Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Benedict on DiscernmentYou can't help but love this guy and his approach. I think Serra Clubs and other vocations-concerned groups would do well to listen more to what the pope and other good priests say about their inspiration. Zenit posted part 2 of a transcript of a Q&A session with young people and the pope. One person inquires: Can you tell us how you yourself came to understand your vocation? Can you give us some advice so that we can really understand whether the Lord is calling us to follow him in the consecrated or priestly life? Thank you. Benedict XVI replies: As for me, I grew up in a world very different from the world today, but in the end situations are similar. On the one hand, the situation of "Christianity" still existed, where it was normal to go to church and to accept the faith as the revelation of God, and to try to live in accordance with his revelation; on the other, there was the Nazi regime which loudly stated: "In the new Germany there will be no more priests, there will be no more consecrated life, we do not need these people; look for another career." However, it was precisely in hearing these "loud" voices, in facing the brutality of that system with an inhuman face, that I realized that there was instead a great need for priests. This contrast, the sight of that anti-human culture, confirmed my conviction that the Lord, the Gospel and the faith were pointing out the right path, and that we were bound to commit ourselves to ensuring that this path survives. In this situation, my vocation to the priesthood grew with me, almost naturally, without any dramatic events of conversion. Two other things also helped me on this journey: Already as a boy, helped by my parents and by the parish priest, I had discovered the beauty of the liturgy, and I came to love it more and more because I felt that divine beauty appears in it and that heaven unfolds before us. The second element was the discovery of the beauty of knowledge, of knowing God and sacred Scripture, thanks to which it is possible to enter into that great adventure of dialogue with God which is theology. Thus, it was a joy to enter into this 1,000-year-old work of theology, this celebration of the liturgy in which God is with us and celebrates with us. Of course, problems were not lacking. I wondered if I would really be able to live celibacy all my life. Being a man of theoretical and not practical training, I also knew that it was not enough to love theology in order to be a good priest, but that it was also necessary to be always available to young people, the elderly, the sick and the poor: the need to be simple with the simple. Theology is beautiful, but the simplicity of words and Christian life is indispensable. And so I asked myself: Will I be able to live all this and not be one-sided, merely a theologian, etc.? However, the Lord helped me and the company of friends, of good priests and teachers especially helped me. I print only part of the youth's question, but all of Benedict's reply. I think the pope's answer reveals a multivalent and wise reflection on his own calling. In sum: 1. External opposition is a grave concern, but in the face of a well-discerned path, it is irrelevant to the journey of faith. 2. As a young person, Benedict was moved by the beauty of liturgy. That factor cannot be discounted in developing believers with a strong Christian sensibility. Ignore liturgy and one might as well ignore the future. 3. Benedict was aware his initial attraction (his infatuation, if you will) with beauty (in liturgy and of the intellect) was insufficient compared to the need for a mentality of service. That strikes me as quite apt for the married state as well. One can love the things of marriage, the external movements and expressions of a coupled life, but without a sensibility of service, sacrifice, and deliberate choice, the initial feelings will wither. 4. The pope also credits the guidance of a community: friends, priests, and teachers Then he concludes with a neat reflection on the need for a believer to be attentive to God, to approach one's relationship with Christ as that of friendship, to balance the needful virtues (knowing when to be bold, when to be receptive). Lastly, I can't help but sense that Pope Benedict sees it all as an inspring adventure. With a playfulness like that, who would not want to pick up one's cross and walk Christ's path? To return to the question, I think it is important to be attentive to the Lord's gestures on our journey. He speaks to us through events, through people, through encounters: It is necessary to be attentive to all of this. Then, a second point, it is necessary to enter into real friendship with Jesus in a personal relationship with him and not to know who Jesus is only from others or from books, but to live an ever deeper personal relationship with Jesus, where we can begin to understand what he is asking of us. And then, the awareness of what I am, of my possibilities: On the one hand, courage, and on the other, humility, trust and openness, with the help also of friends, of Church authority and also of priests, of families: What does the Lord want of me? Of course, this is always a great adventure, but life can be successful only if we have the courage to be adventurous, trusting that the Lord will never leave me alone, that the Lord will go with me and help me.