08/20/2006, 00.00
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Pope: Be like St Bernard, devoted to silence for intense apostolic works

Benedict XVI recalled the saint of the day, Bernard of Clairvaux, a "clear and incisive communicator". He mentioned the saint's advice to a pope: cut back on "damned occupations" and leave space for prayer.

Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) – "The urgency of important and complex missions in the service of the Church" should be harmonized with "solitude" and "quiet": this call to prayer and contemplation has become a constant in the reflections of Benedict XVI. And he underlined it again when recalling the saint whose feast is marked today: Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church, who lived between the XI and XII centuries. "The dedication to silence and contemplation," said the pope, "did not prevent him from undertaking intense apostolic works."

The effectiveness of St Bernard, said the pontiff, lay in his ability to "put forward truths of the faith in a manner so clear and incisive that it fascinated the listener and prompted the soul to meditation and prayer." But this was the fruit of a personal experience of "divine charity, revealed fully in the crucified and risen Christ". The pope continued: "The echo of a rich inner experience, that he managed to communicate to others with amazing persuasive ability, is found in each of his writings. For him, the greatest strength of spiritual life is love."

Benedict XVI also recalled a text that the saint dedicated to Pope Eugene III, his pupil and spiritual son, the De Consideratione, based on the fundamental theme of "inner meditation". "One must guard oneself, observed the saint, from the dangers of excessive activity, whatever the condition and office covered, because many occupations often lead to 'hardness of heart', 'they are nothing other than suffering of the spirit,  loss of intelligence, dispersion of grace' (II,3)." It is likely that Benedict XVI was making this emphasis with himself in mind, being so taken up by countless commitments of his work. He said: "This caution applies to all kinds of occupations, even those inherent to the government of the Church." And he cited Bernard's "provocative" words to Eugene III: "This is where your damned occupations can drag you, if you continue to lose yourself in them... leaving nothing of you to yourself."

To reaffirm the primacy of prayer and contemplation, the pope suggested praying to St Bernard himself and to the Virgin Mary. "We entrust," added Benedict XVI, "this desire to the intercession of Our Lady, who he loved from childhood with a tender and filial devotion to the extent of deserving the title of "Marian Doctor". We invoke her so that she may obtain the gift of true and lasting peace for the whole world. St Bernard, in a celebrated discourse of his, compared Mary to a star that navigators gaze upon to avoid losing their way:

'Wading through the events of this world, rather than walking on land, you have the impression of being tossed about among billows and storms; do not turn your eyes away from the splendour of this star if you do not want to be swallowed by the waves... Look at the star, invoke Mary… Following Her, you will not lose your way… If She protects you, you have no fear, if She guides you, you will not get tired and if She is propitious towards you, you will reach your goal' (Hom. super Missus est, II, 17)".

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