Pope at audience: Benedict XVI was ‘great master’ of catechesis
At the beginning of his catechesis at the Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis paid tribute to his predecessor, the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, whose funeral will be held on Thursday.
Thousands of pilgrims gathered in the Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican to hear the pope and pay their respects to the pope emeritus lying in state in St. Peter’s Basilica. On Monday and Tuesday alone, over 135,000 people visited the Basilica.
“I would like us to join with those here beside us who are paying their respects to Benedict XVI, and to turn my thoughts to him, a great master of catechesis. His acute and gentle thought was not self-referential, but ecclesial, because he always wanted to accompany us in the encounter with Jesus. Jesus, crucified and risen, the Living One and the Lord, was the destination to which Pope Benedict led us, taking us by the hand. May he help us rediscover in Christ the joy of believing and the hope of living.”
Turning to his catechesis, Pope Francis concluded his teaching series on the theme of discernment as the process of gaining a “sound understanding of the Lord’s will for our lives.” One of the elements that can help each of us in this process is spiritual accompaniment, which the pope said is important in deepening self-knowledge, and essential for discernment.
The pope explained that God’s grace in us always works on our nature, so we should not hold back in sharing our most fragile or sensitive aspects of who we are for fear of being judged.
He said in some ways our own fragility can, in reality, be our “true richness” because when offered to God, it can make us capable of tenderness, mercy and love.
“Spiritual accompaniment, if it is docile to the Holy Spirit, helps to unmask misunderstandings, even grave ones, in our consideration of ourselves and our relationship with the Lord.”
The pope explained how spiritual direction, in which we share with another person the movements of the Spirit in our heart and thus confront our own frailty, helps draw us closer to the Lord, who took upon Himself and redeemed the weakness of our humanity.
He said we can often discern more clearly the true direction of our lives and the quiet working of God’s grace in our hearts with spiritual direction. He noted how we read in the Gospels of Jesus’ many encounters with persons who opened their hearts to Him and experienced His mercy and forgiveness.
“Spiritual accompaniment also expresses the communitarian nature of our journey to perfection, since together we are members of Christ’s body, sons and daughters of the Father and sharers in the life of the Spirit. As our teacher in the art of discernment we can look to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who leads us to Jesus, who urges us not to fear, but to trust in Him and in His words of eternal life.”
The pope added how this process can help us discover with surprise different ways of seeing things about ourselves, “signs of goodness that have always been present in us,” and so help us overcome a possible tendency to focus on the negative aspects we observe.
In conclusion, the pope described how spiritual accompaniment can also reflect “the communitarian nature of our journey to perfection,” since we are “members of Christ’s body, sons and daughters of the Father and sharers in the life of the Spirit.”
He noted that it is essential therefore to be part of a journeying community and not try to go it on our own.
And as our teacher in the art of discernment, “we can look to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who leads us to Jesus, who urges us not to fear, but to trust in Him and in His words of eternal life.”