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Letter #5, 2016: The Renewal Will Come from Norcia

January 21, 2016, Thursday -- A "regression without precedent" will be healed by a coming renewal

“To create new and lasting unity (in Europe), political, economic and juridical instruments are important, but it is also necessary to awaken an ethical and spiritual renewal which draws on the Christian roots of the Continent, otherwise a new Europe cannot be built."—Pope Benedict XVI, April 9, 2008, General Audience catechesis (link)

"Without this vital sap, man is exposed to the danger of succumbing to the ancient temptation of seeking to redeem himself by himself — a utopia which in different ways, in 20th-century Europe, as Pope John Paul II pointed out, has caused "a regression without precedent in the tormented history of humanity" (Address to the Pontifical Council for Culture, 12 January 1990, n. 1; Osservatore Romano English edition, 5 February, p. 5).”—Pope Benedict XVI in the same April 9, 2008, discourse, citing St. Pope John Paul II from 1990

"Today, in seeking true progress, let us also listen to the Rule of St. Benedict as a guiding light on our journey. The great monk is still a true master at whose school we can learn to become proficient in true humanism."—Ibid.

The Renewal Begins...

The renewal of Europe will come from the tiny town of Norcia, Italy.

It will not come from a secular humanism which has lost all sense of, or belief in, the transcendent.

That "de-transcendentalized" humanism offered no consistent impediment to the rise of savage regimes which destroyed human dignity in what St. Pope John Paul II in 1990 called a "regression without precedent" in the 20th century.

And it is not offering a vision to the Europeans of today which will enable them to maintain their cultural and religious heritage -- from the Atlantic to the Urals (that is, including Russia).

The renewal of Europe and the West will come from a renewal of that Christian humanism which saved Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. That Christian humanism was incarnated in the life of the Rule of St. Benedict and in the lives of the Benedictine monks who for 1,000 years kept the light of learning burning in the West, through their profound love of the transcendent, all-holy God who had become visible in Christ.

And this renewal has already begun.

It has begun in Norcia, birthplace of St. Benedict, at the exact geographical center of Italy -- the heart of Italy -- in one of the most beautiful of all the Italian hill towns.

(Here is a photo of the Basilica of St. Benedict in the center of Norcia)

It is a renewal which will restore faith in Europe, the West, and the world.

It is a renewal based on the fundamentals: prayer and work ("ora et labora," the motto of the Benedictine order).

It is a renewal based on the vision of the Patron Saint of Europe, St. Benedict of Nursia. (Nursia is the old Latin name for Norcia.)

Fittingly, on the very site where he was born, a Benedictine monastery has come back to life during the past 15 years. It is called The Monastery of St. Benedict of Norcia.

Here, the spirit of Benedict is alive again in the monks who bear his name.

It is a spirit that, just as in the Middle Ages, will give a soul to Europe, and from Europe, to the world.

This past Sunday morning, January 17, a major American television network, CBS, on its "CBS Sunday Morning" program broadcast a remarkable report on the new and flourishing Benedictine monastery in Norcia, Italy (photo above).

The story begins this way:

"The sound of Gregorian chants filled the valley and town of Norcia, Italy, until 1810.

"That’s when the 9th century Basilica went silent because of laws imposed on the monks under the new Napoleonic code.

"It took almost 200 years, but an American has brought music back to this sacred place in Italy – and music lovers around the world have responded."

An album of sacred Latin chant that the monks have recorded has become a bestseller.

The message is now being, as it were, "shouted from the rooftops," reaching millions of people, no longer only a handful.

You can see a video of the CBS program here.

And here is a link to a video on the monk's CD, Benedicta (link).

So there is hope, after all.

Despite ISIS and its destruction of ancient monasteries in Iraq (see this), despite the horrors and genocides of the 20th century, despite our post-Christian culture's embrace of contraception, abortion and euthanasia in an unprecedented anti-life culture, despite the looming threat of the surveillance state and the new robotics technologies, there remains yet the simple faith of believers who are willing to offer their lives as living sacrifices for the salvation of the world.

What we need to do is add our own "work and prayer" to the work and prayer of the monks of Norcia.

And we invite our Orthodox brothers and sisters, who receive such spiritual nourishment from their own monasteries, to visit Norcia -- just as we have been privileged to visit Orthodox monasteries in the East. (We thank our Orthodox hosts for the hospitality they have shown us.)

In solidarity with the monks of Norcia, and with all the monks who are consecrating their lives to the search for and communion with God, the world that has seemed to grow so old in our time can become young again, and filled with the quiet of reverence, the simplicity of faith, the purity of hope, and the joy of love given and received.

The world is beginning to notice what is happening in Norcia.

So the renewal has begun.

There is hope.

Special note: Join me in Norcia for our Easter pilgrimage where we will spend Holy Thursday, Good Friday and part of Holy Saturday in Norcia before going to Rome for the Easter Vigil Mass with Pope Francis. We will visit with the Monks while in Norcia and have a spiritual reflection with Father Cassian, the founder and prior of the monastery, on Holy Saturday morning. This is a very special pilgrimage and we only have a few seats left. To read our full schedule, click here. To send an email to us about this pilgrimage, click here.

Pope Benedict XVI on St. Benedict

Here is a catechesis by Pope Benedict XVI from 2008 on the meaning and importance of St. Benedict for the Church and for Western culture.

On Wednesday, April 9, 2008, at the General Audience in St Peter's Square, the Holy Father commented on St. Benedict, the Father of Western Monasticism.

The following is a translation of the Pope's Catechesis, given originally in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, I would like to speak about Benedict, the Founder of Western Monasticism and also the Patron of my Pontificate.

I begin with words that St Gregory the Great wrote about St Benedict: "The man of God who shone on this earth among so many miracles was just as brilliant in the eloquent exposition of his teaching" (cf. Dialogues II, 36).

The great Pope wrote these words in 592 A.D. The holy monk, who had died barely 50 years earlier, lived on in people's memories and especially in the flourishing religious Order he had founded.

St. Benedict of Norcia, with his life and his work, had a fundamental influence on the development of European civilization and culture.

The most important source on Benedict's life is the second book of St Gregory the Great's Dialogues. It is not a biography in the classical sense. In accordance with the ideas of his time, by giving the example of a real man — St. Benedict, in this case — Gregory wished to illustrate the ascent to the peak of contemplation which can be achieved by those who abandon themselves to God.

He therefore gives us a model for human life in the climb towards the summit of perfection. St Gregory the Great also tells in this book of the Dialogues of many miracles worked by the Saint, and here too he does not merely wish to recount something curious but rather to show how God, by admonishing, helping and even punishing, intervenes in the practical situations of man's life.

Sursa: www.InsideTheVatican.com

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