Christ Carries Our Crosses

Pope Benedict talks about St. John of the Cross' faith at weekly audience.

Pope Benedict XVI meets Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Va., during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 16.
Pope Benedict XVI meets Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Va., during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 16. (photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Believing in Jesus Christ gives people strength to face the normal challenges of life and is not another burden to carry, Pope Benedict XVI said.
“Journeying with Christ — traveling the path with Christ — isn’t a burden added to the already heavy load that is our life, something that makes our burden even heavier,” the Pope said Feb. 16 at his weekly general audience.

Drawing on the example of the life and writings of St. John of the Cross, a 16th-century Spanish mystic, Pope Benedict said faith in Christ “is a light, a force that helps us carry our burdens.”

“If a man has a great love, this love almost gives him wings, and he has an easier time supporting all the challenges of life,” the Pope told an estimated 4,000 people gathered for the audience.

The mid-February audience was the third that Pope Benedict dedicated to one of the “doctors of the Church,” men and women who made important contributions to Catholic theological understanding.

Pope Benedict said it’s understandable that people look at St. John of the Cross, one of the greatest mystical writers in Christian history, and ask, “Does he have anything to say to us normal Christians?”

“The life of St. John of the Cross wasn’t all about flying around in the mystical clouds,” the Pope said. His life was tough: He grew up in poverty; he met opposition in trying to reform the Carmelites — and he was imprisoned under harsh circumstances on false accusations, the Pope said.

St. John of the Cross knew that an “increase in faith, hope and love goes hand in hand with purification,” which is a gradual process by which people loosen and finally conquer their attachments to sin and to anything that keeps them from drawing closer to God and experiencing God’s love, the Pope said.

Allowing oneself to love and be loved, he said, “is the light that helps us carry the burdens of each day.”

The Pope said, “Holiness is not an extremely difficult job we take on,” but consists in opening one’s heart to God and allowing him to carry out a work of purification.

The Earth is Not Our Mother

“The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.”—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy