By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — At every moment of Christian history, God raises up saints to renew and reform the church, Pope Benedict XVI said.
“To renew the church in every age, God raises up saints, who themselves have been renewed by God and are in constant contact with God,” the pope said Jan. 13 at his weekly general audience.
The pope said that in continuing his audience talks about the history of the church, specifically about theologians of the Middle Ages, he wanted to highlight the essential role of saints, who are able to make lasting, revolutionary contributions to the church precisely because they live the Gospel in their own lives.
Pope Benedict spoke of “the consoling reality that in every generation saints are born.”
“Through all the sadness, the negative aspects of history, we see the birth of forces for reform and renewal because the newness of God is inexhaustible and always gives new strength,” he said.
Focusing specifically on the 13th-century founding of the Franciscans by St. Francis of Assisi and the Dominicans by St. Dominic Guzman, the pope said personal holiness led the two saints to preach — and to help actualize — a return to Gospel poverty, a deeper unity with the church and a new movement of evangelization, including within the European universities that were blossoming at the time.
At a time when some monasteries and dioceses, which had been oases for prayer and learning, started accumulating vast amounts of money and property, groups of Catholics became scandalized and started groups that, while aiming to live the Gospel authentically, did so by increasingly separating themselves from the church and from its doctrine, the pope said.
“The Franciscans and Dominicans, on the other hand, followed in the footsteps of their founders and demonstrated that it was possible to live evangelical poverty, to live the Gospel itself, without separating themselves from the church,” he said.
The popularity in the Middle Ages of the Franciscans and Dominicans, and their ability to preach in a way that helped everyone see how they could live the Gospel, led to the formation of “third orders” of laymen and laywomen who associated themselves with the orders’ spirituality, he said.
Pope Benedict said that in today’s world, often marked by a culture that “focuses more on having than on being,” there continue to be holy Christians who choose to live extremely simply in solidarity with the poor and with Christ who was born poor.
“As the Second Vatican Council recalled, the call to holiness is not reserved to a few, but is universal. In every state of life one has the possibility of living the Gospel,” he said. “Even today every Christian, no matter what his or her state, can and must strive to reach the heights of Christian life.”
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