Pope: Even in the third millennium Christians must pray

Vatican City Jun.19, 2008 – Even today at the start of the third millennium Christians must pray, but they must also act together for the good of their fellow human beings. Prayer is indispensable but not if it disconnected from charity-inspired action in the service of others.

Benedict XVI devoted his thoughts in today’s general audience to Saint Isidore of Seville, a Father of the Church who lived between the 6th and 7th centuries, who even today teaches us about the need for the right mediation between the desire to lead a contemplative life and the duty to devote oneself to the service of others.

To the more than 20,000 people present in St Peter’s Square, the Pope focused on Isidore’s thoughts. “Considered the last Christian Father of Antiquity,” he believed that in imitating Christ, who had an active life and at the same time withdrew to the “mountain” to pray, Christians can “devote themselves to contemplation without denying themselves an active life; behaving differently would not be right. In fact as one loves God through contemplation, one loves one’s fellow human beings through action.”

In looking at Saint Isidore’s life, Benedict XVI said the former was the brother of Bishop Leander, whom he succeeded in 599 AD, who raised him in an environment that befitted the life of a studious monk. The two had a rich library of classical Pagan and Christian texts and he was pushed towards “a very strong discipline in dedicating himself to learning.”

As his books show he was interested in all cultural fields, had an “encyclopaedic knowledge” and literary texts that went from Cicero to Gregory the Great.

In order to understand him better it is necessary to remember the complexity of the political times in which he lived.

In his childhood he “experienced the bitterness of exile,” but “felt the thrill of making a contribution to the preparation of a people that was rediscovering its political and religious unity.”

He had huge problems like his relationship with heretics and Jews, “problems which appear real even today, especially if one thinks about what is happening in some regions in which we seem to witness situations similar to those of 6th century Iberian Peninsula.”

A “man with strong dialectical contrapositions’” he went through the same inner conflict his friend Pope Gregory the Great and Saint Augustine experienced, i.e. a conflict “between the desire for solitude to meditate and the need for charity towards his brothers, whose salvation, he felt, was his charge.”

Men of God, he said, do not want to get involved in secular things and grieve when they are burdened with responsibilities, but they accept what they would like to escape from and avoid if that is God’s will.

“This synthesis of a life that seeks God’s contemplation and dialogue through prayer and the reading of the Holy Scriptures as well as action in the service of the human community is Isidore’s great lesson to us, Christians of today, who are called to bear witness to Christ at the start of the new millennium.”

During the audience, the Holy Father gave “warm greetings” in English to “a group of Holocaust survivors present today.”

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