By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With love, faith comes alive, and without it, faith is dead, Pope Benedict XVI said.
It is God's love that grants true spiritual knowledge and transforms people's lives, he said Feb. 10 at his weekly general audience.
"Charity lies at the heart of faith and makes it come alive. Without love, faith dies," he said.
The pope's audience talk focused on the life and teachings of St. Anthony of Padua, a 13th-century Franciscan friar who was a contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi.
St. Anthony played a key role in developing Franciscan spirituality, the pope said, especially concerning the role and nature of prayer.
Only through authentic prayer can a person experience spiritual progress and fight the temptations of greed, pride, and impurity and instead live a life marked by poverty, generosity, humility, obedience and chastity, he said.
St. Anthony taught that prayer needs silence -- not so much an absence of audible noise and sounds, but an inner silence in which all worries and mental distractions are quelled and the soul finds a sense of calm, said the pope.
He said the saint taught that there are four "indispensable" steps to perfecting the art of prayer.
The first step is confidently "opening one's heart to God's presence," he said. The second is to "have an affectionate dialogue with God, seeing him present with me," the pope said.
The next step, he said, comes easily to most people: telling God what is on one's mind. Then lastly, praise God and thank him, he said.
These steps help make prayer a loving and joy-filled conversation with God that will enrich and strengthen one's faith and spiritual journey, he said.
He said the saint also urged people to pursue "true wealth -- that of the heart," which brings goodness and mercy to the world.
St. Anthony asked that the faithful not forget the plight of the poor, which is "a very important and pertinent message today," the pope said. Financial crises create serious economic gaps, which cause poverty and misery, he said.
In order for an economic system to function correctly, it must have an ethical basis that is based on friendship and respect for the human person, he said.
GENERAL AUDIENCE TEXT
Paul VI Audience Hall Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Saint Anthony of Padua
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Continuing our catechesis on medieval Christian culture, we now turn to Saint Anthony of Padua, a contemporary of Saint Francis who helped lay the foundations of the Franciscan theological and spiritual tradition. Born in Lisbon, Anthony became an Augustinian canon and then a Franciscan Friar. His great eloquence and learning made him one of the great preachers of his time. His Sermons, imbued with the traditional spiritual exegesis of the Scriptures, offer a guide to growth in the Christian life and stress the importance of prayer as a loving and joy-filled conversation with the Lord. Here we see one of the principal characteristics of Franciscan theology: its emphasis on God’s love, which grants spiritual knowledge and transforms our lives. At a time of great economic growth, Anthony called for the cultivation of interior riches and sensitivity to the needs of the poor. Typical also of the Franciscan tradition is his stress on the contemplation of Christ in his humanity, particularly in the mysteries of the Nativity and the Crucifixion. In this Year for Priests, let us ask Saint Anthony to pray that all preachers will communicate a burning love for Christ, a thirst for closeness to the Lord in prayer, and a deeper appreciation of the truth and beauty of God’s word.
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I am pleased to offer a warm welcome to the Delegation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America here with us today. I also greet all the English-speaking visitors present at this Audience, especially those from England, Denmark and the United States. Upon all of you I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!