Another Benedict is Here, Leading the Church into a New Missionary Age
the Lord. We do that when we choose to live at the heart of the Church for the sake of the world; what the Pope referred to in this homily as an "ecclesial existence."
I believe we are at the beginning of a new missionary age of the Catholic Church being led by a Pope who took the name of the Monk whose movement reclaimed Europe for the Church in the last millennium. I also suggest that his selection of his name was not accidental but providential and prophetic.
In 1981 moral philosopher Alisdair MacIntyre wrote the book "After Virtue". In it he opined on the decline of the West: "It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the Epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages. Nonetheless, certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman Imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of the Imperium.
"What they set themselves to achieve instead- often not recognizing fully what they were doing- was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point.
"What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another-doubtless very different- St. Benedict."
Saint Benedict was born around the year 480 in Umbria, Italy. He is a father of Western Monasticism and co-patron of Europe (along with Saints Cyril and Methodius). As a young man, Benedict fled a decadent and declining Rome for further studies and deep prayer and reflection. He gave his life entirely to God as a son of the Catholic Church. He traveled to Subiaco. The cave which became his dwelling, the place where he communed deeply with God is now a shrine called "Sacro Speco" (The Holy Cave). Subiaco is still a sanctuary for pilgrims, including Pope Benedict XVI. Right before his election to the Chair of Peter he traveled there for a period of protracted prayer. I do not believe the visit was accidental.
St. Benedict lived a life of prayer and solitude for three years and studied under a monk named Romanus. His holiness drew other men and women and soon, twelve small monasteries were founded. He later traveled to Monte Cassino, where he completed his "Rule for Monks." From those Benedictine monasteries, an entire movement was birthed which led to the evangelization of Europe and the emergence of an authentically Christian culture.
This movement led to the birth and flourishing of the academy, the arts and the emergence of what later became known as Christendom. One of the greatest hopes of Pope Benedict XVI is for Europe to rediscover her Christian roots as it did at the time of St Benedict. What I am suggesting is that another Benedict is here to lead the recovery and reform of the Church and summon her into a new missionary age in this Third Millennium.
The Church is Christ's plan for the entire world. The early Fathers called her the "world reconciled", a term embraced by the Catechism of the Catholic Church which, citing St Augustine, declares "To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is "the world reconciled." She is that bark which "in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world." According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves from the flood." (CCC #845)
The contemporary culture has thrown off almost every remnant of Christian influence and embraced a new paganism. What Pope Benedict calls the "Dictatorship of Relativism" is the bad fruit of a rejection of the very existence of truth. Given the current state of moral decline we need to view the entirety of the American continent as mission territory, ripe for the New Evangelization. We also need to view the once Christian Nations of the European continent as mission territory.
Most importantly, we need to view ourselves as missionaries in a new missionary age. We are all called to be "fishers of men in the ocean of our time". We are living in, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, in "the time of mission." Another Benedict is here, leading us into a new missionary age of the Church.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Pope Benedict XVI, New Evangelization, Missionary, Mission, Duc in Altum, Deacon Keith Fournier, monks, monastic, St Benedict, Subiaco, Christendom
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