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Divine Providence Continues to Care for Creation

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on God the Father
General Audience, Wednesday, 7 May1986 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. Today we continue the catechesis on divine Providence.

By creating, God called into being from nothing all that began to exist outside himself. But God's creative act does not end here. What comes forth from nothing would return to nothing if it were left to itself and not conserved in being by the Creator. Having created the cosmos, God continues to create it, by maintaining it in existence. Conservation is a continuous creation (conservatio est continua creatio).

2. We can say that understood in the most generic sense, divine Providence is expressed especially in this "conservation," namely, in maintaining in existence all that has had being from nothing. In this sense Providence is a constant and unending confirmation of the work of creation in all its richness and variety. It implies the constant and uninterrupted presence of God as Creator in the whole of creation. It is a presence which continually creates and reaches the deepest roots of everything that exists. It operates there as the first cause of being and of action.

This presence of God continually expresses the same eternal will to create and to conserve what has been created. It is a supremely and fully sovereign will. By means of it, according to the very nature of goodness which is proper to him in an absolute way (bonum diffusivum sui), God continues to declare himself, as in the first moment of creation, in favor of being as opposed to nothing, in favor of life as opposed to death, in favor of "light" as opposed to "darkness" (cf. Jn 1:4-5). In a word, it is a will in favor of the truth, goodness and beauty of all that exists. The mystery of Providence prolongs uninterruptedly and irreversibly the judgment contained in the Book of Genesis: "God saw that it was good...that it was very good" (Gen 1:25, 31). That constitutes the fundamental and unshakable affirmation of the work of creation.

3. This essential affirmation is not affected by any evil deriving from limitation inherent in everything of the cosmos, or which is produced, as has happened in the history of mankind, in sad contrast with that original "God saw that it was good...that it was very good" (Gen 1:25, 31). Divine Providence implies the recognition that in God's eternal plan, in his creative design, evil originally had no place. But once committed by man and permitted by God, evil is, in the last analysis, subordinated to the good: "Everything works for good" as the Apostle says (cf. Rom 8:28). But this is a problem to which we shall have to return.

4. The truth of divine Providence is present in the whole of revelation. We can even say that it pervades the whole of revelation, as does the truth of creation. With this it constitutes the first and fundamental point of reference in all that God "in many and various ways" wished to say "by the prophets and in these last days...through his Son" (Heb 1:1). It is necessary to reread this truth both in the texts where revelation speaks of it directly, and also where Sacred Scripture bears witness to it indirectly.

5. It is found right from the beginning, as a fundamental truth of faith, in the ordinary Magisterium of the Church, even though it was only the First Vatican Council that pronounced on it in the context of the solemn Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, in regard to the truth about creation. Vatican I stated: "All that God created, he conserves and directs by his Providence 'reaching from end to end mightily and governing all things well' (cf. Wis 8:1). 'All lies bare and exposed to his eyes' (cf. Heb 4:13), even what will take place through the free initiative of creatures" (DS 3003).

6. The Council's concise text was dictated by the particular needs of the times (the 19th century). The Council wished first of all to confirm the constant teaching of the Church on Providence, and then the immutable doctrinal tradition linked to the entire biblical message, as is proved by the Old and New Testament passages contained in the text. By confirming this constant teaching of the Christian faith, the Council intended to oppose the errors of materialism and deism of that time. Materialism denies the existence of God, while deism maintains that God is not at all concerned with the world he has created, though admitting the existence of God and the creation of the world. It is precisely the doctrine of deism that directly attacks the truth about divine Providence.

7. The separation of the work of creation from divine Providence, typical of deism, and still more the total negation of God proper to materialism, open the way to materialistic determinism, to which mankind and human history are completely subordinated. Theoretical materialism is transformed into historical materialism. In this context, the truth about the existence of God, and in particular about divine Providence, constitutes the fundamental and definitive guarantee of man and of his liberty in the cosmos. Already in the Old Testament, Sacred Scripture indicates this when it sees God as a strong and indestructible support: "I love you, O Lord, my strength, O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer. O God, my rock of refuge, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!" (Ps 18:3). God is the unshakable foundation on which man rests with his whole being: "You it is who hold fast my lot" (Ps 16:5).

