Together in Christ

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Pope Benedictus XVI

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The Pope's "Together in Christ" two day visit of Croatia was significant for several reasons. For him, and I think for all of us who were either physically in Zagreb or tuned via the media, time spent with the Croatians was monumental because it clearly exhibited the "dynamism of communion." (What visit of a pope is insignificant, the wag asks?) In his own words, the Benedict reviews the events he and the world lived with him in this way:

  • "the experience of finding ourselves together united in the name of Christ,
  • the experience of being Church, which is manifested ... around the Successor of Peter. 
  • 'Together in Christ' referred in a particular way to the family (... the occasion of my visit was the First National Day of Croatian Catholic Families...

It was very important for me to confirm in the faith especially these families that the Second Vatican Council called "domestic churches" (cf. Lumen Gentium, 11). 

In today's Europe [and one can extend this to the globe], nations with a strong Christian tradition have a special responsibility to defend and promote the value of the family founded on marriage, which remains decisive both within the field of education as well as in the social sphere."

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In the context of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Pope said it was "As though in a great "cenacle" opened up to heaven, the Croatian families gathered in prayer, together invoking the gift of the Holy Spirit. This gave me occasion to underscore the gift and importance of communion in the Church, and also to encourage spouses in their mission. In our own day, while we unfortunately see an increase in separations and divorces, the fidelity of spouses has itself become a meaningful witness to the love of Christ, which permits marriage to be lived out for what it truly is: the union of one man and one woman who, with the grace of God, love one another and help one another for a lifetime, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health.

The first education in the faith consists precisely --and centrally-- in the witness of this fidelity to the spousal covenant: Through it, children learn without words that God is faithful, patient, respectful and generous love. Faith in the God who is Love is handed on first of all by the witness of a fidelity to spousal love, which translates naturally into love for the children who are the fruit of this union. But this faithfulness is not possible without God's grace, without the support of the faith and of the Holy Spirit. This is why the Virgin Mary unceasingly intercedes with her Son, so that -- as at the Wedding Feast of Cana -- He might continually renew spouses in the gift of the "good wine"; that is, of Grace, which enables them to live as "one flesh" through the various seasons and situations of life.

... I was able to meet the new generation of Croatians, and there I felt all the strength of their youthful faith, animated as it was by a great impetus toward life and its meaning, toward the good, toward freedom -- that is to say -- toward God. It was beautiful and moving to hear these young people sing with joy and enthusiasm, and then, in the moments of listening and prayer, recollect themselves in profound silence! I repeated to them the question Jesus put to his first disciples: "What do you seek?" (John 1:38), but I told them that God is first seeking them, and more than they themselves seek Him. This is faith's joy: to discover that God first loves us! It is a discovery that keeps us always disciples, and therefore always young in spirit! During the Vigil, this mystery was lived out in prayer and Eucharistic adoration: In the silence, our being "together in Christ" found its fullness. My invitation to follow Jesus was thus an echo of the Word that He himself was addressing to the hearts of the young.

In the days around Pentecost, the image of the gathered Apostles with the Mother of God in a "cenacle" is often used. In our own time, our gathering in faith, learning and service is a type of cenacle that is in continuity with the first cenacle and it looks forward to the eternal cenacle offered to us by the Holy Spirit. Here, Pope Benedict speaks of his experience, his encounter in the "... 'cenacle' was the Celebration of Vespers in the cathedral, with the bishops, priests, religious and the young people in formation in seminaries and ecclesial communities. Here also, we experienced in a special way our being "family" as an ecclesial community.... I encouraged bishops and priests in their ministry, exhorting them to communion and to apostolic fervor; I re-proposed to the consecrated the beauty and radicality of their way of life; I invited seminarians and novices to joyfully follow Christ who has called them by name. 

... my meeting with representatives of civil society, of the political, academic, cultural and entrepreneurial world, with the diplomatic corps and with religious leaders, who gathered in Zagreb's National Theatre.... I had the joy of paying homage to the great Croatian cultural tradition, which is inseparable from its history of faith and the presence of the Church that, throughout the centuries, has been a promoter of numerous institutions and, above all, a teacher of illustrious seekers of truth and the common good. Among these I recalled in particular the Jesuit Father Ruđer Bošković, a great scientist whose anniversary we celebrate this year on the occasion of the third centenary of his birth.

The language Benedict's talks and homilies was very precise as it always is. It is frequently said that Benedict does not speak in sound bites, but in paragraphs. It is, therefore, difficult to edit his speeches for a singular phrase to capture the experience. But if you read about the Pope in the press, they certainly try to reduce papal thinking to a sentence, or a phrase. The Christian patrimony of Europe and Europe's soul, European secularity if you will --it's true identity-- is forefront in the Pope's heart as he notices the secularists distancing themselves from their history and culture. Benedict uses the concept of vocation, a calling from God, to speak about the manner of life found historically in Europe and what it is called to witness today.

Benedict stated,  "...Europe's most profound vocation was made evident to us all -- that of guarding and renewing a humanism rooted in Christianity that can be defined as "catholic"; that is, universal and integral. A humanism that places at its center man's conscience, his transcendent openness and, at the same time, his historic reality; [a humanism] capable of inspiring diversified political projects that nonetheless converge for the building of a sound democratic system, founded upon the ethical values rooted in the same human nature. Looking at Europe from the point of view of a nation with an ancient and strong Christian tradition -- and which is an integral part of European civilization -- while it prepares to enter the political Union, renewed the sense of urgency posed by the challenge that faces the peoples of this Continent: [the challenge,] that is, of not being afraid of God, of the God of Jesus Christ, Who is Love and Truth, and Who takes nothing away from freedom but rather restores it to itself, giving it the horizon of a dependable hope.

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Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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This page contains a single entry by Paul Zalonski published on June 18, 2011 3:29 PM.

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