Wednesday, October 24, 2007

General Audience: St. Ambrose of Milan


Pope Benedict XVI leads a weekly general audience at Saint Peter's square at the Vatican October 24, 2007. REUTERS/Chris Helgren (VATICAN)

~from Asia News with the headline: Those who teach the faith cannot behave like a clown playing a part.
Those who teach the faith “cannot run the risk of appearing like a type of clown who is playing a part; rather he must be like the beloved disciple who rested his head on the Master’s heart and learned therein how to think, speak and act”. Because “at the end of it all a true disciple is he who announces the Gospel in a credible and effective way”, in short “authentic witness”, as was the case with Saint Ambrose.

The figure of the bishop and saint from Milan, who lived between 340 and 397, and in particular his influence on Saint Augustine’s conversion, was at the heart of Benedict XVI’s address to the 30 thousand people gathered today for the general audience.

According to the Pope, an effective announcing of the Gospel can only occur there where the “witness” of the preacher’s life and the “exemplary conduct of the Christian community” are credible, as was the case with Saint Ambrose and his Church. As Augustine himself writes in his ”Confessions” what urged the young sceptical and desperate African to convert was in fact “Saint Ambrose’s witness and that of his Milanese Church, which sang and prayed as one united body, capable of resisting the arrogance of the Emperor and his mother”, who demanded a building for the Arians. But in that building “the people held vigil ready to die together with their bishop”. “It is all too clear – commented Benedict XVI – which the witness of the preacher and the exemplary conduct of the Christian community condition the effectiveness of the spreading of the faith”.

What Augustine tells us of his meeting with Ambrose, defined as “an historical event in the history of the Church”, Benedict XVI highlighted among other things, the “the singular capacity of reading and familiarity with the Scriptures” to underline that kind of “reading where the heart commits itself to intelligently reach the Word of God”. It is the “prayerful reading” of the Sacred Scripture which is particularly dear to the Pope and figures often throughout his speeches. With reference to this today he recalled “Dei Verbum”, the document on the Sacred Scripture of the Second Vatican Council: “it is necessary that all catechists and those who legitimately take part in the liturgy of the Word, engage constantly in the Scriptures, through deep and spiritual reading and careful study so they do not become a vain preacher of the Lord’s Word on the outside without ever hearing it within”.

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