Successful Catechists Aren't Acting, Says Pope
Reflects on Holy Example of St. Ambrose of Milan
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 24, 2007 (ZENIT.org).- Being a teacher of the faith is more than just a job, says Benedict XVI, it is something inseparable from living a Christian life.
The Pope said this today to more than 30,000 people who gathered in St. Peter's Square to participate in the general audience. The Holy Father, continuing his reflections on figures of the early Church, spoke of St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, who was a key figure in the conversion of St. Augustine.
"Without speaking a word, he spoke with the testimony of life," the Pope said of the catechetical method of the bishop of Milan.Ambrose was born in Trier, which formed part of the Roman prefecture of Gaul, in the year 340. After his father's death when Ambrose was still a boy, his mother took him to Rome to prepare him for a civil career.
His was sent to Milan around 370, said the Holy Father, where the Church was deeply divided over the Arian heresy. Ambrose intervened to bring peace, and was spontaneously acclaimed bishop of Milan by the people, despite the fact that he wasn't even a baptized member of the Church.The bishop, who had no formal religious education, recounted Benedict XVI, began to study Scripture using as a guide the writings of the third-century Christian writer Origen of Alexandria.
The Pope said that Bishop Ambrose learned from Origin the practice of meditating on Scripture known as "lectio divina," and from that point the bishop's preaching and writing "emerged precisely from prayerful listening to the word of God."Regarding St. Ambrose's catechetical style, however, the Pontiff said that it was the bishop's example that counted more than his words.
The Holy Father gave as an example the experience of St. Augustine, which he recounted in his "Confessions." Augustine's conversion, said the Pope, didn't come about as a result of Bishop Ambrose's "beautiful homilies," but rather as a result of "the testimony of the bishop and the Church in Milan, which prayed and sang, united as a single body.
"From Bishop Ambrose, continued the Holy Father, Augustine learned the importance of "reading sacred Scripture in a prayerful attitude, in order to truly receive it in one's heart, and to assimilate the word of God.
"Benedict XVI said that the heart of Ambrosian catechesis lies in truly assimilating the word of God: "Scripture itself, profoundly assimilated, suggests the content of what one must announce in order to achieve conversion of hearts." "Catechesis is inseparable from the testimony of life," he added. "Educators of the faith," said the Pope, "cannot run the risk of looking like some sort of clown, who is simply playing a role.
"The catechist, he added, "should be like the beloved disciple, who rested his head on the master's heart and there learned how to think, speak and act."