Papal Address to the Teresianum

«How Can We Remain Indifferent to Such Love»

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 19, 2011 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the community of the Pontifical Theological Faculty Teresianum. The institute is marking the 75th anniversary of its foundation.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am happy to meet with you and to join you in giving thanks to the Lord for 75 years of the Pontifical Theological Faculty Teresianum. I greet cordially the grand chancellor, Father Saverio Cannistrà, minister-general of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, and I thank him for the beautiful words he addressed to me. With him I gladly receive the fathers from the general directorate. I greet the president, Father Aniano Álvarez-Suarez, the academic authorities, and the entire docent body of the Teresianum, and with affection I greet you, dear students, Discalced Carmelites, men and women religious of various orders, priests and seminarians.

Three quarters of a century have passed since that July 16, 1935, liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel, in which the then International College of the Order of Discalced Carmelites in the city was promoted to the status of Theological Faculty. From the beginning it was oriented to deepening spiritual theology in the framework of the anthropological question. Over the course of the years, an Institute of Spirituality was established, which together with the Theological Faculty, makes up the academic group that has the name of Teresianum.

Taking a retrospective glance over the history of this institution, we want to praise the Lord for the wonders he has accomplished in and through it, in the many students that have attended it — first of all, because to be part of such an academic community constitutes a unique ecclesial experience, strengthened by all the richness of a great spiritual family such as the Order of Discalced Carmelites. We think of the vast renewal movement began in the Church by the testimony of Sts. Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross. It aroused a rekindling of the ideals and fervor of contemplative life, which in the 16th century set afire, so to speak, Europe and the whole world.

Dear students, placed in the wake of this charism is your work of anthropological and theological reflection as well, the task of penetrating the mystery of Christ, with that intelligence of heart that is at the same time a knowing and a loving; this calls for Jesus to be placed at the center of everything — your affections and thoughts, your time of prayer, study and action, the whole of your life. He is the Word, the «living book,» as he was for St. Teresa of Avila, who affirmed: «To learn the truth, there is no other book than God» (Vita 26, 5). I wish for each one of you that you will be able to say with St. Paul: «I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord» (Philippians 3:8).

To this end, I would like to recall St. Teresa’s description of the interior experience of conversion, just as she herself lived it one day before the crucifix. She writes: «As soon as I looked at him … the sorrow I felt was so great, the sorrow of ingratitude with which I responded to his love, that it seemed to me my heart would break. I threw myself at his feet all in tears and begged him to give me the grace not to offend him anymore (Autobiography 9,1).

With the same force, the saint seems to ask us too: How can we remain indifferent to such love? How can we ignore him who has loved us with such great mercy? The love of the Redeemer merits all the heart’s and mind’s attention, and can activate also in us that wonderful circle in which love and knowledge reciprocally nourish one another.

During your theological studies, always have your sight turned to the ultimate reason for which you undertook them, that is to Jesus who «has loved us and given his life for us» (cf. 1 John 3:16). Be conscious that these years of study are a precious gift of Divine Providence, a gift that must be received with faith and lived diligently, as an unrepeatable opportunity to grow in knowledge of the mystery of Christ.

In the present context, an in-depth study of Christian spirituality from its anthropological foundations is of great importance. The specific preparedness that this furnishes is certainly important because it gives a person the proper profile and qualifies him for teaching this discipline, but it constitutes an even greater grace because of the sapiential weight it carries with it, geared to the delicate task of spiritual direction.

As she has never failed to do, again today the Church continues to recommend the practice of spiritual direction, not only to all those who wish to follow the Lord up close, but to every Christian who wishes to live responsibly his baptism, that is, the new life in Christ. Everyone, in fact, and in a particular way all those who have received the divine call to a closer following, needs to be supported personally by a sure guide in doctrine and expert in the things of God. A guide can help defend oneself from facile subjectivist interpretations, making available his own supply of knowledge and experiences in following Jesus. [Spiritual direction] is a matter of establishing that same personal relationship that the Lord had with his disciples, that special bond with which he led them, following him, to embrace the will of the Father (cf. Luke 22:42), that is, to embrace the cross.

You also, dear friends, in the measure in which you are called to this invaluable task, make a treasure of all that you will have learned in these years of study, to support all those whom Divine Providence will entrust to you, helping them in the discernment of spirits and in the capacity to second the motions of the Holy Spirit, with the objective of leading them to the fullness of grace, «until we all attain,» as St. Paul says, «to the measure of the fullness of Christ» (Ephesians 4:13).

Dear friends, you come from the most diverse parts of the world. Here in Rome your heart and your intelligence are induced to open to the universal dimension of the Church; they are stimulated to feel «cum Ecclesia,» in profound harmony with the Successor of Peter. Hence, I exhort you to live an ever greater and more passionate capacity to love and serve the Church. In this Eastertide, let us ask the Risen Lord for the gift of his Spirit, and we ask it sustained by the prayer of the Virgin Mary. May she, who in the Cenacle invoked with the Apostles the Paraclete, obtain for you the gift of wisdom of heart and attract a renewed effusion of heavenly gifts for the future that awaits you. By the intercession of the Mother of God and of Sts. Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, I impart from my heart to the community of the Teresianum and the whole Carmelite Family the Apostolic Blessing.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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