ROME, NOV. 15, 2004 (Zenit.org).- When receiving the relics of St. Augustine last week, John Paul II prayed that history be read in the light of Providence and that goals be set to attain peace.
The Pope also prayed that contemporary man tend tirelessly toward Truth. Such was his prayer last Thursday when he received the relics of the Church Father.
It marked the first time the relics of the saint were in Rome, where they will remain until today. They were brought from Pavia, Italy, at the initiative of the Augustinians’ Italian Province in union with the order’s General Curia.
The initiative marks the celebration of the 1,650th anniversary of the birth of the bishop, philosopher and theologian, as well as one of the most influential Fathers of the Church of the West.
When he received the relics in his private chapel, the Holy Father recollected himself in silent prayer for a long time before the urn containing St. Augustine’s remains, which priests of the order left in the Apostolic Palace for one night.
While the Pope was at prayer, a torchlight procession of young people left St. Agnes’ Church in Piazza Navona and proceeded to the Basilica of St. Augustine. There they held a prayer vigil and meditated on the Eucharist and on St. Augustine’s writings.
Monsignor Mauro Parmeggiani, secretary-general of the Vicariate of Rome and director of youth pastoral care, presided at the Mass for young people in St. Augustine’s Basilica, and delivered a brief homily on the life of the bishop of Hippo.
“A saint remote from us in terms of time, but of whom we can say, as John Paul II wrote in 1986, that we all feel to some extent as disciples and sons. This afternoon two young hearts have met: St. Augustine’s and the Pope’s,” he said.
Just before 7 p.m. a procession accompanying the relics to the papal apartments entered the Vatican. From St. Damaso’s courtyard, four young religious carried the silver urn. It is the same urn in which the relics have been kept since the eighth century.
Father Pietro Bellini, prior of Italy’s Augustinian Province; Father Giustino Casciano, custodian of the relics in Pavia; and Father Siro Cobianchi, delegate of the bishop of Pavia for the relics’ pilgrimage, were welcomed by the associate prefect of the Pontifical Household, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz. He handed Father Robert Prevost, the prior general of St. Augustine’s Order, a prayer written by the Pope.
By John Paul II’s express wish, all recited the invocation together.
Father Casciano told the Italian newspaper Avvenire: “The Pope, recollected in prayer in his private chapel — in the center of which is a large crucifix and an image of the Black Virgin of Czestochowa — received us with a smile and immediately asked to be able to see Augustine’s remains.”
“We opened the urn, we placed the lever with the reliquary near his knees and he, visibly moved, wished to touch it,” he added.
The prayer prepared by John Paul II, in Italian, reads:
“Great Augustine, our father and teacher, knowledgeable in the luminous ways of God and also in the tortuous paths of men; we admire the wonders that divine grace wrought in you, making you a passionate witness of truth and goodness, at the service of brothers.
“At the beginning of the new millennium marked by the cross of Christ, teach us to read history in the light of Divine Providence, which guides events toward the definitive encounter with the Father. Direct us toward peaceful ends, nourishing in our hearts your own longing for those values on which it is possible to build, with the strength that comes from God, the ‘city’ made to the measure of man.
“May the profound doctrine, that with loving and patient study you drew from the ever living sources of Scripture, enlighten all those tempted today by alienating illusions.
“Give them the courage to undertake the path toward that ‘interior man’ where the One awaits who alone can give peace to our restless hearts.”
“Many of our contemporaries seem to have lost the hope of being able to reach — amid the numerous opposing ideologies — the truth, of which their innermost being still keeps a burning nostalgia.
“Teach them to never cease in their search, in the certainty that, in the end, their effort will be rewarded by the satisfying encounter with the supreme Truth who is source of all created truth.
“Finally, St. Augustine, transmit to us also a spark of that ardent love for the Church, the Catholic Mother of the Saints, which sustained and animated the toils of your long ministry.
“Have us, walking together under the guidance of legitimate Pastors, reach the glory of the heavenly Homeland, where, with all the Saints, we will be able to join the new canticle of the everlasting alleluia. Amen.”