Loving Is a Person's Only Task, Says Benedict XVI

But Admits Learning to Love Is Long and Hard

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The human being is entrusted with only one task, Benedict XVI says: the task of loving sincerely, authentically and freely.

And yet, the Pope admitted in today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, «to learn to love requires a long and demanding journey.»

The Holy Father reflected on love and its difficulties today as he considered the teachings of a 12th century monk, William of Saint-Thierry.

William authored «The Nature and Dignity of Love,» which expresses what the Pontiff classified as one of William’s fundamental ideas, «valid also for us.»

The monk taught that love is the «main energy that moves the human spirit,» the Pope explained. «Human nature, in its most profound essence, consists in loving. In a word, only one task is entrusted to every human being: to learn to will the good, to love, sincerely, authentically, freely.»

God’s school

Benedict XVI contended, however, that «only at the school of God can this task be accomplished and man can attain the end for which he was created.»

Citing William of Saint-Thierry, he said: «The art of arts is the art of love. … Love is awakened by the Creator of nature. Love is a force of the soul, which leads it as a natural weight to the place and to the end that is proper to it.»

Learning this love is a «long and demanding journey,» the Pope affirmed, «which William articulated in four stages.»

He continued: «In this itinerary the person must impose on himself an effective ascesis, a strong control of himself to eliminate every disordered affection, every shadow of egoism, and to unify his life in God, source, goal and force of love, until attaining the summit of the spiritual life, which William defines as ‘wisdom.’ At the conclusion of this ascetic itinerary, one feels great serenity and sweetness. All man’s faculties — intelligence, will, affection — rest in God, known and loved in Christ.»

Finding joy

The Holy Father proposed that William «teach us to make in our lives the ultimate choice, which gives meaning and value to all other choices: to love God and, for love of him, to love our neighbor.»

It is in this way, the Pope declared, that we can «find true joy, anticipation of eternal blessedness.»

«Let us put ourselves then in the school of the saints to learn to love in an authentic and total way, to enter in this itinerary of our being,» he encouraged. «With a young saint, doctor of the Church, Thérèse of the Child Jesus, let us also say to the Lord that we want to live for love.»

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: www.zenit.org/article-27722?l=english

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