During his general audience on Aug. 20, Pope Benedict XVI appeared at the balcony overlooking the inner courtyard of the apostolic palace in Castel Gandolfo for his usual Wednesday general audience. The Holy Father spoke about the importance of the saints in the daily life of Christians, particularly recalling those saints that the Church commemorates this week. Their lives, he said, are a source of inspiration for Christians living out the Gospel in their daily lives.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Every day the Church offers for our reflection one or more individuals who have been canonized or beatified to invoke and to imitate. This week, for example, we remember several who are particularly held in high esteem in popular devotion.
Yesterday, we remembered St. John Eudes, who, amid the rigorism of the Jansenists in the 17th century, promoted a popular devotion whose unlimited source is found in the sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Today, we remember St. Bernard of Clairvaux, whom Pope Pius VIII described as the “mellifluous doctor” because he excelled in “distilling the meaning that remains hidden in biblical texts.”
A mystic who wished to live immersed in the “luminous valley” of contemplation, Bernard of Clairvaux was led by a series of events to travel throughout Europe serving the Church, based on the needs of the time, in order to defend the Christian faith. He has also been called the “Marian doctor,” not because he had written much about the Blessed Virgin Mary, but because he grasped her essential role in the Church, presenting her as the perfect model of monastic life as well as every other form of Christian life.
Tomorrow, we commemorate St. Pius X, who lived during a turbulent period of history. Visiting his birthplace in 1985, John Paul II had the following to say about him: “He struggled and suffered for the freedom of the Church, for which he was prepared to sacrifice privileges and honors and face misunderstanding and derision, because he treasured this freedom as the ultimate guarantee of the integrity and consistency of the faith” (Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, VIII, 1, 1985, p. 1818).
Friday is dedicated to the Queenship of Mary, a feast day that the Servant of God Pius XII instituted in 1955. The liturgical renewal following the Second Vatican Council moved it to the octave of the Feast of the Assumption, since these two Marian privileges form part of the same mystery.
Finally, on Saturday, we will invoke St. Rose of Lima, the first canonized saint from the continent of Latin America, of which she is the principal patron saint.
St. Rose liked to say, “If people knew what it is to live in grace, they would not fear any suffering and would gladly suffer any pain, because grace is the fruit of patience.”
She died in 1617, at the age of 31 after a brief life marked by privation and suffering, on the feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, to whom she was very devoted because he had suffered a particularly painful martyrdom.
My dear brothers and sisters, day after day the Church offers us the possibility to walk in the company of the saints.
Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote that saints constitute the most important commentary on the Gospel because they make it relevant to our daily life and are, therefore, truly a way to have access to Jesus. The French writer Jean Guitton wrote that the saints were “like the colors of the spectrum in relation to light,” since each one of them, with their individual shades and accents, reflects the light of God’s holiness.
How important and profitable it is, therefore, to cultivate our knowledge about the saints and our devotion to them along with our daily meditation on God’s Word and our filial love for the Blessed Virgin.
Vacation time is certainly a useful time for picking up the biography and writings of a particular saint, yet every day of the year offers us the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with our patrons in heaven.
Their human and spiritual experience shows us that saintliness is not a luxury or a privilege for a few people, or a goal that is impossible for the average man.
In reality, it is the vocation that is common to all men, who are called to be children of God, the universal vocation of all baptized Christians. Saintliness is offered to all. Of course, not all saints are alike.
They are, as I said, the spectrum of God’s light. Moreover, those who possess extraordinary charisms are not necessarily the greatest saints.
Indeed, there are many whose names are known only to God because they lived a life on earth that was a very normal life from all appearances. It is these “normal” saints God usually wants. Their example testifies to the fact that the Lord can fill us with his peace and joy only when we are in contact with him, so that we are in a position to spread peace, hope and optimism.
As he considered the variety of charisms among the saints, Georges Bernanos, a great French writer who was always fascinated by the idea of sainthood and who cited many of them in his novels, observed that “the life of every saint is like a new flowering in springtime.”
May this also be the case for us. Let us yield to this attraction to the supernatural fascination of saintliness. May Mary, the queen of all the saints and the mother and refuge of sinners, obtain this grace for us.