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Oases of the Spirit

Catechesis by Pope Benedict XVI in the series on Prayer
General Audience, Wednesday 10 August 2011, Castel Gondolfo - also in Croatian, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In every age, men and women who have consecrated their lives to God in prayer — like monks and nuns — have founded their communities in particularly beautiful places: in the countryside, on hilltops, in mountain valleys, on the shores of lakes or of the sea and even on small islands. These places combine two very important elements for contemplative life: the beauty of creation, which evokes the beauty of the Creator, and silence, which is guaranteed by living far from cities and the great thoroughfares of the media. Silence is the environmental condition most conducive to contemplation, to listening to God and to meditation. The very fact of enjoying silence and letting ourselves be “filled”, so to speak, with silence, disposes us to prayer. The great prophet Elijah on Mount Horeb — that is, Sinai — experienced a strong squall, then an earthquake and finally flashes of fire, but he did not recognize God’s voice in them; instead, he recognized it in a light breeze (cf. 1 Kings 19:11-13). God speaks in silence, but we must know how to listen. This is why monasteries are oases in which God speaks to humanity; and in them we find the cloister, a symbolic place because it is an enclosed space yet open to Heaven.

Tomorrow, dear friends, we shall commemorate St Clare of Assisi. Therefore, I would like to recall one such “oasis” of the spirit that is particularly dear to the Franciscan family and to all Christians: the little convent of St Damian, situated just beneath the city of Assisi, among the olive groves that slope down towards Santa Maria degli Angeli [St Mary of the Angels]. It was beside this little church, which Francis restored after his conversion, that Clare and her first companions established their community, living on prayer and humble tasks. They were called the “Poor Sisters” and their “form of life” was the same as that of the Friars Minor: “To observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rule of St Clare, 1, 2), preserving the union of reciprocal charity (cf. ibid, X, 7) and observing in particular the poverty and humility of Jesus and of his Most Holy Mother (cf. ibid., XII, 13).

The silence and beauty of the place in which the monastic community dwells — a simple and austere beauty — are like a reflection of the spiritual harmony which the community itself seeks to create. The world, particularly Europe, is spangled with these oases of the spirit, some very ancient, others recent, yet others have been restored by new communities. Looking at things from a spiritual perspective, these places of the spirit are the backbone of the world! It is no accident that many people, especially in their breaks, visit these places and spend several days here: the soul too, thanks be to God, has its needs!

Let us therefore remember St Clare. But let us also remember other saints who remind us of the importance of turning our gaze to the “things of heaven”, as did St Edith Stein, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Carmelite, co-Patroness of Europe, whom we celebrated yesterday. And today, 10 August, we cannot forget St Lawrence, deacon and martyr, with special congratulations to the Romans who have always venerated him as one of their Patrons. Lastly, let us turn our gaze to the Virgin Mary, that she may teach us to love silence and prayer."


"Chers amis de langue française, je suis heureux de vous saluer ce matin. Demain, nous célèbrerons la fête de sainte Claire d’Assise, fondatrice des moniales Clarisses. Dans notre monde si souvent agité, les communautés monastiques, véritables oasis de l’esprit, nous rappellent en particulier la nécessité du silence dans nos vies, pour réaliser en nous une authentique harmonie spirituelle et ainsi tourner notre regard vers Dieu. En ces jours de repos, sachons prendre nous aussi des temps de silence pour entrer paisiblement dans la prière! Que Dieu vous bénisse!

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present today, including the groups from Guam, Canada and the United States of America. My special greeting goes to the young people en route to World Youth Day in Madrid! In these days the Church celebrates the feasts of great saints like Lawrence, Clare of Assisi and Edith Stein. May their example and intercession help us to draw closer to God through the practice of quiet prayer and contemplation. May the Lord bless you and your families with his joy and peace!

Mit Freude grüße ich alle Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache, die zu dieser Audienz nach Castel Gandolfo gekommen sind. Seit jeher üben Klöster ihre eigene Faszination aus – als geistliche Oasen, als Orte, an denen Gott in besonderer Weise zu den Menschen spricht. Ihre Mitte ist der Kreuzgang, der Ordnung und Harmonie widerspiegelt, einerseits geschlossen ist und sammelt und zugleich offen ist zum Himmel hin. Hier weisen die Schönheit der Schöpfung, die im Garten durchscheint, und die Stille auf das Wesen des monastischen Lebens hin, das ganz auf das Hören und auf das Betrachten Gottes ausgerichtet ist. Die Stille hilft auch uns, aufnahmebereit zu werden für Gottes Wort und unsere Beziehung zu ihm zu vertiefen. Ich denke, dies ist auch eine schöne Aufgabe für die Urlaubszeit, und dabei können wir von Maria und den Heiligen lernen, die Stille und das Gebet zu lieben und so dem Schöpfer und Erlöser zu begegnen. Der Herr segne euch alle!

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los fieles de la Arquidiócesis de Portoviejo, en Ecuador, así como a los grupos provenientes de España, Colombia, México, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina y otros países Latinoamericanos. Invito a todos en este tiempo a descubrir y contemplar la belleza de la creación, que a su vez revela al Creador, y a cultivar también el silencio interior, que dispone al recogimiento, a la meditación y a la oración, para favorecer el progreso espiritual mediante la escucha de la voz divina en lo profundo del alma. Muchas gracias y que Dios os bendiga.

Saúdo com alegria os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, nomeadamente os Escuteiros de São Félix da Marinha em Portugal e os seminaristas brasileiros da Arquidiocese de Diamantina. Esforçai-vos por descobrir o valor do silêncio como condição para o recolhimento interior, para poder escutar a Deus. Que a Virgem Maria possa ensinar-vos a amar o silêncio e a oração. Ide em paz!

Witam pielgrzymów polskich. Jutro w liturgii przypada wspomnienie świętej Klary. Nasza myśl biegnie do Asyżu, do kościoła świętego Damiana, kolebki Zakonu Klarysek, oazy ciszy, piękna przyrody, modlitwy. Życzę wam wszystkim, by pielgrzymie drogi zawiodły was do wielu miejsc, odkrytych już wcześniej przez świętych, w których doznacie bliskości Boga. Z serca wam błogosławię.

Zo srdca pozdravujem slovenských pútnikov, osobitne zo saleziánskej Farnosti pri Národnej svätyni Sedembolestnej Panny Márie v Šaštíne. Bratia a sestry, je čas prázdnin a dovoleniek. Využite ich na oddych a na obnovu síl tela aj ducha. Rád udeľujem Apoštolské požehnanie vám i vašim rodinám. Pochválený buď Ježiš Kristus!

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Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, saluto i fedeli di Bagnella in Omegna, di Cattolica Eraclea e gli esponenti dell’Opera per la Gioventù Giorgio La Pira di Firenze. Nel ringraziarvi per la vostra presenza, sono lieto di invocare su ciascuno l’abbondanza dei doni dello Spirito per un rinnovato fervore spirituale e apostolico. Grazie per la vostra attenzione.

Cantiamo adesso insieme in latino il Pater noster."