00 8/16/2009 8:31 PM

Posted 7/24/09 in the BENEDICT thread:

Benedict XVI in the footsteps
of St. Anselm, the rational saint

by Paolo Rodari

July 24, 2009

AOSTA - The Pope comes to the city today. To celebrate Vespers. But it won't be a small matter.

Benedict XVI's visit today is, in fact, a true and proper homage - complete with homily - to a model of holiness, St. Anselm of Aosta and of Canterbury, who fascinates the Pope, holiness wedded to intelligence. A Christian life characterized by the ability to read to the heart of things, to the heart of facts, to the heart of reality.

Even at the cost of being out of tune with others. A way of life that mirrors very much Papa Ratzinger's own temperament.

The homage to St. Anselm (1033-1109), a Benedictine philosopher who became Archbishop of Canterbury and Doctor of the Church ('Doctor Magnificus'), comes on the 900th anniversary of his death.

The Cathedral of Aosta, which dates back to the 4th century, is dedicated to Mary of the Assumption, but it was also Anselm's seat when he was Bishop of Aosta.

Benedict XVI will be seeing the new cenotaph 'Tribute to St. Anselm', by the British sculptor Stephen Cox, which has been installed at the south entry to the Church.

The cathedral itself is the site for many of the activities programmed by the Diocese and the region for the Anno Anselmiano, which began last April.

Last April, on the actual anniversary of Anselm's death, the Pope wrote a letter to Dom Notker Wolf, the Primate Abbot of the Benedictine Confederation, in which he called Anselm 'a true European saint'.

He said that "the memory left behind by Anselm is to be meditated with devotion and the treasure of his wisdom to be exalted and explored".

The Anselmian model is similar to many other figures that Benedict XVI likes to cite. Among them, the English Cardinal John Henry Newman, a convert from Anglicanism, who will be beatified this year. Newman's life was characterized like Anselm's by the union of faith and intelligence, faith and reason.

Who was Anselm? What is his legacy? Which ideas of Anselm does Joseph Ratzinger closes to his own spirituality?

Anselm was, above all, a monk. Although he became an archbishop, he wished to remain a Benedictine monk, always strongly conscious of the importance of the monastic life.

It is well known that if Joseph Raztinger had not become Pope, he would have retired to a 'monastic' life of prayer, study and deepening his understanding of the mysteries of the faith.

"Nostalgia for the monastery," Papa Ratzinger wrote Dom Wolf, "accompanied him the rest of his life. He said so when, with great sorrow to him and his monks, he had to leave the abbey to undertake the episcopal ministry, for which he did not feel himself suitable".

There is a cardinal occupation in Anselm's life that is very much shared by Papa Ratzinger: the lectio divina - reading Scripture "not in tumult but in quiet, not in haste, but in calm, with attentive and loving meditation."

"In his writings about the mysteries of the faith, there is no separation between erudition and devotion, between mysticism and theology", he further wrote.

Anselm's example continues to be very relevant. Underlying most of the Ratzingerian texts is that Anselmian love for the truth of the faith and for deepening an understanding of it through reason. Indeed, the Pope notes, "faith and reason - fides et ratio - are found wonderfully united in Anselm".

This is a battle Joseph Ratzinger has always carried forward - unting faith and reason, two forms of cognition which are often considered incompatible and alternative.

"As though", the Pope wrote to Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, who represented him at the anniversary Mass for Anselm last April, "he who uses reason does not need to believe, and he who believes must perforce do so outside the field of rationality".

"St. Anselm," Biffi said in his homily at that Mass, "would shudder at such an attitude. For him, and for every Christian who is adequately informed, faith is not only inseparable from reason, but it is, in fact, the supreme and highest exercise of our intellectual faculties."

[And I shiver every time the Holy Father cites Augustine and Anselm and other Fathers and Doctors of the Church who obviously are very much like who he is, and I must then restrain myself, almost superstitiously, from projecting into the future....]

The Pope and the Valdostans
by Mario Ponzi
Translated from
the 7/24/09 issue of

Messages sent by hand to whoever might have the good fortune to get near the vacation residence. Knick-knacks and various objects of local artisanship sent as a homage to the illustrious guest. Home-made sweets and traditional cakes to express the sense of family with which they experience his geographical closeness.

In this way, the Valdostans have managed to show their respectful affection for Benedict XVI.

Now, they are preparing to experience his presence in a more concrete manner when he comes to Aosta, the capital, this afternoon to celebrate Vespers at their Cathedral.

Of course, some of them have already had occasion to meet him. Last of all were the three mothers and their children who are his neighbors in Les Combes.

But the Valdostans have had the experience of having the Pope among them in summer for two decades by now. [John Paul II spent summers in Les Combes ten times since 1989.]

