Benedict XVI returned to Monte Cassino, a place he had been to often before his election to the Chair of Peter, to say anew that nothing should be preferred to the love of Christ, nihil amori Christi praeponere , in line with the beautiful and fundamental words of the Benedictine Rule. The new Pope had recalled them to explain why he chose this name as Roman Pontiff. This auspicious name promising peace which had not recurred in the succession of Popes for more than 90 years was thus explained principally in reference to the absolute primacy of Christ.
Christ's primacy is not an abstract concept, even less an ideology. Rather, it is the consequence of an encounter – as the Pope says in his first Encyclical – in the daily life of Christians. Joseph Ratzinger's encounter, like every member of the faithful, in accordance with a “plan” he clearly spelled out at the beginning of his Pontificate: “not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by him”. The Pope pointed to the search for God – that quaerere Deum taught by the Father of Western monasticism and by Benedict XVI in Paris, in the memorable Discourse he gave at the Collège des Bernardins – as being at the root of the culture that developed on the European continent.
The Benedictine programme to prefer nothing to Christ is carried out every day in practical actions. And in the span of a day – the Pope repeated – the monastic life has exemplary value for every member of the faithful, man or woman. First of all, in the space reserved for prayer, it can be the “silent path” that leads to God, and hence to the authentic “breath of the soul”.
Then comes work. This is always a difficult reality and in this time of a world crisis it often brings worry and anxiety for individuals and families and is complicated further by the immigration question. Furthermore, culture which is not confined to limited contexts, means also and above all the education of the new generations and responsibility for them. The Italian Bishops are worried by these problems, and not by chance Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Bishops' Conference, voiced their concern at the opening of the General Assembly on 25 May.
For Benedict XVI his return to Monte Cassino was thus a further opportunity to call attention to the priorities of life and once again to invoke peace – indeed, the gift of peace and the commitment to achieving it – from a place of gentleness and civilization that was pointlessly destroyed by the barbarities of modern war, that appalling tragedy into which Europe began to sink 70 years ago.
For this reason too it was precisely from Monte Cassino that Paul VI proclaimed St Benedict Patron of the Old Continent, summing up the centuries-old work of his monks in the Cross, the plough and the book. He did so to stress the responsibility of Christians who must witness visibly to the depth and effectiveness of their roots. Their witness is needed in Europe, in the global context and in the reasonable search for the common good.
St. Peter’s Square
Dec. 11, 2019
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