Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The "true humanism" of Saint Benedict, which means a journey toward God, remains today an antidote against the culture of the "easy and egocentric" self-realisation of man, a temptation "that is often exalted today", in a Europe that "just having left behind a century profoundly wounded by two world wars, and after the collapse of the grand ideologies, revealed as tragic utopias, is searching for its identity".
The figure of the founder of Western monasticism, "and also the patron of my pontificate", was at the centre of the reflection that Benedict XVI presented today to the 30,000 people in Saint Peter's Square for the general audience, the last before his departure for his visit to the United States, on April 15. Today's address brought his expression of the hope that "Europe may be enlightened by the religious and moral teaching that emerges from its Christian roots", which was expanded to the vision of the Benedictine rule as a model for all men of today, since by his life Saint Benedict "demonstrates that God is not a faraway hypothesis about the origin of the world, but a concrete presence in the life of man". Thus, on the Old Continent, "in order to create a new and lasting unity, political, economic, and legal instruments are certainly important, but there is also the need for a spiritual and ethical renewal that draws upon the Christian roots of the continent, otherwise Europe cannot be rebuilt. Without this vital sap", he continued, "man is exposed to the risk of succumbing and of wanting to redeem himself". This is "a utopia that in various ways, as Pope John Paul II showed, represents an unprecedented step backward in tumultuous history of humanity".
The pope then recalled that Saint Benedict, who was born around the year 480, was sent by his prosperous parents to study in Rome. But, "disgusted by the lifestyle of many of his companions", and not wanting to fall into the same errors, but "to please God alone", he withdrew to the mountains east of Rome, before his studies were concluded. During the three years when he lived as a hermit in a cave near Subiaco, he experienced a period of "solitude together with God". That period allowed him to overcome three fundamental temptations: that of self-affirmation, of placing himself at the centre, that of sexuality, and that of anger and vengeance".
"In the anxiety and confusion of his time", caused by the fall of the Roman Empire and by the crisis in public behaviour, "he lived under the eyes of God, and with his own eyes directed toward him, without losing sight of man and his concrete problems". "Thus he understood the reality of man and his mission". The pope then emphasised St Benedict's life of prayer, which for him was "in the first place an act of listening, which must then be translated into concrete action. The Lord is waiting for us to respond practically, every day, to his holy instruction". The rule of St Benedict, in conclusion, is still today "a light along humanity's path", and is "the search for the humble and obedient Christ", and precisely in this way is at the service of the other and of peace.