Potpourri of Popery, Summer Vacation Edition

The pope's retired to his summer digs for a "rest," which includes writing his encyclical on faith, completing the trilogy. He's also reportedly writing a book on the infancy narratives of Jesus, in spite of once having remarked the forthcoming second volume of Jesus of Nazareth would be his last book. Vacation this year will be at Castel Gandalfo, not northern Italy as usual.

What's he been up to since Cyprus?  
Keeping up with his Audience series on the great theologians of the Church, notably several on St. Thomas Aquinas, which I'll let Against the Grain tell you about. Wednesday before parting the Vatican he spoke of Duns Scotus, the great theologian of the Incarnation. There's a very interesting catechetical passage in which Benedict remarks on Scotus' contribution to the defining of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
Valuable theologians, such as Duns Scotus with the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, enriched with their specific thought what the People of God already believed spontaneously about the Blessed Virgin, manifested in acts of piety, in the expressions of art and, in general, in Christian living. Thus faith in the Immaculate Conception or in the bodily assumption of the Virgin was already present in the People of God, while theology had not yet found the key to interpret it in the totality of the doctrine of the faith. Thus the People of God precede theologians and all this thanks to that supernatural sensus fidei, namely, that capacity infused by the Holy Spirit, which qualifies us to embrace the reality of the faith, with humility of heart and mind.
In this sense, the People of God is "magisterium that precedes," and that later must be deepened and intellectually accepted by theology. May theologians always be able to listen to this source of faith and have the humility and simplicity of little ones!
A common objection to Catholicism being that celibate old men impose their views on the helpless faithful, it's refreshing to be reminded the precise opposite is true.

Last weekend he travelled to Sulmona for one of his intra-Italian pastoral visits. He had a nice chat with young people. Can't find a transcript of their questions, but here's his response.
true prayer is not at all foreign to reality. If prayer should alienate you, remove you from your real life, be on your guard it would not be true prayer! On the contrary, dialogue with God is a guarantee of truth, of truth with ourselves and with others and hence of freedom. Being with God, listening to his word, in the Gospel and in the Church's Liturgy, protects you from the dazzle of pride and presumption, from fashions and conformism, and gives you the strength to be truly free, even from certain temptations masked by good things.
Good news/bad news:
faith and prayer do not solve problems but rather enable us to face them with fresh enlightenment and strength, in a way that is worthy of the human being and also more serenely and effectively. 
Prayer is not magic, in other words. Love this next part:
If we look at the history of the Church we see that it is peopled by a wealth of Saints and Blesseds who, precisely by starting from an intense and constant dialogue with God, illumined by faith, were able to find creative, ever new solutions to respond to practical human needs in all the centuries: health, education, work, etc. Their entrepreneurial character was motivated by the Holy Spirit and by a strong and generous love for their brethren, especially for the weakest and most underprivileged.
The saints as entrepreneurs of grace? I like it. (See why Catholic Americans are the best Americans and the best Catholics? At least potentially: corruptio optimi pessima. Or maybe what I mean is that Americans are especially suited to be Catholic.)

Very nice homily for the July 4th Mass in Garibaldi Square, too. He talks about Pope St. Peter Celestine, whose 800th anniversary the pilgrimage was observing, and particularly about his "listening."
From his youth Pietro Angelerio was a "seeker of God", a man who sought the answers to the great questions of our existence: Who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I alive? For whom do I live?   ... Here there is a first important aspect for us: we live in a society in which it seems that every space, every moment must be "filled" with projects, activities and noise; there is often no time even to listen or to converse. Dear brothers and sisters, let us not fear to create silence, within and outside ourselves, if we wish to be able not only to become aware of God's voice but also to make out the voice of the person beside us, the voices of others. 
Here's the homily for the feast of Ss. Peter & Paul, on which occasion he presented the pallium to 38 Metropolitan archbishops. Cool pictures here -- including of the statue of St. Peter dressed for the feast, and of the Pope & the new bishops descending to pray at the tomb of St. Peter.

Note this (but, yikes! I think the regular translators must already have gone on vacation, as here and in the above texts there are some barbarities. "Millenniums"? "Inconsistence" for "inconstancy"? Really?). He's been speaking about terrible persecutions and says:
despite the suffering they cause, they do not constitute the gravest danger for the Church. Indeed she is subjected to the greatest danger by what pollutes the faith and Christian life of her members and communities, corroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening her capacity for prophecy and witness, and marring the beauty of her face. ...  The First Letter to the Corinthians, for example, responds precisely to certain problems of division, inconsistence and infidelity to the Gospel that seriously threaten the Church. However, the Second Letter to Timothy a passage to which we listened also speaks of the perils of the "last days", identifying them with negative attitudes that belong to the world and can contaminate the Christian community: selfishness, vanity, pride, the attachment to money, etc.
There follows an interesting meditation on the pallium as a sign of freedom and how union with the Holy Father is a sign and guarantor of freedom. A little difficult to excerpt, so RTWT.

