POPE BENEDICT XVI’S PRAYER TO OUR LADY OF LORETO AND ADDRESS DURING HIS VISIT.
Pope Benedict XVI uses incense in front of a statue of Our Lady of Loreto as he celebrates Mass outside the Sanctuary of the Holy House in Loreto, Italy, Oct. 4, 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
PRAYER OF POPE BENEDICT XVI
Mary, Mother of the “Yes”, you listened to Jesus,
and know the tone of his voice and the beating of his heart.
Morning Star, speak to us of him,
and tell us about your journey of following him on the path of faith.
Mary, who dwelt with Jesus in Nazareth,
impress on our lives your sentiments,
your docility, your attentive silence,
and make the Word flourish in genuinely free choices.
Mary, speak to us of Jesus, so that the freshness of our faith
shines in our eyes and warms the heart of those we meet,
as you did when visiting Elizabeth,
who in her old age rejoiced with you for the gift of life.
Mary, Virgin of the Magnificat
help us to bring joy to the world and, as at Cana,
lead every young person involved in service of others
to do only what Jesus will tell them.
Mary, look upon the…youth,
so that the soil of the… Church will be fertile.
Pray that Jesus, dead and Risen, is reborn in us,
and transforms us into a night full of light, full of him.
Mary, Our Lady of Loreto, Gate of Heaven,
help us to lift our eyes on high.
We want to see Jesus, to speak with him,
to proclaim his love to all.
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI
Our Lady of Loreto Square, Loreto
Thursday, 4 October 2012
As I said in my Apostolic Letter announcing the Year of Faith, “I wish to invite my brother bishops from all over the world to join the Successor of Peter, during this time of spiritual grace that the Lord offers us, in recalling the precious gift of faith” (Porta Fidei, 8). It is precisely here at Loreto that we have the opportunity to attend the school of Mary who was called “blessed” because she “believed” (Lk 1:45). This Shrine, built around her earthly home, preserves the memory of the moment when the angel of Lord came to Mary with the great announcement of the Incarnation, and she gave her reply. This humble home is a physical, tangible witness to the greatest event in our history, the Incarnation; the Word became flesh and Mary, the handmaid of the Lord, is the privileged channel through which God came to dwell among us (cf. Jn 1:14). Mary offered her very body; she placed her entire being at the disposal of God’s will, becoming the “place” of his presence, a “place” of dwelling for the Son of God. We are reminded here of the words of the Psalm with which, according to the Letter to the Hebrews, Christ began his earthly life, saying to the Father, “Sacrifices and offering you have not desired, but you have prepared a body for me… Behold, I have come to do your will, O God” (10:5,7). To the Angel who reveals God’s plan for her, Mary replies in similar words: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). The will of Mary coincides with the will of the Son in the Father’s unique project of love and, in her, heaven and earth are united, God the Creator is united to his creature. God becomes man, and Mary becomes a “living house” for the Lord, a temple where the Most High dwells. Here at Loreto fifty years ago, Blessed John XXIII issued an invitation to contemplate this mystery, to “reflect on that union of heaven and earth, which is the purpose of the Incarnation and Redemption”, and he went on to affirm that the aim of the Council itself was to spread ever wider the beneficent impact of the Incarnation and Redemption on all spheres of life (cf. AAS 54 , 724). This invitation resounds today with particular urgency. In the present crisis affecting not only the economy but also many sectors of society, the Incarnation of the Son of God speaks to us of how important man is to God, and God to man. Without God, man ultimately chooses selfishness over solidarity and love, material things over values, having over being. We must return to God, so that man may return to being man. With God, even in difficult times or moments of crisis, there is always a horizon of hope: the Incarnation tells us that we are never alone, that God has come to humanity and that he accompanies us.
The idea of the Son of God dwelling in the “living house”, the temple which is Mary, leads us to another thought: we must recognize that where God dwells, all are “at home”; wherever Christ dwells, his brothers and sisters are no longer strangers. Mary, who is the Mother of Christ, is also our mother, and she opens to us the door to her home, she helps us enter into the will of her Son. So it is faith which gives us a home in this world, which brings us together in one family and which makes all of us brothers and sisters. As we contemplate Mary, we must ask if we too wish to be open to the Lord, if we wish to offer our life as his dwelling place; or if we are afraid that the presence of God may somehow place limits on our freedom, if we wish to set aside a part of our life in such a way that it belongs only to us. Yet it is precisely God who liberates our liberty, he frees it from being closed in on itself, from the thirst for power, possessions, and domination; he opens it up to the dimension which completely fulfils it: the gift of self, of love, which in turn becomes service and sharing.