On the part of God, divine Providence is a sovereign affirmation of the whole of creation and, in particular, of man's pre-eminence among creatures. Providence constitutes the fundamental guarantee of the sovereignty of man himself in regard to the world. This does not imply the cancellation of the immanent determination of the laws of nature. But it excludes that materialistic determinism which reduces the whole of human existence to the "domain of necessity," practically annihilating the "domain of freedom" which the Creator on the contrary destined for man. God by his Providence never ceases to be the ultimate support of the "domain of freedom."

8. Faith in divine Providence obviously remains strictly connected with the basic concept of human existence, with the meaning of human life. Man can face up to his own existence in an essentially different way, when he has the certainty that he is not at the mercy of a blind destiny (fate), but depends on someone who is his Creator and Father. Therefore faith in divine Providence is inscribed in the first words of the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty." This faith frees human existence from the different forms of fatalistic thought.

9. In the wake of the constant tradition of the Church's teaching and in particular of the teaching of the First Vatican Council, the Second Vatican Council also spoke many times about divine Providence. From the texts of its Constitutions it follows that God is he who "has fatherly care of all" (GS 24), and in particular "of the human race" (DV 3). An expression of this care is also found in the "divine law itself—eternal, objective and universal, whereby God orders, directs and governs the entire universe and all the ways of the human community" (DH 3). "For man would not exist were he not created by God's love and constantly preserved by it; and he cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and devotes himself to his Creator" (GS 19).

After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai pellegrini francesi

J’accueille avec joie tous les pèlerins de langue française. J’ai noté la présence de plusieurs groupes importants de jeunes. Parmi eux, les élèves de cinquième du Collège Saint-Jean de Passy. Chers amis, votre pèlerinage au tombeau des Apôtres Pierre et Paul, aux lieux sanctifiés par tant de martyrs et de saints, votre rencontre avec le Successeur de Pierre chargé d’affermir la foi de ses frères, vous aident à mieux vivre la profession de foi que vous faites cette année; il vous faudra toujours continuer à approfondir cette foi, en Eglise, et à en témoigner courageusement, avec l’amour de Dieu que l’Esprit Saint a répandu dans vos coeurs.

* * *

Je le dis également aux élèves de troisième du Centre Madeleine Daniélou, et j’ajoute pour elles: dans cette période merveilleuse de l’adolescence, comptez sur l’amitié et la grâce du Christ qui vous accompagne sans cesse de son Esprit et vous invite au don de vous-mêmes qui donne tout son sens à votre vie de jeunes filles. Et vous serez fortes, en même temps, de votre amour de l’Eglise.

* * *

Je connais aussi le sens de la prière, les convictions et l’intention missionnaire du groupe Jeunesse-Lumière de Senez. Je salue par ailleurs les membres de l’Association culturelle des Amis de Saint-Nicolas des Lorrains, très attachés à leur patrie et à Rome.

* * *

Je salue tous les autres groupes et les familles. A la veille de l’Ascension, je leur souhaite la joie de célébrer le Christ Seigneur, élevé à la droite de Dieu, et de se préparer à accueillir, toujours davantage son Esprit. A tous, je donne ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di espressione inglese

It is joy to welcome all the priests and religious who are present today. In a particular way I greet the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and the Benedictine Missionaries of Tutzing. Be assured of my prayers for you and of my gratitude to God for your lives of consecrated service in the Church. May you find great joy in bearing witness to the Good News of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

* * *

I offer warm greetings to the participants in the Development Administration Programme. I hope that your studies will help you to contribute ever more effectively to the development of your commitment to the cause of peace in the world.

* * *

My cordial greetings go to the groups of visitors from Sweden, and in particular to the Taby Church Choir from Stockholm. I am also pleased to welcome the dancers from the Lanyang Catholic Youth Center of Taipei.

And upon all the English-speaking visitors from Denmark, Sweden, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia and the United States I invoke grace and peace in our Risen Lord.

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Bruder und Schwestern!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüße ich euch alle sehr herzlich: aus Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz. Unter den genannten Gruppen grüße ich namentlich die Teilnehmer der Rompilgerfahrt aus dem Landkreis Erding im Erzbistum München und Freising, die Mitglieder der Katholischen Österreichischen Studentenverbindung”Austria Wien“sowie die Eltern und Angehörigen der neuen Rekruten der Päpstlichen Schweizergarde. Indem ich euch und alle anwesenden Pilger deutscher Sprache Gottes Gute und Vorsehung anempfehle, erteile ich euch und euren Angehörigen in der Heimat von Herzen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Al fedeli della Spagna e dell’America Latina

Deseo ahora dar mi cordial bienvenida a esta Audiencia a todas las personas, familias y grupos procedentes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España.

