Cloistered Religious Serve As Church’s Heart

“The way of contemplative life, which you received from St. Dominic in the form of cloister, places you, as living and vital members, in the heart of the Lord’s Mystical Body, which is the Church; and as the heart makes the blood circulate and maintains the whole body alive, so your hidden existence with Christ, interlaced with work and prayer, contributes to sustain the Church, instrument of salvation for every man whom the Lord redeemed with his blood.”

~Pope Benedict XVI

Rome, Italy, Jun 24, 2010 / 10:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to a group of cloistered Dominican nuns after having blessed the restored statue of Mary in Rome’s Monte Mario quarter, Pope Benedict referred to them as the heart of the Church which provides blood to the rest of the body. In their work and prayer, together with Christ, he said, they are the “heart” of the Church and in their desire for God’s love they approach the ultimate goal.

The encounter with the nuns came at the Dominican convent of Santa Maria del Rosario, close to the “Don Orione” Center where the Pope had blessed the “Madonnina” statue earlier on Thursday morning.

Comparing the role of the cloistered nuns in their life of contemplation, work and prayer to the “heart” that provides life-giving blood to the rest of the body, Pope Benedict told them that in their lives “hidden with Christ,” they contribute to the support of the Church, “instrument of salvation for every man that the Lord has redeemed with His Blood.”

“The contemplative way of life,” he told them, “… puts you, as a living and vital limb, in the heart of the mystical body of the Lord, that is the Church.”

The Holy Father went on to urge the nuns to ensure that in all they do, “beyond the single moments of prayer,” that they allow their hearts to “continue to be guided by the desire to love God.”

Benedict XVI told them that it is the Lord that has filled them with love so as to make them able to accept God himself into their hearts. “This,” he exclaimed, is “the horizon of the earthly pilgrimage!

“This is your goal.” he underscored.

“You have chosen to live in obscurity and to renounce earthly goods in order to desire above all other things the good that has no equal, the precious pearl for which it is worth abandoning all else.”

 *****

Below is an English translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s homily to the Dominican nuns at Santa Maria del Rosario in Monte Mario:

Dear Sisters,

I address to each one of you the words of Psalm 124 (125), which we just prayed: “Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts!” (v. 4). I greet you above all with this wish: the goodness of the Lord be upon you. In particular, I greet your Mother Prioress and thank her from my heart for the kind expressions she addressed to me in the name of the community. With great joy I accepted the invitation to visit this convent, to be able to pause with you at the feet of the image of St. Sixtus’ acheropita Virgin, now protector of the Roman convents of St. Mary in Tempulo and of St. Sixtus.

Together we have prayed the midday prayer, a small part of this Liturgical Prayer that, as cloistered, marks the rhythm of your days and makes you interpreters of the Church-Bride which unites her, in a special way, with her Lord. With this choral prayer, which finds its culmination in the daily participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, your consecration to the Lord in silence and seclusion becomes fecund and full of fruits, not only for the path of sanctification and purification, but also for the apostolate of intercession that you carry out for the whole Church, so that it can appear pure and holy in the presence of the Lord. You, who know well the efficacy of prayer, experience every day the many graces of holiness it can obtain in the Church.

Dear Sisters, the community you make up is a place where you can dwell in the Lord; it is for you the New Jerusalem, to which the tribes of the Lord go up to praise the name of the Lord (cf. Psalm121:4). Be grateful to Divine Providence for the sublime and gratuitous gift of the monastic vocation, to which the Lord has called you without any merit of yours. With Isaiah, you can affirm “the Lord formed me from the womb” (Isaiah 49:5). Even before you were born, the Lord had kept your heart for himself to be able to fill it with his love. Through the sacrament of baptism you received Divine grace in yourselves, immersed in his Death and Resurrection, you were consecrated to Jesus, to belong to him exclusively. The way of contemplative life, which you received from St. Dominic in the form of cloister, places you, as living and vital members, in the heart of the Lord’s Mystical Body, which is the Church; and as the heart makes the blood circulate and maintains the whole body alive, so your hidden existence with Christ, interlaced with work and prayer, contributes to sustain the Church, instrument of salvation for every man whom the Lord redeemed with his blood.

It is this inexhaustible source that you approach with prayer, presenting in the presence of the Most High the spiritual and material needs of so many brothers in difficulty, the strayed life of all those who separate themselves from the Lord. How can one not be moved by compassion for those who seem to wander aimlessly? How can one not wish that in their life they will encounter Jesus, the only one who gives meaning to existence? The holy desire that the Kingdom of God be established in the heart of every man, is identified with prayer itself, as St. Augustine teaches us: Ipsum desiderium tuum, oratio tua est; et si continuum desiderium, continue oratio (cf. Ep. 130, 18-20); because of this, as fire that burns and is never extinguished, the heart remains alert, it never ceases to desire and it always raises a hymn of praise to God.

Recognize because of this, Dear Sisters, that in everything you do, beyond the personal moments of prayer, your heart continues to be led by the desire to love God. With the Bishop of Hippo, acknowledge that the Lord has put his love in your hearts, desire that dilates the heart, until it makes it capable of receiving God himself (cf. In. O. Ev. tr. 40, 10). This is the horizon of the earthly pilgrimage! This is your goal! This is why you have chosen to live in obscurity and in the renunciation of earthly goods: to desire above all that good which has no equal, that precious pearl that merits the renunciation of any other good to enter into its possession.

May you be able to pronounce every day your “yes” to God’s designs, with the same humility with which the Holy Virgin said her “yes.” May she, who in silence received the Word of God, guide you in your daily virginal consecration, so that you will be able to experience in obscurity the profound intimacy she lived with Jesus. Invoking her maternal protection, together with that of St. Dominic, St. Catherine of Siena and of the many men and women saints of the Dominican Order, I impart to you all a special Apostolic blessing, which I willingly extend to the persons who entrust themselves to your prayers.

[Translation by ZENIT]

Sources:
http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/cloistered-religious-serve-as-churchs-heart-pope-says/
http://www.zenit.org/article-29699?l=english

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