Papal Audience on the 'Logic of the Gift'

«What happens in the family … is a fundamental educational moment for learning how to live as a Christian»

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2012 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to members of the Federation of Christian Organizations for International Volunteer Service (FOCSIV); the Ecclesial Movement for Cultural Commitment; and the Christian Workers Movement.

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Dear brothers and sisters! 

I am happy to welcome you this morning in this meeting that brings together the Ecclesial Movement for Cultural Engagement, the Federation of Christian Organizations of International Voluntary Service and the Christian Workers Movement. I greet with affection my brothers in the episcopate, who support you and guide you, the directors and leaders, the ecclesiastical assistants and all of the members and supporters. This year your associations celebrate anniversaries of your foundation. The Ecclesial Movement for Cultural Engagement celebrates 80 years and the Federation of Christian International Voluntary Service Organizations and the Christian Workers Movement celebrate 40 years. And all three of these entities are indebted to the wise work of the Servant of God Paul VI, who, as national assistant in 1932 supported the first steps of the Graduate Movement of Catholic Action [which changed its name to the Ecclesial Movement for Cultural Engagement in 1980], and, as Pontiff, gave recognition to the Federation of Christian Volunteer Organizations and in the Christian Workers Movement in 1972. My venerable predecessor deserves your grateful remembrance for having given impetus to such important ecclesial associations.

These anniversaries are propitious occasions for reconsidering your charisms with gratitude and with a critical scrutiny too, attentive to the historical origins and to the new signs of the times. Culture, volunteering and work constitute a indissoluble trinomial of the daily commitment of the Catholic laity, which intends to give incisive witness to Christ and the Church both in the private sphere and the public sphere of society. The faithful layman takes up a challenge when he involves himself in one or more of these areas and – in cultural service, in acts of solidarity with those in need or in work – promotes human dignity. These three spheres are linked by a common denominator: the gift of self. Cultural engagement, above all in schools and universities, aimed at the formation of future generations, does not limit itself to the transmission of technical and theoretical concepts, but requires the gift of self by word and example. Volunteering, an irreplaceable resource for society, does not so much involve giving things but in giving oneself in concrete assistance to the neediest. Finally, work is not only and instrument for individual prophet but a movement in which we express our abilities by spending ourselves, in a spirit of service, in professional activity, whether this be in manual labor, farming, science or some other area.

But for you all of this has a Christian connotation. Your activity must be animated by charity; this means learning to see with the eyes of Christ and giving to the other more than external necessities; it means looking and acting with love in your relationships with those in need. This is born in the love that comes from God, who first loved us, it is born from the intimate encounter with him (cf. “Deus Caritas Est,” 18). St. Paul, in his farewell discourse to the elders at Ephesus, recalls a truth expressed by Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Dear friends, it is the logic of the gift – a logic that is often threatened – that you value and to which you bear witness: giving your time, your abilities and expertise, your teaching, your professionalism; in a word, giving attention to others without expecting like reciprocation; and I thank you for this great testimony. Acting in this way, not only do we do good for others, but we discover profound happiness, according to the logic of Christ, who gave all of himself.

The family is the first place in which we experience gratuitous love; and when that does not happen, the family is denatured, it enters into crisis. What happens in the family, giving oneself without reserve for the good of the other is a fundamental educational moment for learning how to live as a Christian even in relationship to culture, volunteering and work. In the encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” I wished to extend the family model of the logic of gratuity and the gift to a universal dimensions. Justice alone, in fact, is insufficient. To ensure true justice the “more” that only gratuitousness and solidarity can give is necessary: “Solidarity is first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone, and it cannot therefore be merely delegated to the State. While in the past it was possible to argue that justice had to come first and gratuitousness could follow afterwards, as a complement, today it is clear that without gratuitousness, there can be no justice in the first place” (38). Gratuitousness is not acquired on the market, nor can it be prescribed by law. And yet both the economy and politics need gratuitousness and persons capable of mutual self-giving (cf. ibid. 39).

Today’s meeting highlights two elements: your affirmation of the necessity of continuing to follow the way of the Gospel in fidelity to the social doctrine of the Church and to her pastors; and my encouragement, the pope’s encouragement, that invites you to continue with constancy your commitment to our brothers. Revealing injustices and bearing witness to the values on which the dignity of the person is based, promoting forms of solidarity that favor the common good – these are also part of your commitment. The Ecclesial Movement for Cultural Engagement, in light of its history, is called to a renewed service in the world of culture, which is marked by urgent and complex challenges, for the spreading of Christian humanism: reason and faith are allied in the path to the Truth. May the Federation of Christian Organizations of International Voluntary Service continue to have confidence above all in the power of the charity that comes from God, advancing its commitment against every form of poverty and exclusion on behalf of the most disadvantaged populations. May the Christian Workers Movement know how to bring the light of Christian hope into the world of work to achieve ever greater social justice also. Moreover, always look to the young, who today more than ever seek forms of engagement that bring idealism together with the concrete.

Dear friends, I hope that each of you will carry out your personal and group commitments with joy, witnessing to the Gospel of the gift and gratuitousness. I invoke on your behalf the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary and I impart the apostolic benediction, which I extend to all members and families. Thank you for your work, for your steadfastness.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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