Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The greatness of human dignity and value of the human being is fully visible in the "mirror of the Cross", in seeing how God accepted to suffer for man. Taking his cue from the figure of Saint Anthony of Padua Benedict XVI dedicated his audience today to the importance of the cross for our culture, our humanism, born of the Christian faith.
A saint who was part of the first generation of Friars Minor and who "laid the foundations of Franciscan theology", "contributed significantly to the development of Franciscan spirituality" and who in a period of economic growth, recommended that the poor not be forgotten. "A very important and timely teaching - the Pope said. Recalling the words of Caritas in Veritate, Benedict XVI said that "when the economic crisis and severe economic imbalances impoverish many people the economy needs ethics to function efficiently, not any ethics but an ethics that is people friendly".
To eight thousand people present at the Vatican for the general audience the pope recalled the saint, "one of the most popular in the whole Catholic Church, revered not only in Padua, but around the world", was born in Lisbon in 1195 to a noble family. Baptized as Fernando, as a young man he entered the canons who followed the monastic rule of St. Augustine. His interest in studying the Bible and the Church Fathers helped him acquire "a theological science which he began to incorporate into his teaching and preaching."
A fundamental episode that was to change his life took place in 1220 in Coimbra, where the relics of the first five Franciscan missionaries to Morocco, who were martyred there, were brought. In the young Ferdinand the desire to imitate them was born. He asked to leave the canons and to enter the Franciscans. He left for Morocco. He fell ill, he went to Assisi, where in 1221, he participated in the famous "Chapter of Mats" and where he "also met with St. Francis. Later, he lived for a time in total obscurity in a convent near Forli in northern Italy, where the Lord called him to another mission. Invited by completely random circumstances, to preach at the ordination of a priest, he was equipped with such knowledge and eloquence, that his superiors assigned him to preaching".
Thus began an " intense and effective apostolic activity to induce many people who had left the Church to return. He was also among the first teachers of theology of the Friars Minor, if not the first. He began his teaching at Bologna, with the blessing of Francis, who sent him a brief letter that opened with these words: 'I would like you to teach theology to the friars'. Anthony laid the foundations of Franciscan theology.
He was later appointed provincial superior of the Franciscans in northern Italy and at the end of that task retired to near Padua, where he used to sometimes stay. Less than a year later, in 1231, he died. "Padua bestowed eternal honour and devotion to him. Gregory IX, "after hearing him preach called him the Ark of the Covenant, and canonized him only a year after his death in 1232, after miracles which occurred through his intercession." Pius XII in 1946 proclaimed him Doctor of the Church, with the title "Evangelical Doctor" because from his writings emerge" the freshness and beauty of the Gospel ; still today we can read them to great spiritual profit."
Of the two cycles of sermons that Anthony began writing, the "Sunday Sermons" and "Sermons on the Saints," Benedict XVI stressed what the saint said about prayer. "Anthony reminds us that prayer requires an atmosphere of silence that does not coincide with the separation from outside noise, but it is inner experience, which aims to remove the distractions caused by the concerns of the soul, creating the same silence in the soul . Prayer is divided into four essential attitudes", which translated from Latin are "trustingly open your heart to God, speak affectionately to Him, present Him your needs, praise Him and thank Him".
"The vision of the crucified also inspires thoughts of gratitude to God and respect for the dignity of the human person, so that everyone, believers and nonbelievers, can find meaning, which enriches life." Anthony writes: "Christ, who is your life, is hanging in front of you, so that you will look at the cross like in a mirror. There you will discover how mortal your wounds were, that no medicine could heal, if not the blood of the Son of God. If you look carefully you will realize how great are your dignity and your value ... Nowhere else can man better realize what he is worth, than looking in the mirror of the cross". "Pondering these words - said the Pope - we can better understand the importance of the image of the Crucified for our culture, our humanism, born of the Christian faith."
One last thought, Benedict XVI dedicated to "those who dedicate themselves to preaching. May these, inspired by the example of Antony, take care to combine solid and sound doctrine, piety and fervent, incisiveness in communication. "