The Holy See
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Sports Arena, Novara (Italy)
Sunday, 18 November 2007


"[A]s you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17: 21).

Our souls are full of spiritual joy as we contemplate the Church in all the splendour of her beauty, which is manifested in this Eucharist of today's liturgical Feast celebrated in Piedmont and at which, as the Holy Father's Representative for the Beatification Rite of Antonio Rosmini, I have the great joy to preside. Rosmini, the joy of the Church of Trent, his birthplace, and of the Church of Novara, where he worked and where he rendered his soul to God, goes well beyond these vast diocesan borders.

What great truths are revealed, but they conceal even more in the strong expression used by the Son of God in his last prayer to the Father, according to John's Gospel in the passage just proclaimed: "I do not pray for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word" - for us! - "that they may be one, even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you.... I in them and you in me" (17: 20-21, 23). As you are in me and I in you, hence, they are in us. The Church lives not "before" but "in" the Trinity, and is loved with the same love by which the Father, Son and Spirit love each other. By looking at such an ineffable reality the Apostle Peter, in today's Second Reading, can define the new people of the Baptized: "Like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house... a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (I Pt 2: 5, 9).

Today's solemn celebrations transmit the sense of the inseparable bond that exists between the Church and holiness. In fact, as J. Bernanos said, our Church is "the Church of Saints", not "a type of spiritual police force". Holiness "is an adventure, rather, the only possible adventure" (I predestinati, Gribaudi, Turin, 1995, pp. 42-43).

And precisely because he had the strength to begin this wonderful adventure of holiness in a sublime way, the Church today inscribes the Abbot Rosmini in the Roll of the Blesseds. Not simply a declared holiness, but one fully lived.

Thus, Rosmini wrote at the beginning of the second of his famous works, Maxims of Christian Perfection, rightly considered the heart of his evangelical spirituality: "The first desire that is generated in the Christian heart by the supreme desire of justice [holiness], is the desire for the growth and the glory of the Church of Jesus Christ" (Massime di perfezione cristiana, M.M. Riva, ed., Trent, 2003, p. 17).

If the goal of life for all Christians is the singular and infinite desire to please God, within that desire dwells the choice to orient all of one's thoughts and actions to the growth and the glory of the Church of Jesus Christ. This singular and inseparable gaze upon Christ and his Church requires an extremely strong view of the latter, a view which Rosmini had as did many other Christian thinkers, first among them, St Augustine, who wrote: "Let us rejoice, then, and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God's grace towards us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man.... The fullness of Christ, then, is the head and members. But what does "head and members' mean? Christ and the Church" (In Evangelium Johannis tractus, 21, 8).

At the exclusive service of this Church, who with Christ forms the "fullness of Christ" (Christus totus), Rosmini founded the Institute of Charity (Rosminians) for men and the Sisters of Providence for women. To these Institutes he gave a singular goal, which is also the primary goal of Religious life itself: the unceasing quest for one's own salvation and sanctity. Totally for the Church. Regarding this aspect, Rosmini paid a high price that shines in a highly significant and exemplary way in the Blessed's life: precisely his indestructible and tenacious love for the Church.

In the Constitutions he used very clear words: "Let us not think of this Institute, but always of the Church of Christ, recalling in the joy of our hearts the promises that were passed on to us in inheritance regarding the Kingdom of Christ and the immovability of the divine councils" (A. Rosmini, Constitutions of the Institute of Charity, Trent, 1974, p. 377, n. 468); "so that [our Religious family] will be useful to the Church, [God] will safeguard and protect it; when, instead, it would begin to be useless and harmful, with just judgement he will fell the harmful tree and set it alight" (ibid., p. 375, n. 465). Journeying toward their singular goal of holiness, Religious would be open to any charitable work the Lord indicated, primarily through the hierarchy, circumstances, times and places:

- works of spiritual charity, which immediately regard the eternal salvation of souls (proclamation of the faith, the sacraments);
- works of intellectual charity, by which one seeks to free man's mind from the darkness of ignorance and enlighten it with the light of the truth;
- and works of temporal charity, which are addressed to physical needs such as hunger and health.

