Saturday, September 8, 2007


Today the Holy Father visited the shrine of Mariazell "Mary's Throne" in the Styrian alps. I had the privilege of making a pilgrimage there about a decade ago, and it is a spot where I could happily live out my days. The Empress Maria Theresa made frequent pilgrimages to Mariazell with her husband and many children, including Marie-Antoinette. Marie-Antoinette was a bit of a wayward child, extremely charming and affable, but not particularly pious. Yet, she, the future reine-martyre, often knelt before the ancient statue of the Virgin with her entire family.

Pope Benedict's homily at Mariazell was especially powerful. The Sovereign Pontiff once again asserted the truth of the Catholic religion in the following words:

Our lives have a deeper purpose. We need God, the God who has shown us his face and opened his heart to us: Jesus Christ. Saint John rightly says of him that only he is God and rests close to the Father's heart (cf. Jn 1:18); thus only he, from deep within God himself, could reveal God to us -- reveal to us who we are, from where we come and where we are going.

Certainly, there are many great figures in history who have had beautiful and moving experiences of God. Yet these are still human experiences, and therefore finite. Only He is God and therefore only He is the bridge that truly brings God and man together. So if we Christians call him the one universal Mediator of salvation, valid for everyone and, ultimately, needed by everyone, this does not mean that we despise other religions, nor are we arrogantly absolutizing our own ideas; on the contrary, it means that we are gripped by him who has touched our hearts and lavished gifts upon us, so that we, in turn, can offer gifts to others. In fact, our faith is decisively opposed to the attitude of resignation that considers man incapable of truth -- as if this were more than he could cope with.

This attitude of resignation with regard to truth, I am convinced, lies at the heart of the crisis of the West, the crisis of Europe. If truth does not exist for man, then neither can he ultimately distinguish between good and evil. And then the great and wonderful discoveries of science become double-edged: they can open up significant possibilities for good, for the benefit of mankind, but also, as we see only too clearly, they can pose a terrible threat, involving the destruction of man and the world.

We need truth. Yet admittedly, in the light of our history we are fearful that faith in the truth might entail intolerance. If we are gripped by this fear, which is historically well grounded, then it is time to look towards Jesus as we see him in the shrine at Mariazell.

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