The evening previous, in a vespers ceremony, he reflected on the Church's missionary vocation. Nice distinction here regarding the "new evangelization":
"new" not in its content but in its inner thrust, open to the grace of the Holy Spirit which constitutes the force of the new law of the Gospel that always renews the Church; "new" in ways that correspond with the power of the Holy Spirit and which are suited to the times and situations; "new" because of being necessary even in countries that have already received the proclamation of the Gospel.
Some words of encouragement for those ascending to the throne at a time when no one in his right mind would wish to be a bishop:
The challenges of the present time, the historical and social and, especially, the spiritual challenges, are certainly beyond the human capacity. It sometimes seems to us Pastors of the Church that we are reliving the experience of the Apostles when thousands of needy people followed Jesus and he asked them: what can we do for all these people? They were then aware of their powerlessness. Yet Jesus himself had shown them that with faith in God nothing is impossible and that a few loaves and fish, blessed and shared, could satisfy the hunger of all. However, there was not and there is not hunger solely for material food: there is a deeper hunger that only God can satisfy. Human beings of the third millennium want an authentic, full life; they need truth, profound freedom, love freely given. Even in the deserts of the secularized world, man's soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
Which is why he's created a new Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.

A Brazilian pastor asks how a priest can possibly keep up as society de-Christianizes and he's in charge of a huge parish or perhaps several. If it's not possible to do it all, what should he do?

To this the pope replies that it's less important to try to do everything than to radiate Christ. If people see your joy and sincerity, they'll help you, and you ought to let them help. Then, prioritize: Sacraments, Proclamation of the Word and caritas --being present to the sick, poor, suffering. Also vital is the priest's own prayer:
St Charles Borromeo, a great shepherd, who truly gave all of himself, and says to us, to all priests, "Do not neglect your own soul. If your soul is neglected, even to others you can not give what you should give. Thus, even for yourself, for your soul, you must have time". Or, in other words, the personal colloquy with Christ, the personal dialogue with Christ is a fundamental pastoral priority in our work for the others! And prayer is not a marginal thing: it is the "occupation" of the priest to pray, as representative of the people who do not know how to pray or do not find time to pray. The personal prayer, especially the Prayer of the Hours, is fundamental nourishment for our soul, for all our actions. Finally, to recognize our limitations, to open ourselves up even to this humility. Recall a scene from Mark, chapter 6, where the disciples are "stressed out", they want to do everything, and the Lord says: "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while." Even this is work, I would say pastoral work: to find and to have the humility, the courage to rest.
Then comes a Q from an African priest distressed over theologians whose approach is academic and doesn't support true spirituality. Comes the A:
Even St Bonaventure distinguished two forms of theology in his time and said: "There is a theology that comes from the arrogance of reason, that wants to dominate everything, God passes from being the subject to the object of our study, while he should be the subject who speaks and guides us". There is really this abuse of theology, which is the arrogance of reason and does not nurture faith but overshadows God's presence in the world. Then, there is a theology that wants to know more out of love for the beloved, it is stirred by love and guided by love. It wants to know the beloved more. And this is the true theology that comes from love of God, of Christ, and it wants to enter more deeply into communion with Christ. 
Hmm. Who are you thinking of? He defends the numerous theologians throughout the world who follow the latter model, but this is priceless:
"Do not be afraid of this ghost of science!" I have been following theology since 1946. I began to study theology in January '46 and, therefore, I have seen about three generations of theologians, and I can say that the hypotheses that in that time, and then in the 1960s and 1980s, were the newest, absolutely scientific, absolutely almost dogmatic, have since aged and are no longer valid! Many of them seem almost ridiculous. So, have the courage to resist the apparently scientific approach, do not submit to all the hypotheses of the moment, but really start thinking from the great faith of the Church, which is present in all times and opens for us access to the truth. Above all, do not think that positivistic thinking, which excludes the transcendent that is inaccessible is true reason! This weak reasoning, which only considers things that can be experienced, is really an insufficient reasoning.
Can't help myself, he continues:
 we must have the courage to use the great, broader reason and we must have the humility not to submit to all the hypotheses of the moment and to live by the great faith of the Church of all times. There is no majority against the majority of the Saints. Saints are the true majority in the Church and we must orient ourselves by the Saints! Then, to the seminarians and priests I say the same.
...and he goes on in that vein about knowledge of Scripture. RWTW or I will go off in exultations on the other Q&As, too, and nobody wants that.

And finally: prayer beneath the sea; and the Very Model of a Modern Seminarian.