Benedict XVI, the speech never delivered in La Verna

The Pope during his pastoral visit to Arezzo on 13 May 2012: «The Franciscan Middle Ages have left an indelible mark on this Church of yours in Arezzo»

“Dear Friars Minor, dear daughters of Holy Mother Clare, dear brothers and sisters: may the Lord give you peace! Contemplate the Cross of Christ! We went up as pilgrims to Sasso Spicco della Verna where “two years before his death” (Celano, Vita Prima, III, 94: FF, 484) Saint Francis had the wounds of Christ’s glorious passion imprinted on his body. His journey as a disciple had led him to such a profound union with the Lord that he also shared the outward signs of the supreme act of love on the Cross. A journey that began in San Damiano in front of the Crucifix contemplated with the mind and heart. The continuous meditation on the Cross, in this holy place, has been a way of sanctification for many Christians, who, for eight centuries, have knelt here to pray, in silence and recollection”.

«The glorious Cross of Christ sums up the sufferings of the world, but above all it is a tangible sign of love, a measure of God’s goodness towards man. In this place we too are called to recover the supernatural dimension of life, to lift our eyes from what is contingent, to return to entrust ourselves completely to the Lord, with a free heart and in perfect joy, contemplating the Crucifix so that he wounds us with his love. «Altissimu, almighty, good Lord, Yours are the laude, the glory and the honore et omne benedictione» (Canticle of Friar Sun: FF, 263). Only by allowing oneself to be illuminated by the light of God’s love can man and all of nature be redeemed, can beauty finally reflect the splendor of Christ’s face, like the moon reflects the sun. Flowing from the glorious Cross, the Blood of the Crucified returns to enliven the parched bones of the Adam who is within us, so that each one may rediscover the joy of walking towards holiness, of ascending upwards, towards God. From this blessed place, I I join the prayer of all the Franciscan men and women of the earth: “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you here and in all the churches throughout the world, because with your holy cross you have redeemed the world”. Enraptured by the love of Christ! You cannot go up to La Verna without allowing yourself to be guided by the prayer of Saint Francis of the absorbbeat, which recites: «Request, please, O Lord, the ardent and sweet strength of your love my mind from all things that are under heaven , so that I may die for the love of your love, as you have deigned to die for the love of my love» (Prayer “absorbeat”, 1: FF, 277). Contemplation of the Crucified is the work of the mind, but he cannot soar without the support, without the strength of love. In this same place, Fra’ Bonaventura da Bagnoregio, famous son of St. Francis, designed his Itinerarium mentis in Deum showing us the way to go to set out for the peaks where we can meet God. This great Doctor of the Church communicates his own experience to us, inviting us to prayer. Above all, the mind must be turned to the Passion of the Lord, because it is the sacrifice of the Cross that erases our sin, a lack that can only be filled by the love of God: «I urge the reader – he writes -, first of all to the groan of prayer for the crucified Christ, whose blood cleanses the stains of our sins” (Itinerarium mentis in Deum, Prol. 4). But, to be effective, our prayer needs tears, that is, interior involvement, our love that responds to God’s love. And then that admiratio is necessary, which St. to the saving work of Christ. And it is precisely humility that leads to every virtue. Indeed, it is not with the intellectual pride of self-enclosed research that it is possible to reach God, but with humility, according to a famous expression of Saint Bonaventure: «[l’uomo] do not think that reading without anointing, speculation without devotion, research without admiration, consideration without exultation, industry without piety, science without charity, intelligence without love are enough for him. humility, study without divine grace, the mirror without divinely inspired wisdom” (ibidem). The contemplation of the Crucifix has an extraordinary efficacy, because it makes us pass from the order of things thought to lived experience; from the hoped-for salvation, to the blessed homeland. St. Bonaventure says: «He who looks attentively [il Crocifisso] … completes the Passover with him, that is, the passage” (ibid., VII, 2). This is the heart of the experience of La Verna, of the experience that the Poverello of Assisi had here. In this Sacro Monte, St. Francis lives in himself the profound unity between sequela, imitatio and conformatio Christi. And so he also tells us that it is not enough to declare oneself Christian to be Christian, nor to try to do good works. It is necessary to conform to Jesus, with a slow, progressive commitment to transform one’s being, in the image of the Lord, so that, by divine grace, every member of his Body, which is the Church, shows the necessary resemblance to the Head, Christ the Lord . And even in this path we start – as the medieval masters teach us on the basis of the great Augustine – from self-knowledge, from the humility to look sincerely within oneself. Bring the love of Christ! How many pilgrims have climbed and still climb this sacred mountain to contemplate the crucified love of God and let themselves be enraptured by him. How many pilgrims have climbed in search of God, which is the real reason why the Church exists: to act as a bridge between God and the man. And here they also meet you, sons and daughters of St. Francis. Always remember that the consecrated life has the specific task of bearing witness, by word and example of a life according to the evangelical counsels, to the fascinating story of love between God and humanity which runs throughout history. The Franciscan Middle Ages have left an indelible mark on this church of yours in Arezzo. The repeated passages of the Poverello of Assisi and his lingering in your territory are a precious treasure. The story of La Verna was unique and fundamental, due to the singularity of the stigmata imprinted on the body of the seraphic Father Francesco, but also the collective history of his friars and your people, who still rediscover, at Sasso Spicco, the centrality of Christ in the life of the believer. Montauto of Anghiari, Le Celle of Cortona and the Hermitage of Montecasale, and that of Cerbaiolo, but also other minor places of Tuscan Franciscanism, continue to mark the identity of the Arezzo, Cortona and Biturgense communities. Many lights have illuminated these lands, such as Saint Margaret of Cortona, a little-known figure of a Franciscan penitent, capable of reliving in herself the charism of the Poverello of Assisi with extraordinary vivacity, combining the contemplation of the Crucifix with charity towards the least. Love of God and neighbor continues to animate the precious work of the Franciscans in your ecclesial community. The profession of the evangelical counsels is a main way to live the charity of Christ. In this blessed place, I ask the Lord to continue to send workers to his vineyard and, especially to young people, I address an urgent invitation, so that those called by God may respond generously and have the courage to give themselves in the consecrated life and in the ministerial priesthood. I made a pilgrimage to La Verna, as Successor of Peter, and I would like each of us to listen again to Jesus’ question to Peter: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?… Feed my lambs” (Jn 21 ,15). Love for Christ is at the basis of the life of the Pastor, as well as that of the consecrated person; a love that is not afraid of commitment and effort. Bring this love to the man of our time, who is often closed in on his own individualism; be a sign of God’s immense mercy. Priestly piety teaches priests to live what is celebrated, to lay down their lives for those we meet: in sharing pain, in paying attention to problems, in accompanying the journey of faith. Thanks to Minister General José Carballo for his words, to the entire Franciscan family and to all of you. Persevere, like your Holy Father, in the imitation of Christ, so that whoever meets you meets Saint Francis and meeting Saint Francis encounters the Lord”.

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December 31, 2022 (change December 31, 2022 | 12:00)


Benedict XVI, the speech never delivered in La Verna