RABAT, Malta, APRIL 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging Malta to keep alive the heritage of faith given to the island by St. Paul the Apostle.
The Pope said this today upon visiting the Grotto of St. Paul in Rabat, where it is held that the apostle lived for more than three months when he was shipwrecked on the island.
In his address, he noted that his pilgrimage to the island “has begun with a moment of silent prayer at the Grotto of Saint Paul, who first brought the faith to these islands,” and whose presence left an “indelible mark” on the history of the country.
“I have come in the footsteps of those countless pilgrims down the centuries who have prayed in this holy place, entrusting themselves, their families and the welfare of this nation to the intercession of the Apostle of the Gentiles,” the Pontiff added.
The Holy Father recalled the first words St. Paul wrote after his arrival in Malta: “But we are to be stranded on some island.”
Benedict XVI said the words, “in their original context, are a summons to courage in the face of the unknown and to unfailing confidence in God’s mysterious providence.”
“In God’s plan, St. Paul thus became your father in the Christian faith,” he continued. “Thanks to his presence among you, the Gospel of Jesus Christ took deep root and bore fruit not only in the lives of individuals, families and communities, but also in the formation of Malta’s national identity and its vibrant and distinctive culture.”
The Pope reiterated that St. Paul did not plan on visiting Malta. In fact, the Pontiff recalled, he was on his way to Rome when a storm caused the ship to go off course.
“Sailors can map a journey, but God, in his wisdom and providence, charts a course of his own,” said the Holy Father. “Paul, who dramatically encountered the Risen Lord while on the road to Damascus, knew this well.
“The course of his life was suddenly changed; henceforth, for him, to live was Christ; his every thought and action was directed to proclaiming the mystery of the Cross and its message of God’s reconciling love.
“That same word, the word of the Gospel, still has the power to break into our lives and to change their course.”
“I invite you to hear God’s word afresh, as your ancestors did, and to let it challenge your ways of thinking and the way you live your lives,” the Pope urged the people of Malta. “I call upon each of you to take up the exciting challenge of the new evangelization. Live out your faith ever more fully with the members of your families, with your friends, in your neighbourhoods, in the workplace and in the whole fabric of Maltese society.
“In a particular way I urge parents, teachers and catechists to speak of your own living encounter with the Risen Jesus to others, especially the young people who are Malta’s future.”
“Believe that your moments of faith assure an encounter with God, who in his mighty power touches human hearts,” Benedict XVI continued. “In this way, you will introduce the young to the beauty and richness of the Catholic faith, and offer them a sound catechesis, inviting them to ever more active participation in the sacramental life of the Church.”
The Pope asked: “In the face of so many threats to the sacredness of human life, and to the dignity of marriage and the family, do not our contemporaries need to be constantly reminded of the grandeur of our dignity as God’s children and the sublime vocation we have received in Christ?
“Does not society need to reappropriate and defend those fundamental moral truths which remain the foundation of authentic freedom and genuine progress?”
“Just now, as I stood before this Grotto, I reflected on the great spiritual gift which Paul gave to Malta, and I prayed that you might keep unblemished the heritage bequeathed to you by the great Apostle,” the Holy Father concluded. “May the Lord confirm you and your families in the faith which works through love, and make you joyful witnesses to the hope which never disappoints.”
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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-28940?l=english