09/09/2009, 00.00
VATICAN

Pope: learn to be silent, to hear God's voice

In general audience, Benedict XVI traces the figure of St. Peter Damian. He highlights the great eleventh century monk’s lesson not to be overly absorbed by daily activities and problems of life, "forgetting that Jesus must be central to our lives."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – We must not allow ourselves to become absorbed by daily activities and problems of life, "forgetting that Jesus must be central to our life”, we must learn to" know how to be silent in ourselves to hear the voice of God".  This lesson on the "supremacy of God" comes from the life and work of St. Peter Damian, the "exuberant personality" illustrated by Benedict XVI to 8 thousand people present today in the Paul VI for the general audience.

Writer, Latin scholar, poet, "personally committed to the reform undertaken by the popes" in the eleventh century, but above all a monk, Pier Damiani was born in Ravenna in 1007. An orphan from an early age, his childhood "was not without pain. He received his formation first at Faenza and then Parma. He became a teacher, competent in law and had a "refined skill in the art of composition", being "one of the best Latinists of his time".  

His "poetic contemplation of the world”, pushed him to leave it in 1034, when he entered the recently founded monastery of Fonte Avellana. He described the life of the founder St. Romuald of Ravenna, and "especially the ideal of monastic hermitage”. In connection to this the Pope recalled that the hermit was dedicated to the Holy Cross, “the Christian mystery that fascinated him more than all others". "Those who do not love the Cross - he would say - do not love Christ".   "He dedicated beautiful reflections to it”, enhancing "the cosmic dimensions that embrace the whole history of salvation. O blessed cross he wrote”.  "His example - said Benedict XVI – urges us to always regard the cross as the supreme act of God for man, who gave us salvation."

In Fonte Avellana Peter Damian also drafted the rule, "in the silence of the cloister, monks are called to a life of prayer," of "fasting" of "brotherly love" and "availability to the superior".  He emphasized the "mystical meanings of the Word of God", he defined the cell as a "parlour where God converses with man”. "This is still important for those of us who are not monks: knowing how to make silence within, to hear the voice of God”.  "In prayer and meditation we learn the Word of God in the path of life”.

In his theological work Peter Damian "sets out with clarity and brilliance the doctrine of the Trinity" and describes the Church as Communion, "the Church is united by the bond of charity" and "the whole universal Church is rightly called the only bride of Christ, in the singular” . Peter Damian, however, knows that "this ideal image does not match the reality of his time; he does not hesitate to denounce the corruption that exists in the monasteries and the clergy in particular the practice of conferring on secular authorities the investiture of ecclesiastical offices. Several bishops and abbots behaved more like governors of subjects than pastors of souls".  So in 1057 he accepted an appointment as Cardinal of Ostia and began working with the popes in the reform of the Church. "He renounced the beauty of the Hermitage and courageously undertook numerous journeys and missions”.  Ten years later returned to Fonte Avellana. But only two years later he is sent to Frankfort to avoid divorce between Henry IV and Bertha. Then to Monte Cassino and finally Ravenna. In 1072 on his return from this mission, he died.

"It 'a great grace - commented the Pope - that God raised such an exuberant personality in the life of the Church." "He was a monk to the end - he concluded - with forms of austerity that today might seem excessive, and thus made monastic life an eloquent testimony to the primacy of God", he is "a reminder to all to walk towards holiness free from any compromise with evil" not to "be entirely absorbed by the activities, problems and worries of every day, forgetting that Jesus must be truly in the centre of our lives".

 

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