Besides guiding the Religious family he founded, if Bl. Antonio Rosmini dedicated much of his energy to the demands of culture, principally in the fields of philosophy, pedagogy and theology, he did so in response to the Papal summons of the times. They saw a clear sign that he could serve the Church and man in his intellectual gifts by elaborating a system of thought that would be the foundation of the faith. As he himself wrote, it dealt with leading man to God: man, who by following the path of reason itself, had distanced himself from God by a misguided reason. This huge undertaking, which cost Antonio Rosmini fatigue and painful misunderstandings, recently received the authoritative seal of the Church, above all in the Encyclical Fides et Ratio of John Paul II. The Encyclical opens with the beautiful comparison of two wings ("Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth" [Introduction]). The beloved Pontiff, after repeating that the separation between reason and faith is a tragedy, affirms by citing St Augustine: "[F]aith grows deeper and more authentic when it is wedded to thought and does not reject it. It is again the Fathers who teach us this: "To believe is nothing other than to think with assent.... Believers are also thinkers: in believing, they think and in thinking, they believe.... If faith does not think, it is nothing'. And again, "If there is not assent, there is no faith, for without assent one does not really believe'" (n. 79). And in the same Encyclical Rosmini's name is included among the modern proponents of this line of dialogue: "We see the same fruitful relationship between philosophy and the Word of God in the courageous research pursued by more recent thinkers, among whom I gladly mention, in a Western context, figures such as John Henry Newman, Antonio Rosmini, Jacques Maritain, Étienne Gilson and Edith Stein..." (n. 74).

Rosmini's voice is a modern echo of that of the great Fathers of the Church, with whom he can easily be set side by side for the acuteness and vastness of his speculative interests, well harmonized with the Gospel ardour of the shepherds of souls. Many and varied definitions can be given of him - and they are factual proposals - that describe only part of the many sides of the prism of his extraordinary identity. In Antonio Rosmini one finds a philosopher, a teacher, a political theorist, an apostle of the faith, a prophet and a cultural giant. Notwithstanding all this, what enriches his person and confirms his current standing, and which today is our interpretive key, is Rosmini's holiness, which certainly will help to restore the friendship between reason and faith, between religions, ethical behaviour and Christians' public service.

The Church today proclaims this priest Blessed because she has recognized his industrious life, marked by heroically living the virtues. As a young priest, he edited for himself a Rule of Conduct based on the Gospel and consisting of two principles: 1) "to think seriously, correct my vices and purify my soul from the iniquity that weighs on it since birth, without seeking other occupations or works in favour of one's neighbour, since by myself, I am absolutely unable to do anything for his advantage"; and 2) "to never refuse charitable services toward one's neighbour when divine Providence would offer and present them to me. Almighty God can use anyone, and even me, for his works. In that case I must be perfectly impartial in all charitable works, doing what is proposed to me with as much fervour as anything else I could do of my own free will". Those who knew him, both the great figures of his age with whom he often came into contact and the most humble faithful, testify that Rosmini lived in conformity with this rule, which finds an echo in Jesus' words: "Apart from me you can do nothing" (Jn 15: 5), and in those of St Paul to the Philippians: "I can do all things in him who strengthens me" (4: 13).

The daily life, thought and belief of the new Blessed are intimately combined. The result is a life witness which teaches that unity which is ascesis, mysticism, sanctity of life. The Abbot Rosmini lived a theological life, where faith implied hope and charity, with that dialogue of love, trusting in Providence, which brought him not to initiate anything, great or small, "if it is not manifested by Providence itself".

Raising him to the honours of the altar, the Church points also to this priest as an intercessor and model for humanity today, for us. The life and teachings of the Founder of the Institute of Charity exhort us to resolutely place God at the centre of our existence and to serve him in humanity, in which he is "sacramentally" present, in whatever field the Lord calls us, only too happy to be inserted into Christ as branches on the Vine, and in an attitude of dialogue, not opposition, with today's many and deceptive currents of thought.

May a hymn of thanksgiving rise from our holy assembly to the Lord, who guides everything with his wonderful Providence. And in the words our Blessed gave us in 1849 during a time of grave trial, writing to a confrere: "Meditating on Providence, I admire it: admiring it, I love it; loving it, I celebrate it; celebrating it, I thank God for it; thanking God for it, I am filled with happiness. And how could it be otherwise, if I know by reason and faith and I feel in the depths of my spirit that all that God does or wills or permits, is done by an infinite, an essential love? And who could withdraw himself from love?" (Epistolario Ascetico, III, p. 508, let. 1124).