Faith lets us reside, or dwell, but it also lets us walk on the path of life. The Holy House of Loreto contains an important teaching in this respect as well. Its location on a street is well known. At first this might seem strange: after all, a house and a street appear mutually exclusive. In reality, it is precisely here that an unusual message about this House has been preserved. It is not a private house, nor does it belong to a single person or a single family, rather it is an abode open to everyone placed, as it were, on our street. So here in Loreto we find a house which lets us stay, or dwell, and which at the same time lets us continue, or journey, and reminds us that we are pilgrims, that we must always be on the way to another dwelling, towards our final home, the Eternal City, the dwelling place of God and the people he has redeemed (cf. Rev 21:3).
There is one more important point in the Gospel account of the Annunciation which I would like to underline, one which never fails to strike us: God asks for mankind’s “yes”; he has created a free partner in dialogue, from whom he requests a reply in complete liberty. In one of his most celebrated sermons, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux “recreates”, as it were, the scene where God and humanity wait for Mary to say “yes”. Turning to her he begs: “The angel awaits your response, as he must now return to the One who sent him… O Lady, give that reply which the earth, the underworld and the very heavens await. Just as the King and Lord of all wished to behold your beauty, in the same way he earnestly desires your word of consent… Arise, run, open up! Arise with faith, run with your devotion, open up with your consent!” (In laudibus Virginis Matris, Hom. IV,8: Opera omnia, Edit. Cisterc. 4, 1966, p.53f). God asks for Mary’s free consent that he may become man. To be sure, the “yes” of the Virgin is the fruit of divine grace. But grace does not eliminate freedom; on the contrary it creates and sustains it. Faith removes nothing from the human creature, rather it permits his full and final realization.
Dear brothers and sisters, on this pilgrimage in the footsteps of Blessed John XXIII – and which comes, providentially, on the day in which the Church remembers Saint Francis of Assisi, a veritable “living Gospel” – I wish to entrust to the Most Holy Mother of God all the difficulties affecting our world as it seeks serenity and peace, the problems of the many families who look anxiously to the future, the aspirations of young people at the start of their lives, the suffering of those awaiting signs or decisions of solidarity and love. I also wish to place in the hands of the Mother of God this special time of grace for the Church, now opening up before us. Mother of the “yes”, you who heard Jesus, speak to us of him; tell us of your journey, that we may follow him on the path of faith; help us to proclaim him, that each person may welcome him and become the dwelling place of God. Amen!
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
1 September 2007
Dear young people who are the hope of the Church in Italy! I am happy to meet you in this remarkable place, on this special evening, rich in prayer, song, periods of silence, full of hope and profound emotion. This valley, where in the past also my beloved Predecessor John Paul II met many of you, has henceforth become your agora, your square without walls and barriers, where a thousand streets converge and from which they branch out.
I listened with attention to those who have spoken on behalf of you all. You have come to this peaceful, authentic and joyful place of encounter for thousands of different reasons: some of you because you belong to a group or were invited by some friend, some by deep conviction, some with several doubts in your heart and some merely out of curiosity…. Whatever the reason that drew you here, I can tell you, although it requires courage to say it, that it was the Holy Spirit who has brought us together. Yes, that is exactly the case; the Spirit has led you here; you have come here with your doubts and certainties, with your joys and your anxieties. It is now up to all of us, to all of you, to open your hearts and offer everything to Jesus.
Say to him: here I am; of course, I am not yet as you would like me to be, I cannot even manage to understand myself fully but with your help I am ready to follow you. Lord Jesus, this evening I would like to speak to you, making my own the inner attitude and trusting abandonment of that young woman who, 2,000 years ago, said her “yes” to the Father who chose her to be your Mother. The Father chose her because she was docile and obedient to his will. Like her, like little Mary, each one of you, dear young friends, should say to God with faith: “Here I am; let it be done to me according to your word”.
What an amazing spectacle of young and stirring faith we are experiencing this evening! And this evening, thanks to you, Loreto has become the spiritual capital of youth; the centre towards which multitudes of the young people who populate the five Continents converge in spirit.
At this moment, we feel as though we were surrounded by the expectations and hopes of millions of young people across the world: at this very minute there are some who are watching, others who are asleep, yet others who are studying or working; some are hoping and some despairing, some believe and others are not able to believe, some love life and others, instead, are throwing it away.
I would like my words to reach them all: the Pope is close to you, he shares your joys and your pain, and he especially shares in the most intimate hopes that are in your soul. For each one of you he asks the Lord for the gift of a full and happy life, a life filled with meaning, a true life.
Today, unfortunately, all too often a full and happy existence is seen by many young people as a difficult dream – we heard so many testimonies – sometimes almost impossible to accomplish. So many of your peers are looking to the future with apprehension and ask many questions. Worried, they ask: How is it possible to be integrated in a society marked by a multitude of grave injustices and suffering? How should I react to the selfishness and violence that sometimes seem to prevail? How can I give life full meaning?