En particular, saludo a las representantes de la asociación “Liga de Madres de Familia”. A vosotras y a todas las asociadas en Argentina, con sus respectivas familias, os aliento a hacer de vuestros hogares verdaderas iglesias domésticas en donde se vivan con intensidad las virtudes y los ideales cristianos.

* * *

Saludo igualmente a la peregrinación de la parroquia de Santa Julia de Vilatorta; al grupo de alumnas del Colegio de la Inmaculada de Oviedo y a los peregrinos de la Misión Católica Española en Solothurn.

A todos imparto con afecto mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Pozdrawiam pielgrzymów z Polski: księdza biskupa Edmunda Piszcza, administratora apostolskiego z Olsztyna; pielgrzymów z parafii Matki Bożej z Lourdes w Krakowie, księża misjonarze; również lekarzy z Krakowa; pielgrzymów z parafii św. Józefa z Warszawy - Ursus; pielgrzymówz diecezji płockiej; pielgrzymów z parafii św. Katarzyny w Brodnicy, diecezja chełminska; z parafii śviętych Piotra i Pawła z Ciechocinka, diecezja włocławska; z parafii św. Anny z Wrocławia; pielgrzymkę duszpasterstwa Polonii austriackiej z Wiednia oraz uczestników grup turystycznych PKS z Warszawy i Turysty z Opola.

Dzisieisza katecheza jest poświęcona Opatrzności . . . Jest to prawda ogromnie ważna z punktu widzenia naszej ludzkiej egzystencji, ponieważ w niej odnajdujemy odpowiedź na podstawowe pytanie, czy wszystko w naszym życiu jest poddane ślepemu fatum, jakieiś materialistycznej konieczności, choćby to byla konieczność dziejów ludzkich, czy też wszystko ostatecznie pozostaje w rękach Ojca, to znaczy, czy żyjemy w śviecie, którym rządzi konieczność iprzymus, czy też żyjemy w świecie wolności, bo ostatecznie Tym, kto gwarantuje wolność w śviecie stworzeń jest jedynie tylko i ostatecznie sam Bóg. To, co mówię w tej chwili w wielkim skrócie, przywodzi mi na pamięć uroczystość Matki Bożej Królowej Polski. W tym roku minęło dwadzieścia lat od Milenium, kiedy miałem szczęście w tym właśnie dniu, 3 maja 1966, celebrować, poniekąd w zastępstwie Papieża Pawła VI, który nie mógł przybyć na uroczystą milenijna, sumę na Jasnej Górze. I wtedy też ksiądz Prymas, kardynał Stefan Wyszyński, wypowiedział w imieniu Episkopatu ten doniosły akt zavierzenia Matce Bożej Królowej Polski, oddania w macierzyńską niewolę za wolność Kościoła w świecie i w Polsce. Biskupi polscy w tym roku nawiązuje do tej wudziestej rocznicy milenijnego aktu z roku 1966 i równocześnie w czasie swojej konferencji mówią o znaczeniu dla naszego życia społecznego “Instrukcji o chrześcijańskiej wolności i wyzwoleniu”, wydanej przez Stolicę Apostolską. “Instrukcja ta mówi - cytuję komunikat - o wolności w świecie współczesnym. Uczy o powołaniu człowieka do wolności, której przeciwstawia się przede wszystkim grzech. Wyjaśnia, na czym polega przede wszystkim wyzwolenie człowieka, ukazuje wyzwoleńczą misję Kościoła i podaje zasady katolickiej nauki społecznej. Jest to więc pozytywny wykład nauki Kościoła o wolności i wyzwoleniu człowieka, jako o palących zagadnieniach współczesnych”. Jak widzimy, to, co się stało przed dwudziestu laty, to, co potwierdzili biskupi swoim komunikatem, przede wszystkim swoją konferencją na Jasnej Górze w tym roku, pozostaie w bliskim związku z tą prawdą o Bożej Opatrzności, która człowieka uczyniła wolnym i chce, ażeby był wolny zarówno z racji swojej osobowej godności, jak też, żeby był wolny w swoim życiu społecznym i narodowym.

