Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) - "Contemporary relativism mortifies reason, because in fact it arrives at the point of affirming that the human being knows nothing with certainty beyond the field of positive science”. Thus man remains a "beggar for meaning and fulfilment," "in constant search for comprehensive answers to questions of substance that he ceaselessly poses to himself”. Thus, just as the Council invites, the priests of today must remember this "thirst for truth," that is burning in the heart of every man, and become teachers of the faith, capable of "opening up the way that leads to Christ [and the Church] to all people”.
This was the heart of the pope’s message in his first general audience from the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo summer, dedicated to the figure of Saint John Mary Vianney, whose memorial was celebrated yesterday. Benedict XVI reaffirmed the value of the Saint, known as the Curé d'Ars, as an example for all priests in the this year for priests, launched on the occasion of 150 anniversary of his death, which occurred on August 4,1859.
Beyond the differences, and "even admirable" "nineteenth century devotional spirituality” of the Curé d'Ars, the pontiff stressed the need to see the “prophetic power" of his priestly personality.
"In post-revolutionary France - explained the pope – that was experiencing a kind of 'dictatorship of rationalism' bent on erasing the very presence of priests and the Church in society, he lived, first - in the years of his youth - a heroic clandestinity travelling kilometres at night to attend Mass. Then - as a priest – he stood out for his unique and fruitful pastoral creativity in showing that the rationalism which prevailed at the time, was far from meeting real needs and moreover, ultimately not worth living. "
"If then there was a 'dictatorship of rationalism' - continued the Pope - at present there is in many environments, a kind of 'dictatorship of relativism'. Both responses are inadequate to the man’s just demand to fully use his own reason as a distinctive and constitutive element of his identity. Rationalism was inadequate because it did not take account of human limitations and wanted to elevate reason alone as the sole measure of all things, transforming it into a god; contemporary relativism mortifies reason, because it arrives at the point of certifying that the human being knows nothing with certainty beyond the field of positive science. "
The priest today must indicate or facilitate those "who do not believe the path that leads to Christ and his Church", and for those who already believe, the priest must "stimulate, nurture and support the spiritual battle."
The pope also outlined the condition for this pastoral commitment: "the priest must create an intimate personal union with Christ, to be nurtured and augmented day by day. Only then will he touch the hearts of the people and open them to the merciful Lord. "
The pope recalled that the Curé d'Ars was over a period of great abandonment to the faith, able to help his "parishioners rediscover the meaning and the beauty of sacramental penance, showing it to be an intimate requirement of the Eucharistic Presence."
The Curé d'Ars, said the pontiff, "managed to touch the hearts of the people not by virtue of their human skills, nor relying solely on an, albeit laudable, effort of the will; he conquered souls, even the most refractory, by communicating to them what he intimately lived, that is his friendship with Christ. It was his 'being in love' with Christ, and the true secret of his success was the pastoral love that he had for the mystery of the Eucharist proclaimed, celebrated and lived. "
The pope spoke at length on the childhood of the Curé d'Ars, the faith lived in the family, his illiteracy as a child, the difficulties of his vocation. Nevertheless, “in his pastoral service, as simple as it was extraordinarily fruitful, this anonymous priest in a remote village in southern France was able to become one with his own ministry, to become, even in a visible and universally recognizable way, alter Christus, the image of the Good Shepherd, who, unlike the mercenary, gives his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:11). "
Ultimately, said Benedict XVI, "the effectiveness of the mission of every priest," and "the credibility of witness" depends "on holiness”.
"Let us pray – he concluded –so that, through the intercession of Saint John Marie Vianney, God makes a gift to his Church of holy priests, and so believers may grow in their desire to support and assist their ministry. We entrust this intention to Mary, whom today we invoke as Our Lady of the Snows”.