With love and conviction, I repeat to you young people present here, and through you to your peers throughout the world: Do not be afraid, Christ can fill your heart’s deepest aspirations! Are there dreams that cannot come true when it is God’s Spirit who inspires and nourishes them in your heart? Can anything block our enthusiasm when we are united with Christ? Nothing and no one, the Apostle Paul would say, will ever separate us from God’s love, in Christ Jesus Our Lord (cf. Rom 8: 35-39).
Let me tell you again this evening: if you stay united with Christ, each one of you will be able to do great things. This is why, dear friends, you must not be afraid to dream with your eyes open of important projects of good and you must not let yourselves be discouraged by difficulties. Christ has confidence in you and wants you to be able to realize all your most noble and lofty dreams of genuine happiness. Nothing is impossible for those who trust in God and entrust themselves to him.
Look at the young Mary; the Angel proposed something truly inconceivable to her: participation, in the most involving way possible, in the greatest of God’s plans, the salvation of humanity. Facing this proposal, Mary, as we heard in the Gospel, was distressed for she realized the smallness of her being before the omnipotence of God; and she asked herself: “How is it possible? Why should it be me?”. Yet, ready to do the divine will, she promptly said her “yes” which changed her life and the history of all humanity. It is also thanks to her “yes” that we are meeting here this evening.
I ask myself and I ask you: can God’s requests to us, however demanding they may seem, ever compare with what God asked the young Mary? Dear young men and women, since Mary truly knows what it means to respond generously to the Lord’s requests, let us learn from her to say our own “yes”.
Mary, dear young people, knows your noblest and deepest aspirations. Above all, she well knows your great desire for love, with your need to love and to be loved. By looking at her, by following her docilely, you will discover the beauty of love; not a “disposable” love that is transient and deceptive, imprisoned in a selfish and materialistic mindset, but true, deep love.
In the very depths of their hearts, every young man, every young woman who are looking out on life, cherish the dream of a love that will give full meaning to their futures. For many, this is fulfilled in the choice of marriage and in the formation of a family in which the love between a man and a woman is lived as a definitive gift, sealed by the “yes” spoken before God on their wedding day, a “yes” for their whole life.
I know well that today this dream is always less easy to realize. How many failures of love surround us! How many couples bow their heads, give up and separate! How many families fall to pieces! How many young people, even among you, have witnessed the separation and divorce of their parents!
I would like to say to those in such sensitive and complex situations: the Mother of God, the Community of believers and the Pope are beside you and are praying that the crisis that marks today’s families may not become an irreversible failure. May Christian families, with the support of divine Grace, stay faithful to that solemn commitment of love joyfully assumed before the priest and the Christian community on the solemn day of their marriage.
In the face of so many failures these questions are often asked: Am I any better than my friends and my parents who have tried and failed? Why should I myself succeed where so many have given up? This human fear can be daunting to even the more courageous spirits but in this night that awaits us, in front of her Holy House, Mary will repeat to each one of you, dear young friends, the words that she herself heard the Angel say to her: Do not be afraid, do not fear!
The Holy Spirit is with you and will never leave you. Nothing is impossible to those who trust in God. This applies for those who are destined to married life and still more for those to whom God proposes a life of total detachment from earthly goods, to be dedicated full time to his Kingdom. Some of you have set out towards the priesthood, towards the consecrated life; some of you aspire to be missionaries, knowing how many and what risks this entails.
I am thinking of the missionaries, priests, women religious and lay people, who have fallen in the trenches of love at the service of the Gospel. Fr Giancarlo Bossi, for whom we prayed when he was kidnapped in the Philippines, will have much to tell us about this and today we rejoice to have him with us. Through him, I would like to greet and thank all those who spend their lives for Christ on the frontiers of evangelization.
Dear young people, if the Lord calls you to live more intimately at his service, respond generously. You may be certain: life dedicated to God is never spent in vain.
Dear young people, I shall end my talk here, not without first having embraced you with a father’s heart. I embrace you one by one and greet you warmly. I greet the Bishops present, starting with Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, and Archbishop Gianni Danzi who has welcomed us into his Ecclesial Community. I greet the priests, the Religious and the animators who have accompanied you. I greet the Civil Authorities and all who organized this Meeting. We will be “virtually” united later and we will see one another again tomorrow morning, at the end of this night of Vigil, for the crowning point of our Meeting when Jesus makes himself truly present in his Word and in the mystery of the Eucharist.
From this moment, I would like to make an appointment with you young people in Sydney where, in a year’s time, the next World Youth Day will be held. I know Australia is far away and for young Italians it is literally at the other end of the world…. Let us pray that the Lord who works every miracle will grant that many of you may be there. May he grant it to me, may he grant it to you. This is one of our many dreams which tonight, as we pray together, we entrust to Mary. Amen.
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