Ad alcuni pellegrinaggi italiani

Saluto ora il gruppo di missionari, sacerdoti e suore, appartenenti a diversi Istituti, che stanno frequentando un corso annuale di rinnovamento e perfezionamento teologico-pastorale presso l’Università Urbaniana. Auguro a tutti voi, cari fratelli e sorelle, che questo periodo di permanenza presso la Sede di Pietro sia per voi una valida occasione per confermarvi ulteriormente nella vostra vocazione, aprendovi nel contempo ad un approfondimento e ad un aggiornamento teologico-pastorale, così da rendere più efficace il vostro ministero e più ampio il vostro raggio d’azione. Vi accompagna la mia Benedizione.

* * *

Saluto poi il gruppo di studenti dell’Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano, provenienti dalle quattro sedi di Milano, Brescia, Piacenza e Roma, e che s’incontreranno qui a Roma per un torneo di pallacanestro.

Vi esorto soprattutto a prepararvi al futuro con impegno e serietà.

Vi benedico di cuore.

* * *

Rivolgo una parola di saluto anche ai partecipanti del “Corso igienico sanitario per operatori sociali religiosi e laici nel terzo mondo - 1986”.

Mentre esprimo apprezzamento per il vostro impegno a testimoniare l’amore di Dio nell’attento servizio ai fratelli, domando al Signore di colmarvi di luce e di energie sempre nuove, perché siate nei paesi, dove esplicherete il vostro lavoro, costruttori di pace e di unità, nella giustizia e nella carità autentiche.

Vi sono spiritualmente vicino con l’Apostolica Benedizione.

* * *

Saluto poi il pellegrinaggio della parrocchia di Santa Maria di Loreto in Poggio Castelli, della diocesi di Rieti, il quale ha portato una statua della Madonna di Lourdes, chiedendo che il Papa la benedica.

Benvenuti! Apprezzo questo gesto di devozione alla Vergine Maria. Ben volentieri, pertanto, benedico questa sacra immagine, formulando voti che essa possa essere di aiuto, per molti fedeli, ad elevare gli occhi ed il cuore alla realtà stessa della Madre di Dio, così da attingere, in una viva comunione con Lei, sempre nuova forza per compiere bene il nostro cammino terreno! E la mia Benedizione raggiunga anche la vostra persona ed i vostri cari.

Ai giovani

Desidero ora rivolgere un saluto ai giovani.

Il nostro incontro, cari giovani, avviene in prossimità della festa dell’Ascensione del Signore. Ascendendo al cielo, Egli ha promesso di stare sempre con noi, ed ha comandato di predicare il Vangelo ad ogni creatura. Un invito ed un impegno ad espandere il messaggio evangelico senza remore e senza confini di sorta. Quanto il Signore ha predicato una volta deve essere annunziato e diffuso fino all’estremità della terra. L’evangelizzazione è quindi la vocazione, la grazia e l’identità più profonda che Cristo domanda di realizzare alla Chiesa ed a voi. Egli vi propone così la trasformazione dal di dentro dell’umanità e il suo rinnovamento. Accogliete questo invito: la società di oggi ha bisogno della vostra testimonianza. Vi benedico tutti, di cuore.

Agli ammalati

Saluto poi i malati presenti a questa Udienza e in particolare il gruppo degli ammalati ed accompagnatori appartenenti all’Associazione veneta per la lotta contro la Fibrosi Cistica.

Carissimi, invito anche voi a riflettere sul mistero dell’Ascensione. Sappiate che il Signore è vicino a voi e che potete comprenderlo quando di raccogliete nel pensiero di Dio. Chiedete a Gesù Cristo di farvi conoscere la Sua volontà, di darvi come una spiegazione soprannaturale del motivo della vostra sofferenza. Vi accorgerete allora che Egli vi è accanto, invisibile, ma vero, e vi aiuterà a vincere la paura e la solitudine, a superare, con il conforto della Sua amicizia, la sofferenza che vi affligge. A tutti, cordialmente, la mia Benedizione.

Agli sposi novelli

Saluto ora le giovani coppie di sposi novelli e formulo per loro l’augurio sincero di una vera felicità e pace nelle loro nuove famiglie.

Nell’ambito della casa siete voi i primi apostoli, gli annunciatori del mistero cristiano. La vostra fede acquista una singolare efficacia trainante a motivo dell’amore che sostiene tutte le relazioni familiari. Per questo il matrimonio è una missione. Vi accompagni la mia Benedizione.

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