough to dim the signs of light during the eleven hours of Benedict XVI’s Visit to Calabria. The Pope was expected in the morning in Lamezia Terme, in the afternoon at Serra San Bruno and then at the famous Charterhouse. His brief visit was in itself a much desired sign of encouragement for the people of Lamezia, as well as those in most of southern Italy, who struggle daily with difficult social problems. At Serra, where the German St Bruno has left an indelible mark, the meeting with the Pope, a fellow countryman of the monk, was an incentive to renew determination to resolve the grave unemployment crisis which particularly affects young people. Benedict XVI put himself in tune with the people who had waited for him since dawn, after a night of torrential rain, addressing in clear words all of the people of Calabria, “a land that is seismic”, he said, “not just geologically but also from a structural, behavioural and social point of view”. The way out of the unemployment emergency and an “often brutal” criminality can only be found in unity and solidarity, increased collaboration, taking care of one another and the common good. The Pope reminded Catholics in particular of the need for “modern and organic” pastoral work, gathering all the Christian forces around the bishop, spreading the practice of lectio divina and knowledge of the social teaching. From these two initiatives, the Pope hopes for the birth of “a new generation of men and women who can promote not so much their private interests but rather the common good”. The Pontiff’s stop in Lamezia was not simply a pause on his pilgrimage to the Charterhouse, a symbolic place which holds the secret to the solution of human problems. In fact, he arrived there without forgetting any of the questions of those he encountered on the way. He brought those questions with him, expanding the horizon the better to glimpse a solution to the problems of the region. Benedict XVI’s constant desire to remain connected to the charism of the contemplative life is born from the conviction that the monastery has not exhausted its beneficial function in society. Only the context has changed. Today, rather than reclaiming the marshlands, the monasteries serve to re-claim the climate of society, “polluted by a mindset that is neither Christian nor even human”. It continues to be a model “of a society centred on God and on brotherly relations”.

An interesting dialogue was established between the Pope and the Prior of the Charterhouse during the celebration of Vespers. A singular and profound exchange on the love of God that becomes universal. Perhaps one of the symbolic moments, in its simplicity, of Benedict XVI’s Pontificate.

The Prior expressed the humble perception of self which the monks cultivate, conscious of occupying a marginal place in the Church, and he then spoke of monastic life as an experience of love which embraces the entire world; of the solitude which opens up to a universal communion. The Pope responded, speaking to the monks but with the intention of speaking to the whole Church, emphasizing the “deep bond that exists between Peter and Bruno, between pastoral service to the Church’s unity and the contemplative vocation in the Church”. Those “seized” by love for God, who are witnesses to the essential, assist the Church and the world in re-discovering their own souls, encouraging human cities to free themselves from noise and spiritual emptiness and return to the experience of “the most real Reality that exists”. Thus, a dash of the cloister spirit would do no harm.

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