"Pope Reads His Life With the Eyes of a Contemplative"

Interview With Theologian Laurent Touze

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 14, 2005 (Zenit.org).- For French theologian Laurent Touze, John Paul II is a teacher of prayer and contemplation.

Father Touze addressed a congress, held last Thursday and Friday, on «Christian Contemplation: Experience and Doctrine,» organized by the School of Theology of the University of the Holy Cross.

ZENIT spoke with Father Touze, a lecturer in spiritual theology, on the Pope’s contemplative dimension.

Q: Many views expressed in the symposium presented John Paul II as a teacher of prayer and contemplation. What do you think are the main features of his teaching on prayer?

Father Touze: Among the many features, I would mention only two, either because of their centrality or beauty, a beauty that encourages one to pray.

The first is that Christ is the way to the Father. Therefore, our prayer must pass inevitably through Christ, whom we meet in his Word and in the Eucharist.

The second is that the New Evangelization requires of all the baptized — priests, laity, consecrated persons — the propensity to be ever more prayerful souls.

Q: Is this a doctrinal or predominantly experiential teaching?

Father Touze: I would say that it is a magisterium that is also born from the Pope’s personal experience of prayer.

Not that I have met with John Paul II many times, but when I have had the good fortune to do so, I have always felt what many others have said: He is a man of prayer, who looks at others with the eyes of prayer.

One can really see that his prayer helps him to see people, and large and small events, with the eyes of God.

Q: What does a more «silent» Pope, such as the one at the Gemelli, and the one now convalescing at the Vatican, tell us about prayer?

Father Touze: Much, without a doubt! Since the Holy Father has returned from the hospital, I am reminded constantly of what one of his aides told me, who lost a sister at the same time as an earlier illness of the Pope.

When he was received shortly afterward by John Paul II, the latter said: «The Church needed your pain and suffering.»

Precisely because he loves Christ, because he loves the cross, the Pope reads his life with the eyes of a contemplative, and understands what we can intuit of the divine plans.

Q: If Christian life consists essentially in contemplation of Christ’s face, how is this possible in the midst of the daily noise in which most Christians live?

Father Touze: Many contemporary mystics have asked themselves the same question, as the Church is more aware of the universal call to holiness.

If all baptized people — and in particular the laity, who are the majority — must be apostles of Christ and saints, then they must be contemplatives, each one in his or her own family and social surroundings.

There comes to mind the example of Raissa and Jacques Maritain. In this context, the figure of St. Josemaría Escrivá is especially close to me, who has led many souls living in the professional world on the paths of prayer.

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