VATICAN CITY, DEC. 1, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Why God allows the innocent to suffer is a question that precisely the saints ask, says Benedict XVI. And the answer they give, the Pope suggests, is a faith-filled affirmation that with God’s wisdom, everything will turn out well.
The Holy Father made this reflection today when he dedicated the general audience held in Paul VI Hall to the English mystic Julian of Norwich.
Continuing with his series on great women of the Church, the Pontiff spoke of this 15th-century visionary and her emphasis on the love of God.
He noted that the Catechism of the Catholic Church cites Julian’s writings when it teaches about the enigma of suffering and evil.
“If God is supremely good and wise, why does evil and the suffering of the innocent exist? Saints as well, precisely the saints, ask themselves this question,” the Pope said. “Enlightened by faith, they give us an answer that opens our heart to trust and hope: In the mysterious designs of Providence, even from evil, God draws a greater good, as Julian of Norwich writes: ‘I learned by the grace of God that I must remain firmly in the faith, and hence I must firmly and perfectly believe that all will end well.'”
“Yes, dear brothers and sisters, God’s promises are always greater than our hopes,” Benedict XVI affirmed. “If we entrust to God, to his immense love, the most pure and most profound desires of our heart, we will never be disappointed. ‘And all will be well,’ ‘everything will be for the good’: This is the final message that Julian of Norwich transmits to us and that I also propose to you today.”
As well, the Holy Father noted Julian’s emphasis on God’s love, which she compared to the love of a mother.
He called this “one of the most characteristic messages of her mystical theology.”
“Tenderness, solicitude and the gentleness of God’s goodness to us are so great that, to us pilgrims on earth, they evoke the love of a mother for her children. Indeed, at times the biblical prophets also used this language that recalls the tenderness, intensity and totality of the love of God, which manifests itself in creation and in the whole history of salvation and has its culmination in the incarnation of the Son,” the Pontiff noted.
He added that Julian “understood the central message for the spiritual life: God is love and only when we open ourselves totally and with total trust to this love and allow it to become the sole guide of existence, is everything transfigured, true peace and true joy are found and one is able to spread this around.”
Mother of souls
Benedict XVI also noted Julian’s vocation to live withdrawn from the world and how this enabled her to become a spiritual mother to the many people who sought her counsel.
“The anchorites or ‘recluses’ dedicated themselves within their cells to prayer, meditation and study. In this way, they developed a very fine human and religious sensitivity, which made them venerated by the people,” he explained. “Men and women of every age and condition, in need of advice and comfort, sought them devotedly. Hence, it was not an individualistic choice; precisely with this closeness to the Lord, what matured in her also was the capacity to be a counselor to many, to help those who lived in difficulty in this life.”
When Julian was alive, she was called “Mother Julian,” the Pope said. And her funeral monument contains that same title.
In this context, the Holy Father expressed his gratitude for those who follow the vocation to withdraw from the world and live in cloistered monasteries.
“The women and men who withdraw to live in the company of God, precisely because of this decision, acquire a great sense of compassion for the sorrows and weaknesses of others,” he said. “As friends of God, they have a wisdom that the world, from which they distance themselves, does not have. And with kindness, they share it with those who knock on their door.
“I am thinking, hence, with admiration and gratitude, of women’s and men’s cloistered monasteries that, today more than ever, are oases of peace and hope, precious treasures for the whole Church, especially in recalling the primacy of God and the importance of constant and intense prayer for the journey of faith.”
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