Monday, December 04, 2006

A Message from the Secretary of State

I recently received a letter from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State of the Vatican, Pope Benedict’s right-hand man. I didn’t receive this because I’m some sort of VIP or anything like that—every abbot or abbess of contemplative monasteries in the Church received the same thing.

But why even bring it up? Well, I was edified by his humble request for prayer, as well as his faith in its power. He is just beginning this arduous and high-profile task, and he feels he cannot do it without a lot of prayer support. “I am convinced that contemplatives, with their contribution of prayer and sacrifice, can offer me the most essential assistance in this difficult undertaking.”

I’ll quote a little more from his letter: “I turn to you as Giorgio La Pira did, that politician of profound faith, asking for your prayers: ‘You pray and we, in praying, move forward,’ as he used to write to the cloistered religious of Florence. In which direction? Towards those who are seeking to enter within the realm of the civilization of love that flows from Christ.

“He could not conceive of any serious public activity that was not sustained first and foremost by prayer. In his research and analysis of the elements that shape history, he considered one to be of special importance: monastic prayer ‘planned’ or directed towards a particular intention. He used to say: ‘When you have encountered this mysterious river of prayer that flows across world history, then you will find the answer you are seeking!’ [I wish our politicians had that mentality!]

“Prayer must always follow the contours of the great events of the Church and the nations. In this way, they can lead us towards a peace that is secure because it is guided by the powerful and delicate hand of divine Providence, and ordered towards the temporal and eternal good of the entire human family.

“The present moment in history is full of shadow, and even today the barque of the Church is navigating its way through troubled waters. Along this path, so full of risks but also full of hope for tomorrow’s history, your humble and ardent prayer must arise.” [I wish more of our bishops had that mentality as well!]

This message and appeal gives me hope that we’re in good hands, at least at the very top of the hierarchy of the Church. We will pray, not only for the spiritual fruitfulness of his ministry, but also that his humble and devout spirit, and his vision of what is truly essential, will be the norm for all the leaders of the Church. We have already seen what little good has been done by committees, documents, and endless “dialogue.” Now it’s time to see what can be done by prayer and holiness, by a purified vision and a sacrificial life. Now it’s time to be living tributaries of that “mysterious river of prayer that flows across world history.” Let us hope that the “present moment” that is “full of shadow” can now, through the power of prayer, be illumined by the Light of Christ, dawning in the hearts of the holy.