We spoke to Don Aldo Armellin, the priest who is the diocesan liaison with the papal residence in Les Combes.

How has the community experienced the presence of the Pope so far?

I would say, as a moment of grace. It's the thirteenth time that a Pope has come to Val D'Aosta for a vacation. John Paul II loved our mountains. And now, it's the third time for Papa Ratzinger.

It's the renewal of what we would like to call by now a beautiful custom . But the presence of the Pontiff among us is always an event capable of arousing deep emotion.

Before the Pope arrived, the order given was 'to guarantee him privacy and absolute rest'. But it seems that the chances for encountering the Pope do come up even if in some cases, these are unexpected. But how are you preparing for the encounter at Vespers on Friday?

Actually, the diocese now has two big events on the program. The first is Vespers. The bishop had asked the Pope if he could meet with the clergy and the religious of the diocese [as he did during his two previous vacations here]. Benedict XVI expressed the wish that the invitation could be extended as well to representatives of the entire ecclesial community, and so we will have more than 400 persons at Vespers, many of them lay people.

But we are sure that many more will come to the Cathedral Square, and the Pope will greet them after Vespers. And even more will be lining the route that the Pope will take to get to teh Cathedral.

The second event is the noontime Angelus on Sunday, July 26, at which we expect to have a very good attendance. Above all, there will be Valdostans themselves, but certainly there will be many of the
tourists who are on vacation themselves in this area.

As the liaison to the Pope's vacation residence, you are, in effect a link between him and the community. What has been your experience so far?

That we have always been guided by respect for the Holy Father's needs. He is here for a vacation and the Valdostans are with him in prayer, respectful of his privacy but also seeing every encounter as a gift. And these have always been far richer than one expects.

Have there been any special messages or gifts entrusted to you for conveying to the Pope?

Yes. There are so many who want to reach out to the Pope even if only by sending him a message of good wishes, or to show him their affection and gratitude with a simple gift, to show him their feeling of family by sending him a home-made dessert.

Usually, the written messages come from sick and suffering people, those who are in particular difficulties. There are so many of them. So Friday night, after Vespers, he will be visiting the home for the aged in Introd in representation of all these persons in need.

Do you think that the religiosity of the Valdostans comes from popular tradition or from genuine faith that they live in their daily lives?

Ours is a deep faith that is expressed in our traditions. Of course, we too have been affected by secularization and so, some religious certainties of tradition are being questioned.

So I think that, as for the universal Church, so too the Church in Val D'Aosta is challenged to make our people encounter the beauty of Christian life and the evangelical announcement in the rhythms of our daily life, which presents so many opportunities.

Would you describe the Valdostan community as youthful for its vivacity, adult for its mature faith, or aging by the inertia of its habits?

You cannot define the community that easily. In some sectors, there is definitely a great liveliness - in the oratories, the volunteers for Caritas, the catechists and other pastoral workers. At the same time, there are, of course, elements of Christian life that are lived as routine - but that's how it is in every diocese or Christian community.

The Bishop of Aosta says
'the Pope confirms us
in our faith'

Translated from

July 22, 2009

"The presence of the Pope in the Cathedral makes visible the primary responsibility of the unviersal Church in the world and is a call to reawaken faith, hope and love", Mons. Giuseppe Anfossi, Bishop of Aosta, says in the diocesan weekly Corriere della Valle, as he looks forward happily to the two big diocesan events during the Pope's vacation.

Speaking about the Vespers in Aosta Cathedral Friday afternoon, Anfossi points out that "a cathedral is a place rich with symbolic significance. First of all, its the bishop's seat. When all the priests of the diocese are under one roof, it is a visible sign of communion with their bishop, and tomorrow, of our communion with the Bishop of Rome as well".

Mons. Anfossi adds:

"There's even more significance this time. Benedict XVI recently launched the Year for Priests. So with this encounter, he will also be calling on the faithful to rediscover the beauty of the priestly ministry, on the priests to be fully conscious of their own ministry and responsiblity, and of the relationship that their ministry has to other services, charisms and ministries in the Church.

"The presence of the Pope highlights that the first task of the bishop, of priests and of active Christians is to awaken and keep the faith alive.

"For the bishop, the most important thing to underscore is faith, because the religious and pastoral crisis experienced in today's society is fundamentally a crisis of faith."

Mons. Anfossi adds: "We are very happy that the Pope himself made known what he wants to do while he is on vacation among us, and even if he cannot use his hand to write, we hope that the very place itself is a continuing source of inspiration."

"Praying with him as the Successor of Peter, we feel confirmed in the faith, sustained in our hope, and fully engaged in charity."

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 8/16/2009 10:58 PM]