| || ||
On Using Heart and Mind | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. | Ignatius Insight | July 22, 2010
"You asked me questions with great frankness and at the
same time showed that you have firm points, convictions. And this is very
important. You are young men and women who think, who question themselves, and
who have a sense of truth and good. In other words, you know how to use your
minds and your hearts, and that is no small thing."
-- Pope Benedict XVI, To Young People in the Cathedral in
Sulmona, July 4, 2010 (L'Osservatore Romano,
English, July 7, 2010.)
The lovely town of Sulmona, in L'Aquila, in Italy, is famous
for being the birthplace of the Roman poet Ovid, for its goldsmiths, and for
"confetti," sugar coated almonds passed out at weddings and other festive
occasions. It is also famous for being the home of the one pope who actually
resigned his office, Pope Celestine V, a hermit who ruled the Church for about
six months. Not surprisingly, when Benedict visited Sulmona recently, I saw
articles speculating whether he might be thinking of resigning since he had an
interest in this obscure pope. That this pope might have once looked forward to
retiring in Bavaria goes without saying. But once pope, he understands that his
office is for life.
The town's patron is St. Pamphilius, after whom the
Cathedral is named. This is where, on his recent visit, the Holy Father gave a
brief talk to young men and women gathered in the Cathedral. He did not talk to
them about changing the world's social structures. He did not talk of
philosophy or theology even, but he did talk about history and using their
heads. The students evidently had asked him some questions to which he
Both John Paul II and Benedict are at their best in youth
audiences. Imagine anyone else in the world telling young men and women that it
is"no small thing" to use their minds! Benedict adds:"I would say that it is
the main thing in this world: to use the intelligence and wisdom that God has
given to you properly." This again is a theme that is typical of Catholicism at
its best. It recognizes that our minds are not our own original creations. We
are given them by God in the very being we have received, a being that does not
originate with us.
We are to use our minds and hearts at the same time. We are
not to be afraid of intelligence or insight. But we know that we can choose to
use them improperly. These usages the pope calls"shadows," perhaps after
Plato. The only thing that can really challenge the improper use of mind is to
use it properly, to seek and find the truth of things.
Benedict remarks on the faith and moral values found among
the people of that region. But there are"false values" and"deceptive models."
They too promise to fill human life, but they are"empty." Benedict knows the
relativism and skepticism that surround all of today's youth, even those in
The pope commends the students for recalling to him the
example of Pope Celestine, as well as remembering some of the pope's own words
in Sydney."The memory of the past is truly an 'extra gear' in life, because
without memory there is no future. It was once said that history is a teacher
of life!" The past concretizes things for us."The contemporary consumer
society tends instead to relegate human beings to the present, to make them
lose their sense of the past, of history; but by doing so it deprives them of
the ability to understand themselves, to perceive problems and to build the
future." The notion of being"relegated" to the present, to be free of history,
and hence alone and by oneself is a powerful one. The Christian is"someone who
has a good memory, who loves history and seeks to know it."
The students asked:"How does one recognize God's call?" The
pope, following the example of the hermit Celestine, speaks of inner and exterior
silence."St. Peter Celestine was first and foremost this: a man of listening,
of inner silence, a man of prayer, a man of God."
We must in fact take steps to be outside the culture, to
allow within our souls other voices than the immediate ones that constantly
pound us from media and ideology.
"Being with God, listening to his word, in the Gospel and in the Church's
Liturgy, protects you from the dazzle of pride and presumption, from fashion
and conformism, and gives you the strength to be truly free, even from certain
temptations masked as good things."
The students also asked the delicate question of"How we can
be in the world but not of it?" Praying in our room, meditating, going to Mass,
Benedict says, does not"remove" us from the world. It rather"helps us be
ourselves," not subject to pervasive forces."Dear friends, faith and prayer do
not solve problems but rather enable us to face them with fresh enlightenment
and strength, in a way that is worthy of the human being and also more serenely
and effectively." As he often does, Benedict recalls the examples of actual
saints in history. They began first with prayer and attention to God. The pope
even talks of a kind of spiritual"entrepreneurship" helped by the Spirit. Not
everything that the world most needs is already contained in the world with its
The pope says that one of the"badges" of being a Christian
is that he is never merely an"individualist." Are not hermits and monks such
"individualists?""The monk does not live for himself but for others and it is
for the good of the Church and of society that he cultivates the contemplative
life so that the Church and society may always be irrigated by new energies, by
the Lord's action." There always needs to be midst the affairs of the world,
for the good of the world, those whose life is primarily directed to God.
The pope urges the students to love the Church, the bishops
and priests,"in spite of all our weaknesses." Following the Lord is a joy, the
pope remarks after recalling the rich young man in the Gospels who went away
"sad" because he had many riches. What is the sign of being a Christian? "For
you Jesus Christ is worth much, even though it is demanding to follow him, that
he is worth more than anything else." Benedict tells the youth of Sulmona to
read the Confessions of Augustine,
surely a soul-changing book if there ever was one.
Finally, Benedict says,"I must now depart and I must say
that I am sorry to leave you! With you I feel that the Church is young! But I
am happy as I leave, like a father who is serene because he has seen that his
children are growing up and growing up well." One cannot, in conclusion, help
wonder with all the attacks on fatherhood and the family how many young people
actually understand this sentiment of the pope. He is the Holy Father; he sees
in all such gatherings, the hope for eternal life in which we were created.
Biography of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
All books by or about Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
Excerpts from books by Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
Articles about Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
James V. Schall, S.J., is Professor of Political Philosophy at Georgetown
He is the author of numerous books on social issues, spirituality, culture,
and literature including Another
Sort of Learning, Idylls and Rambles, A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning,
The Life of the Mind (ISI, 2006),
The Sum Total of Human
Happiness (St. Augustine's Press, 2007), The Regensburg Lecture (St. Augustine's Press, 2007),
and The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays (CUA, 2008).
His most recent book from Ignatius Press is
The Order of Things (Ignatius Press, 2007). His new book, The Modern Age,
is available from St. Augustine's Press. Read more of his essays on his
the Insight Scoop Blog and read the latest posts and comments by
IgnatiusInsight.com staff and readers about current events, controversies,
and news in the Church!
| || || |