(Vatican Radio) Pope Benedict XVI resumed his weekly appointment with pilgrims this Wednesday, who packed into Castel Gandolfo’s tiny “Freedom Square” to hear the Pope’s latest installment in his School of Christian Prayer series. And with one eye on the liturgical calendar, Pope Benedict dedicated his reflections to one of the most popular 18th century Saints, Alphonsus of Liguria, founder of the Redemptorist order who – said the Pope – teaches us to pray to God for the grace to live wisely and well.
Dear brothers and sisters!
Today marks the liturgical memorial of St. Alphonsus Maria de 'Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists), patron of scholars of moral theology and confessors. St. Alphonsus is one of the most popular saints of the eighteenth century, for his simple, straightforward style, and for his teaching on the Sacrament of Reconciliation: in a time of great rigor, the result of the influence of Jansenism, he recommended confessors to administer this Sacrament expressing the joyful embrace of God the Father, who in His infinite mercy never ceases to welcome every repentant son. Today's celebration gives us the opportunity to dwell on the teachings of St. Alphonsus concerning prayer, even now precious and full of spiritual inspiration. The treaty, Prayer: The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection, which he considered the most useful of his writings, dates back to 1759 . In fact, it describes prayer as "a means necessary to salvation and the graces we need to achieve it" (Introduction). This sentence synthesizes Alphonsian understanding of prayer.
Dear friends, this is the central question: what is really necessary in our lives? We answer together with St. Alphonsus: "The health and all the grace with need" (ibid.), meaning not only the health of the body, but primarily that of the soul which Jesus gifts to us. More than anything else we need his liberating presence that makes us truly fully human, and thus our existence full of joy. And only through prayer can we accept Him, His grace, which, by illuminating us in every situation, helps us discern the truth, and, by fortifying us, renders our will capable of implementing what we know to be good. We often know what is good, but are incapable of doing it. Through prayer, we can.The disciple of the Lord knows he is always exposed to temptation and in prayer never fails to ask God for help conquer it.