“Where is God? What is he like and what does he want?”. The path that a “man”, like Pope Benedict, took and had done to arrive almost rationally at the love of God, starts from the base. “God is love” embodies the centrality of eight years of pontificate, it is the key to understanding the dialectic of life, to see in his steps the certainty of walking, the certainty in any storm. Like his first encyclical dedicated to the love of God, “Deus caritas est”. Similar to St. Benedict’s “Nihil amori Christi praeponere” (put nothing before the love of Christ).
“Where is God? What is he like and what does he want?”: This is the question that substantiates the volume of Joseph Ratzinger “God and the world”, one of the many texts written in Montecassino where he loved to retire privately to concentrate, far from Vatican circles, just 140 kilometers away. Far from distractions, from Roman “gold” and magnificence to enter the rigid and silent cells, perched on the sacred mountain chosen by Benedict to build a monastery, yet another after the experience of Subiaco. Ruins of a temple dedicated to Apollo which become, involuntarily, the cradle of monasticism and which will build, over the centuries, the entire Old Continent, built on faith and culture but also on rules and authority, division of labor and obedience.
The preferred period for retreats of Cardinal Ratzinger it was the month of February, in the middle of winter, to isolate himself and devote himself to the definitive drafting of some chapters of his theology books. He was “obedient”, respectful of his familiar surroundings. For more than a few years he also presided over the pontifical of St. Scholastica, on 10 February, in Montecassino: he never backed down from the proposals of the then abbot Bernardo D’Onorio. And the monastic community does not forget the depth of his words, in the homilies, focused precisely on both male and female Benedictine spirituality. “The man of the Monastery”, as he was, in a certain sense, renamed when he chose the former cloistered convent set in an isolated clearing of the Vatican Gardens in May 2013 after the epochal renunciation of the pontificate.
As a cardinal he even blessed the crown that is placed on the head of the Madonna di Casalucense in Sant’Elia: it was always a proposal from D’Onorio who then placed it on the head of the Virgin Mary with a coronation ceremony on May 1, 2006. Obedient in “other people’s” home, even if that world was a bit like his second home. And it was precisely about obedience and rules that he had spoken, since Monte Cassino, in the homily during the Holy Mass for the Pontifical Academy of Sciences celebrated on November 7, 2004: «The Abbot must be both a tender father and also a strict teacher (2,24), a true educator. Inflexible against vices, however, he is called above all to imitate the tenderness of the Good Shepherd (27,8), to “help rather than dominate” (64,8), to “accentuate more with deeds than with words all that is good and holy” and to “illustrate the divine commandments by his example”».
God’s love but also strict rules, as recalled the day before yesterday by Andrea Tornielli in the Osservatore Romano: «The last few years have been marked by the re-explosion of the pedophilia scandal and by Vatileaks. Benedict XVI is determined and tough in tackling the problem of “filth” within the Church. He introduces very strict rules against child abuse, asks the Curia and the bishops to change their mentality … he IS pope Ratzinger to introduce anti-money laundering regulations in the Vatican”. He looks exactly like that “tender father” and “severe master” of whom he had spoken in the abbey, the man of the encyclical on the love of God and the inflexible man on respect for the rules so as not to see the church derailed as a great “monastery” on planet earth.
Born in 1927, son of a gendarme, born into a simple and very Catholic family in Bavaria, Joseph Ratzinger chose precisely the name “Blessed” for his pontificate. «I wanted to call myself Benedict XVI to ideally link up with the venerable Pope Benedict XV, who led the Church in a troubled period due to the First World War. He was courageous and an authentic prophet of peace and worked with strenuous courage … The name Benedict also evokes the extraordinary figure of the great “Patriarch of Western monasticism”, St. Benedictco-patron of Europe. The progressive expansion of the Benedictine order he founded exercised an enormous influence in the spread of Christianity throughout the continent. St. Benedict he is therefore much venerated also in Germany and, in particular, in Bavaria, my homeland; it constitutes a fundamental point of reference for the unity of Europe and a strong reminder of the indispensable Christian roots of its culture and civilization», he said on 27 April 2005 in his first general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
And with papal vestments he returned to Monte Cassino, but no longer on a private visit. She did it on Sunday, May 24, 2009at the invitation of the then abbot Pietro Vittorelli, pronouncing impressive words both from Piazza Miranda and from the abbey where he wanted to bring together the entire Benedictine world of the planet.
The words to the workers made history: «Humanizing the world of work is typical of the soul of monasticism, and this is also the effort of your community which seeks to stand alongside the numerous workers of large industry present in Cassino and related companies. I know how critical the situation of many workers is. I express my solidarity with those who live in worrying precariousness, with workers on layoffs or even made redundant. May the wound of unemployment that afflicts this area lead those responsible for public affairs, entrepreneurs and those who have the opportunity to seek, with everyone’s contribution, valid solutions to the employment crisis, creating new jobs to safeguard families. In this regard, how can we forget that the family today urgently needs to be better protected, since it is strongly undermined at the very roots of its institution? Then I think of the young people who find it difficult to find a worthy work activity that allows them to build a family. I would like to say to them: do not be discouraged, dear friends, the Church does not abandon you!».
Many teachings also from the sacred mountain where he moved with great veneration. Strong warning to Europe: «Let us pray that Europe will always know how to value this patrimony of Christian principles and ideals which constitutes an immense cultural and spiritual wealth. This is possible, however, only if you accept the constant teaching of Saint Benedict, i.e. the “quaerere Deum”, to seek God, as man’s fundamental commitment. Human beings do not fully realize themselves, they cannot be truly happy without God”.
Monte CassinoSan Benedetto, those humble rooms, that maximum concentration that he found only there, the spirituality of the Ora et labora helped build the pontiff who left the Earth on the last day of the year for a “new dawn”.