Saints Are Guiding Lights for Today, Says Pope

50,000 Participate in Papal Mass in Erfurt

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ERFURT, Germany, Sept. 24, 2011 ( Saints are «living witnesses» of faith and shining examples of courage for modern Christians, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope reflected today on the contributions and continuing legacies of the great saints of the Diocese of Erfurt in a Mass celebrated in the Domplatz (Cathedral Square).

More than 50,000 people participated in the liturgy, which honored Erfurt’s patron, St. Elizabeth of Thuringia, who is also «esteemed by Protestant Christians.»

«God’s presence is always seen especially clearly in the saints,» the Holy Father said. «Their witness to the faith can also give us the courage to begin afresh today.»

The Pope offered a few short histories of the patron saints of the Diocese of Erfurt, including St. Elizabeth of Thuringia, St. Boniface, St. Kilian and St. Severus.

St. Elizabeth, he said, «can help us all to discover the fullness of the faith, its beauty, its depth and its transforming and purifying power and to translate it into our everyday lives.»

«Elizabeth came from a foreign land, from Hungary, to the Wartburg here in Thuringia,» the Holy Father explained. «She led an intense life of prayer, linked to the spirit of penance and evangelical poverty.

«She regularly went down from her castle into the town of Eisenach, in order to care personally for the poor and the sick. Her life on this earth was only short — she was just 24 years old when she died — but the fruits of her holiness have endured across the centuries.»

Benedict XVI pointed to Germany’s Catholic roots, which were in part put down in 742 with the foundation of the Diocese of Erfurt by St. Boniface.

«The missionary bishop Boniface had come from England and it was characteristic of his approach that he worked in essential unity and in close association with the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter; he knew that the Church must be one around Peter,» he said. «We honor him as the ‘Apostle of Germany’; he died as a martyr. Two of his companions, who also bore witness by shedding their blood for the Christian faith, are buried here in the Cathedral of Erfurt: Sts. Eoban and Adelar.»

St. Kilian, the Pope said, was «an itinerant missionary from Ireland, was at work in Thuringia. Together with two companions he died in Würzburg as a martyr, because he criticized the moral misconduct of the Duke of Thuringia who resided there.»

He also mentioned St. Severus, the namesake of the church built next to the Cathedral of Erfurt: «He was Bishop of Ravenna in the fourth century and his remains were brought to Erfurt in 836, in order to anchor the Christian faith more firmly in this region.»

«From these saints,» the Holy Father said, «though they were dead, came forth the living witness of the Church that ever endures, the witness of faith that makes all times fruitful and shows us the path of life.» 

«The saints,» he continued, «show us that it is possible and good to live in a relationship with God, to live this relationship in a radical way, to put it in first place, not just to squeeze it into some corner of our lives. The saints help us to see that for his part God first reached out to us.

«We could not attain to him, we could not somehow reach out into the unknown, had he not first loved us, had he not first come towards us.»

«Still today Christ comes towards us, he speaks to every individual, just as he did in the Gospel, and invites every one of us to listen to him, to come to understand him and to follow him,» Benedict XVI said. «This summons and this opportunity the saints acted on, they recognized the living God, they saw him, they listened to him and they went toward him, they traveled with him; they so to speak ‘caught’ his contagious presence, they reached out to him in the ongoing dialogue of prayer, and in return they received from him the light that shows where true life is to be found.»

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