Q-and-A Session With Parish Priests (Part 6)

“Mary is Really the Woman Who Listens”

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 9, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Following a Lenten tradition, Benedict XVI met Feb.26 with parish priests and clergy of the Diocese of Rome for a question-and-answer session. Here is a translation of the seventh and final questions and the Holy Father’s answers.

This is the final part of the series published by ZENIT. Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 were published last Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

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[Father William M. Cassone:]

Holy Father, I am Father William M. Cassone, of the Community of Schoenstatt Fathers in Rome, parish vicar in the parish of Italy’s patron saints, St. Francis and St. Catherine, in Trastevere.

Following the synod on the Word of God, reflecting on Proposition 55, “Maria Mater Dei et Mater Fidei,” I wonder how we could improve the relationship between the Word of God and Marian devotion, be it in the priestly spiritual life or in pastoral action. Two images are helpful to me: the Annunciation for listening and the Visitation for the proclamation. I would like to ask you, Your Holiness, to enlighten us with your teaching on this subject. Thank you for this gift.

[Benedict XVI:]

I think that you yourself have answered your question. Mary is really the woman who listens: We see it in the meeting with the angel, and we see it again in all the scenes of her life, from the wedding at Cana to the cross and to the day of Pentecost, when she was in the midst of the Apostles precisely to receive the Spirit. She is the symbol of openness, of the Church that awaits the coming of the Holy Spirit.

At the moment of the proclamation we can already have an attitude of listening — a true listening, a listening that is internalized, which does not simply say yes, but which assimilates the Word, takes the Word, and then follows with true obedience, as if it were an internalized Word, that is, converted into a Word in me and for me, almost the form of my life. This seems very beautiful to me: to see this active listening, a listening that attracts the Word so that it enters and becomes Word in me, reflecting on it and accepting it in the depth of my heart. Thus the Word becomes incarnate.

We see the same in the Magnificat. We know that it is a fabric made up of words of the Old Testament. We see that Mary is really a woman who listens, who knew the Scriptures in her heart. She did not just know some texts, but was so identified with the Word that the words of the Old Testament became synthesized, a song in her heart and on her lips. We see that her life was really penetrated by the Word, she had entered the Word, had assimilated it and it had become life in her, transforming itself again in a Word of praise and proclamation of the greatness of God.

Referring to Mary, I think that St. Luke says at least three times, perhaps four times, that she assimilated and kept the Word in her heart. For the Fathers, she was the model of the Church, the model of the believer that keeps the Word, bears the Word in himself; who does not just read it or interpret it with his intelligence in order to know what happened at that time, what the philological problems are. All this is interesting and important, but it is more important to listen to the Word that is kept and that becomes Word in me, life and the Lord’s presence in me. That is why I find the connection important between Mariology and theology of the Word, of which the synodal fathers spoke and of which we shall speak in the post-synodal document.

It is obvious: The Virgin is the word of listening, silent word, but also word of praise, of proclamation, because in listening, the Word again becomes flesh and thus becomes the presence of God’s greatness.

[Father Pietro Riggi:]

Holy Father, I am Pietro Riggi and I am a Salesian. I work in the Borgo Ragazzi Don Bosco. I would like to ask you: The Second Vatican Council brought many very important novelties in the Church, but it did not abolish the things she already had. I think that many priests and theologians would like to make things happen as coming from the spirit of the Council, which have nothing to do with the Council itself. For example, indulgences. We have the Manual of Indulgences of the Apostolic Penitentiary. Through indulgences we have access to the treasure of the Church and help can be offered for the souls in Purgatory. There is a liturgical calendar that states when and how plenary indulgences can be obtained, but many priests no longer speak about them, preventing very important assistance from reaching the souls in Purgatory. [Also,] blessings. We have the Manual of Blessings which provides for the blessing of individuals, environments, objects and even foods. But many priests do not know these things; others consider them pre-Conciliar, and pay no attention to those faithful who request what they should have by right.

More known pious practices: The first Fridays of the month were not abolished by the Second Vatican Council, but many priests no longer speak about this, or even speak badly about it. Today there is a sense of aversion to all this, because they are regarded as old and harmful, as old things and pre-Conciliar, whereas I think that all these Christian prayers and practices are very timely and very important; they must be recovered and properly explained to the People of God, in a healthy balance and in truth in the integrity of Vatican II.

I would also like to ask you: speaking of Fatima, you once said that there is a link between Fatima and Akita, the lacrimation of the Virgin in Japan. Both Paul VI and John Paul II celebrated a solemn Mass in Fatima and used the same passage of sacred Scripture, Revelation 12, the woman clothed with the sun who struggles in a decisive battle against the ancient serpent, the devil, Satan. Is there an affinity between Fatima and Revelation 12?

I conclude: last year a priest gave you a picture. I cannot paint but I also wanted to give you a gift, so I thought I would give you three books which I wrote recently. I hope you will like them.

[Benedict XVI:]

There are realities of which the Council did not speak, but which are implied as realities in the Church. They live in the Church and develop. Now is not the time to go into the great subject of indulgences. Paul VI re-ordered this subject and showed us the way to understand it. I would say that it is simply about an exchange of gifts, that is, whatever is good in the Church is there for all. With this key [understanding] of the indulgence we can enter into this communion with the goods of the Church.

Protestants are opposed, saying that Christ is the only treasure. But for me, what is marvelous is that Christ — who is more than sufficient in his infinite love, in his divinity and humanity — wished to add our poverty also to all that he had made. He does not regard us only as objects of his mercy, but makes us subjects of his mercy and love together with him so that — though not quantitatively, at least in the mystical sense — he would like to add us to the great treasure of the Body of Christ. He wishes to be the head with his body, in which all the wealth of what he has done is fulfilled. As a result of this mystery there is, in fact, a “tesaurus ecclesiae,” that the body, as well as the head, gives so much, which we can receive from one another and give to one another.

And so it is with other things. For example, the Friday of the Sacred Heart is something very beautiful in the Church. They are not necessary things, but have arisen in the richness of meditation on the mystery. So the Lord offers us these possibilities in the Church. I do not think that now is the time to enter into all the details. Each one can understand
more or less what is most important and what is not; but no one should scorn this wealth, which has grown over the centuries as an offering and as the multiplication of lights in the Church. The only light is that of Christ. It appears in all its colors and offers knowledge of the richness of his gift, the interaction between the head and the body, the interaction between the members, so that we can really be together a living organism, in which one gives to all, and all give to the Lord, who has given himself completely to us.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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On ZENIT’s Web site:

Part 1: http://www.zenit.org/article-25258?l=english

Part 2: http://www.zenit.org/article-25264?l=english

Part 3: http://www.zenit.org/article-25275?l=english

Part 4: http://www.zenit.org/article-25283?l=english

Part 5: http://www.zenit.org/article-25308?l=english

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