Monday, February 20, 2012

Benedict XVI: Proclaiming The Gospel

The following are excerpts from a speech given by Pope Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2011 (as printed in the magazine Inside The Vatican). It precedes the opening of the “Year of Faith” in October. I write it here as a reminder to us all, a positive reminder, of the challenges of evangelization, proclaiming the gospel. The pope speaks of his own thoughts and positive experiences of those hearing that gospel, especially on World Youth days.

Even if such values as solidarity, commitment to one’s neighbor and responsibility towards the poor and suffering are largely uncontroversial, still the motivation is often lacking for individuals and large sectors of society to practice renunciation and make sacrifices. In defending personal interests, the will obscures perception. Where is the force that draws the will upwards? These are questions that must be answered by our proclamation of the Gospel, by the new evangelization. The key of this year, and of the years ahead, is this: how do we proclaim the Gospel today?

The essence of the crisis of the Church in Europe is the crisis of faith. If faith does not take on new life, deep conviction and real strength from the encounter with Jesus Christ, then all other reforms will remain ineffective. The encounter with Africa’s joyful passion for faith, … (even) amid all the problems, sufferings and trials that Africa experiences, one could still sense the people’s joy in being Christian. From this joy comes also the strength to serve Christ. A further remedy against faith fatigue was the wonderful experience of World Youth Day in Madrid. At World Youth Days, a new, more youthful form of Christianity can be seen, something I would describe under five headings.

1) Firstly, there is a new experience of catholicity, of the Church’s universality. We speak different languages and have different ways of life and different cultural backgrounds, yet we are immediately united as one great family. We pray in the same way. Our common liturgy speaks to our hearts and unites us.
2) They (the 20,000 youth workers there) did not (come) to find fulfillment. They were not looking round for themselves. These young people did good, even at a cost, even if it demanded sacrifice, simply because it is a wonderful thing to do good, to be there for others. (They felt) the encounter with Jesus Christ, inflaming us with love of God and for others, and freeing us from seeking our own ego. I came across the same attitude in Africa too, for example among the Sisters of Mother Teresa, who devote themselves to abandoned, sick, poor, and suffering children, without asking anything for themselves. This is the genuinely Christian attitude.
3) A third element that has an increasingly natural and central place in World Youth Days is adoration. Adoration is primarily an act of faith. God is not just some possible or impossible hypothesis concerning the origin of all things. He is present. And if He is present, then I bow down before Him. We enter this certainty of God’s tangible love for us with love in our own hearts. This is adoration, and this then determines my life.
4) A further element of World Youth Days is the sacrament of Confession. Here we recognize that we need forgiveness over and over again, and that forgiveness brings responsibility. Man’s sinful history is the tendency that is opposed to love --- the tendency towards selfishness, towards becoming closed in on oneself, in fact towards evil. Again and again my soul is tarnished by this downward gravitational pull that is present within me. Therefore we need the humility that constantly asks God for forgiveness.
5) Finally, I would like to speak of one last feature, namely joy. Certainly there are many factors at work here. But in my view, the crucial one is this certainty, based on faith: I am wanted; I have a task; I am accepted, I am loved. Joseph Pieper, in his book on love, has shown that man can only accept himself if he is accepted by another. He needs the other’s presence, saying to him, with more than words: it is good that you exist.

Only from the You can the I come into itself. But all human acceptance is fragile. Ultimately we need a sense of being accepted unconditionally. Only if God accepts me, and I become convinced of this, do I know definitively: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being. Where doubt over God becomes prevalent, then doubt over humanity follows inevitably. We see today how widely this doubt is spreading. We see it in the joylessness, in the inner sadness that can be read on so many human faces today. Only faith gives me the conviction: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being, even in hard times. Faith makes one happy from deep within. That is one of the wonderful experiences of World Youth Days.

And this is the challenge the pope, the Church, and indeed God gives to us: to instill this joy with the Gospel into others, even as the hundreds of thousands of youths at World Youth Day found a new joy. This may seem an impossible task to achieve in this world, and in our culture. But for some of us, who could not get these same World Youth Day teens to even make their beds, surely their new faith is evidence to us that, in God, all things are possible.

P.S. On an unrelated topic, I want to document this other article which I read in the same magazine. Andrea Bocelli, the famed Italian opera singer, (whose wonderful Christmas CD I wrote about previously, and gave away copies of this past Christmas) told a story in Haiti about how a mother had been told to abort her child because of an illness she had which would doubtless leave the child born with some kind of disability. She had her son, who was born with poor eyesight --- and became totally blind at age twelve. That son was Andrea Bocelli. In the book I recently reviewed on Medjugorje, it was mentioned how Bocelli so loves our Blessed Mother, and how he recently gave a concert at the Vatican.

I wonder how many other wonderful men, gifts to the world such as he, have been killed before they could ever sing.


  1. Tom, I miss so many of these gems from Pope Benedict XVI. Thank you for including it in you post! I now want to read Josef Pieper!

  2. Oh my goodness, Colleen. You haven't read Pieper? Where to begin ... well, a good starting place would be Faith, Hope, Love, from Ignatius Press, then Ignatius also puts out a good Anthology of his works, and "A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart". And you must also read "Leisure, The Basis of Culture". Oh, and the Four Cardinal Virtues is also wonderful.

    Do you get the idea that I like philosophy? :-))

    1. I have the Anthology in my cart on Amazon. I just have three or 4 in front of it and I am determined not to buy more books until the brand new ones already in my home are at least started! Thank you for the recommendations, Tom. I like Philosophy too, especially when it doesn't start with the premise that the experience of love in the soul is to be dismissed and only arguments built on 2 dimensionally perceived realities are valid. I had a bit of a minor going in Philosophy many, many years ago during my undergraduate studies.

  3. "Only faith gives me the conviction: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being, even in hard times. Faith makes one happy from deep within."

    I guess when one is face with conflicting issue, the only way to pass right through it is with prayers. Could it really be that simple? Easier said than done... yet I cannot help but wonder. Could it really be that simple?

    1. Well, Melissa, I am certainly faced with many difficult issues in my life right now. Prayer is definitely the answer, but as it has been said by many, it is prayer from the heart that is important. That is a prayer of frank words with God, and words which are said KNOWING that He is God, and really trusting in Him. He is God; He said He would always be with us; I trust in Him. Speaking/praying from a point of trust brings me a peace, a peace that all my troubles will turn out all right ---- even if not in a way I might pray for. I trust He knows all, and knows all that is good for me and those I pray for ---- even you.

      May He bless you always.