On 11 July 2019, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin visited the abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore to join the monks in celebrating the 700th anniversary of the monastery’s foundation. The article below is reprinted from L’Osservatore Romano‘s Italian edition for the interest of our readers.
Cardinal Parolin at Monte Oliveto Maggiore on the Feast of Saint Benedict: Lighthouse and Compass in the Uncertainties of Today
Saint Benedict lived at a time when the stabilitas of the civitas was crumbling, and the institutions of the Roman empire were fading or rapidly transforming under the effects of multiple factors. His merit was to have identified “a strong and attractive idea to hold onto, to cope with the storm of the old world that was setting and the cries of the new one that was being born.” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, said this during the mass celebrated at the abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore on Thursday 11 July, the liturgical feast of the patron saint of Europe. The celebration commemorated the seven hundred years since the foundation of the Benedictine archcoenobium, which also serves as the mother house of the Olivetan congregation. In fact, it was in 1319 when Saint Bernardo Tolomei, in the heart of the Sienese Crete where the place called the desert of Accona is known for its lunar aspect, began the construction of the abbey 772 years after the death of Saint Benedict. Together with Patrizio Patrizi and Ambrogio Piccolomini, they already had been living in common since 1313 and had chosen the Benedictine Rule for their way of life, giving birth to the congregation of Monte Oliveto.
After having thanked Abbot General Diego Gualtiero Rosa, the Secretary of State defined the Rule of Saint Benedict as “a true cathedral of wisdom, founded not on the sands of easy emotions or on generous impulses that had been weakly or ill-deliberated”, but rather on “the solid rock of a robust faith, tempered by experience and a practice of piety and the virtues”. This allows us to “grasp the most subtle movements of the heart, its great and noble possibilities and also its arrhythmias and diseases, always lurking if we stop taking the suitable medicines of humility and prayer”.
In this regard, Cardinal Parolin emphasized how the saint of Norcia left behind, with his testimony of life and his Rule, “something great, which arouses astonishment at the refinement and capacity of psychological introspection” and at the fact that “at least in its foundations and in its general structure, it does not age with the passage of time, but remains a luminous way of perfection offered to our generation and our time”. Similar to Benedict’s time, the cardinal pointed out, “today’s time has convulsions and upheavals, where the old seems to crack and new struggles emerge”, and where, precisely for this reason, “desire grows for solid points of reference and a bit of stabilitas“.
Indeed, the celebrant added, it is necessary to anchor “the incessant changes to a key that allows them to be interpreted and experienced with a good disposition towards serious and assiduous commitment, without being subjected to the fatuous fire of empty illusions or escapes from reality”. The compass that allows you to navigate without breaking upon the rocks is the one highlighted by Saint Benedict in his Rule: Nihil amori Christi praeponere, “the love of Christ must come before all else” (4.21). This, he explained, is the “necessary and sufficient condition to traverse the changes while remaining stable in hope, strong in the midst of temptation, victorious over the forces that would want to break and dissolve”. To put nothing before the love of Christ “means to interpret every occurrence of existence in the light of the Gospel, always carrying with us this flame that warms and consoles”.
The Son of God, the cardinal pointed out, wanted to “reign by serving”, and Saint Benedict “made himself the servant of his monks so as to lead them to the goal of being a good disciple who becomes a teacher and father in faith”. He found “realistic words of truth, proposing subjugation to the sweet and light yoke of the Lord so as to avoid the sad, heavy and nefarious yoke of the world”. For each one of us, “there can be no other way than that of placing ourselves in the sequela Christi, anchoring the heart and mind to God”, to the school of his Word, “with a good discipline of thoughts, words and actions, and an availability that allows ourselves to be surprised by the Grace of God”.
For this reason, we need to welcome his “wise plan of love for us, for our neighbor, for the Church and for history”. Only in this way, Cardinal Parolin said, will it be possible to “serve with a purity of intention and to become attractive sources of hope”.
Then, addressing the monks he defined them as “a lighthouse placed on the mountain”, as “a call to a life full of meaning because it has been gifted, and gifted because it is filled with faith in the Risen Christ and therefore full of peace, despite mistakes, sins, human miseries and the dramas of history”. Moreover, he added, they represent for our world “a real alternative, an oasis of refreshment from the elements, and a sure and powerful signal along the sometimes confused and twisted path of so many people who are groping for that salvation and happiness which they could discover easily, if only they looked up to Jesus and to his Mother Mary”.
From here, the exhortation concluded to be that beacon which “illuminates the night and helps us to see the paternal and merciful face of the Lord”. And in this sense, “prayer, work and study should be like the rhythm of your breath, a rule of life authentically lived”, the Secretary of State suggested. In fact, the monks with their coherence can show everyone that “it is possible to defeat that ‘spiritual worldliness’ so often signaled by Pope Francis “as one of the greatest dangers”.
L’Osservatore Romano, 12-13 July 2019 (Italian edition, translated by osb.org editorial staff)