In today’s general audience the vocation to holiness was the main topic Benedict XVI talked about before the 8,000 people assembled in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo. The occasion was characterised by a festive mood, delighted by songs and music performed by the bands of the groups present and by the thousands of people who, unable to get in, listened to the Holy Father from the main square of the central Italian city and whom the Pope greeted.
The Pope stressed that every day the Church proposes “saints and blessed ones to invoke or imitate. This week there are some who are dear to popular devotion.” Hence today we remember Bernard of Clairvaux, a mystic who “was led by events to travel across Europe” and “called a Marian doctor not because he wrote a lot about Our Lady, but because he was able to seize her essential role, presenting her as the perfect model” of monastic and non-monastic life.
Saint Pius X, who “lived at a troubled time for the Church,” will also be remembered this week. For Benedict XVI when John Paul II visited the saint’s home town he said that “he [saint Pius] fought and suffered for the freedom of the Church” and “faced misunderstandings and derision in order to assert the truth and integrity of the faith.”
On Saturday it will be the turn of Saint Rose of Lima, “the first saint from the Latin American continent to be canonised and its patron saint,” said the Pope who was interrupted by a noisy round of applause.
“If men knew what it means to live in grace they would not be frightened by suffering and would instead willingly bear any affliction because grace is the fruit of patience,” he said repeating something the saint said.
“Day after day the Church offers us the possibility to walk in the company of saints,” said the Pope who cited theologian Hans von Balthasar, for whom the saints “constitute the most important comment of the Gospel on the actuality of daily life,” and writers Jean Guitton, who said that “each of them reflects the spectre of divine life,” and Georges Bernanos, for whom “each saint’s life is like a springtime bloom.”
“Holiness is not a luxury, a privilege of the few; something impossible for ordinary people, but is instead the normal vocation of all those who are baptised,” he said, something which “is offered to everyone.”
Not all saints are the same; “not all have had a charisma or a special gift. [. . .] There are some whose name is known by God alone, and they are many,” he added.
“Of course holidays are a useful time to pick up the biography of a saint but we can get to know them at any time.” They show us “how to live the Gospel; they are the living interpretation of the Gospel and guide our paths.” Holiness “can give everyone serenity and optimism. [. . .] Let us “be fascinated by the grace of holiness.”