During his state visit to Britain a few weeks back, the Pope addressed young people of Mass at Westminster Cathedral. The full text of that speech can be found here.
The Holy Father began by reminding young people that we were all made by God to receive love. Pope Benedict is very much the Pope of love: from his first encyclical Deus caritas est (“God is love”), he has consistently looked at matters through the lens of love. It is not romantic love that he is referring to, nor any sentimental niceness or indulgence towards others. Rather he speaks of receiving the love that is God the Trinity, which is itself a community of love so perfect that it makes one God of three Persons. The love that is God is a love that bears fruit in unity among people, and also within an individual, as body and soul live in increasing harmony in living out God’s will.
This means our reception of God’s love must have an impact on our lives, must bear fruit in our conduct. If we are truly to live by God’s will then we must live by his commandments, and Christ himself taught us the greatest commandments, which are a summary of all the others:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
In other words, having received love we are called by God to share that love with those around us. This is not always easy, and indeed it often requires great sacrifice and commitment, as well as the help of God’s grace which we receive abundantly if we ask for it. The Pope told the young people that,
Every day we have to choose to love and this requires help. The help that comes from Christ, from the wisdom found in his Word. And from the grace which he bestows us in the sacraments of his Church. This is the message I want to share with you today. I ask you to look into your hearts, each day, to find the source of all true love. Jesus is always there, quietly waiting for us to be still with him and to hear his voice. Deep within your heart, he is calling you to spend time with him in prayer, but this kind of prayer, real prayer, requires discipline.
Thus prayer is the nourishment of our ability to share God’s love, and so the nourishment of our obedience to God’s will. By means of prayer, especially as empowered by the sacraments, we find the strength to do what we could not hope to do of our own power, and we God’s word addressed to us personally:
It requires time for moments of silence every day. Often it means waiting for the Lord to speak.
Even amidst the business and stress of our daily lives we need to make space for silence, because it is in silence that we find God. And in silence that we discover our true self.
Through the discipline of prayer, itself a true commitment to loving God, God our Creator, who made us for his own particular purpose, not only reveals himself to us, but also reveals to us our true identity as persons made in his image and likeness. In discovering who we truly are, we discover also what God is calling us to do with our lives. Here we find the Holy Father’s fundamental point:
And in discovering our true self we discover the particular vocation which God has given us for the building up of his Church and the redemption of our world. Heart speaks unto heart. With these words from my heart, dear young friends, I assure you of my prayers for you.
So if you are discerning what God is calling you to do with your lives, the Pope is calling you first to pray, to develop a living and active relationship with the Lord. Intimate and personal knowledge of God is the key to knowledge of yourself and your particular mission in this life. In quoting Blessed John Henry Newman’s motto, heart speaks unto heart (Cor ad cor loquitur), perhaps Pope Benedict is subtly inviting you to place your vocational discernment under the special patronage of the holy cardinal, who wrote so eloquently of each individual’s worth to the world and before God.
Blessed John Henry Newman – pray for us!
P.S. Today is the feast of St Therèse of the Child Jesus. Perhaps she also is a good patron for those, especially the young, discerning a vocation. She died aged, yet in her short life she managed to develop, through prayer fed by the sacraments, a profound knowledge of God and fidelity to him in the smallest details of life. Though a nun cloistered in silence, her heart went out in love and concern to the mission lands and to all those who had yet to hear of God and his love for them. It was for this missionary task that she devoted so much of her prayer. As Pope Benedict reminded young people that at the heart of any vocation, central to the basic Christian vocation, is the call to share the knowledge and reality of God’s love for humanity, you might also ask the intercession of St Therèse if you are discerning a vocation, that in the cloister of your heart you might hear the call of God.
St Therèse of the Child Jesus – pray for us!