Pope Francis says "...it is the heart that speaks to us about God, and we must learn to understand its language. Let us ask, at the end of the day, for example: what happened today in my heart?" FULL TEXT + Video
POPE FRANCIS at the GENERAL AUDIENCE
Saint Peter's Square
Wednesday, 19 October 2022
Dear brothers and sisters, welcome and good morning!
In the catecheses of these weeks we are focusing on the prerequisites for good discernment. In life we have to make decisions, always, and to make decisions we must follow a journey, a path of discernment. Every important activity has its “instructions” to follow, which must be known in order for them to produce the necessary effects. Today we will look at another indispensable ingredient for discernment: one’s own life story. Knowing one’s own life story is, let’s say, an essential ingredient for discernment.
Our life is the most precious “book” that is given to us, a book that unfortunately many do not read, or rather they do so too late, before dying. And yet, precisely in that book that one finds what one pointlessly seeks elsewhere. Saint Augustine, a great seeker of the truth, had understood this just by rereading his life, noting in it the silent and discreet, but incisive, steps of the presence of the Lord. At the end of this journey, he noted with wonder: “You were within, and I without, and there I did seek you; I, unlovely, rushed heedlessly among the things of beauty you made. You were with me, but I was not with you” (Confessions X, 27.38). Hence his invitation to cultivate the inner life to find what one is seeking: “Return within yourself. In the inner man dwells truth” (On True Religion, XXXIX, 72). This is an invitation I would extend to all of you, and even to myself: “Return within yourself. Read your life. Read yourself inwardly, the path you have taken. With serenity. Return within yourself”.
Many times, we too have had Augustine’s experience, of finding ourselves imprisoned by thoughts that lead us away from ourselves, stereotypical messages that harm us: for example, “I am worthless” – and it gets you down; “everything goes wrong for me” – and it gets you down; “I will never achieve anything worthwhile” - and it gets you down, and this becomes your life. These pessimistic phrases that get you down! Reading one’s own history also means recognizing the presence of these “toxic” elements, but then broadening our narrative, learning to notice other things, making it richer, more respectful of complexity, succeeding also in grasping the discreet ways in which God acts in our life. I once knew a person who people said deserved the Nobel Prize in negativity: everything was bad, everything, and he always tried to put himself down. He was a bitter person, and yet he had many qualities. And then this person found another person who helped him, and every time he complained about something, the other one used to say: “But now, to compensate, say something good about yourself”. And he would say: “Well, yes… I also have this quality”, and bit by bit this helped him move forward, to read well his own life, both the bad things and the good things. We must read our life, and by doing so we see things that are not good and also the good things that God sows in us.
We have seen that discernment has a narrative approach; it does not dwell on the punctual action, but rather inserts it in a context: where does this thought come from? What I am feeling now, where does it come from? Where does it lead me, what I am thinking now? When have I encountered it before? Is it something new that comes to mind only now, or have I found it other times? Why is it more insistent than others? What is life trying to tell me with this?
Recounting the events of our life also enables us to grasp important nuances and details, which can reveal themselves to be valuable aids, hitherto concealed. For example, a reading, a service, an encounter, at first sight considered to be of little importance, over time transmit inner peace; they transmit the joy of living and suggest further good initiatives. Stopping and acknowledging this is essential. Stopping and acknowledging: it is important for discernment; it is a task of gathering those precious and hidden pearls that the Lord has scattered in our soil.
Goodness is hidden, always, because goodness is modest and hides itself: goodness is hidden; it is silent, it requires slow and continuous excavation. Because God’s style is discreet: God likes to go unseen, with discretion, he does not impose; he is like the air we breathe - we do not see it but it allows us to live, and we realize this only when it is missing.
Getting used to rereading one’s own life educates the outlook, it sharpens it, enables it to note the small miracles that good God works for us every day. When we realize this, we notice other possible directions that strengthen our inner taste, peace and creativity. Above all, it makes us freer from toxic stereotypes. Wisely it has been said that the man who does not know his own past is condemned to repeat it. It is strange: if we do not know the path we have taken, the past, we always repeat it, we go around in circles. The person who walks in circles never goes forward; it is not progress, it is like the dog who chases his own tail; he always goes this way, and repeats things.
We might ask ourselves: have I ever recounted my life to anyone? This is a beautiful experience of engaged couples, who when they become serious, tell their life story… It is one of the most beautiful and intimate forms of communication, recounting one’s own life. It allows us to discover hitherto unknown things, small and simple but, as the Gospel says, it is precisely from the little things that the great things are born (cf. Lk 16:10).
The lives of the saints also constitute a precious aid in recognizing the style of God in one’s own life: the permit us to become familiar with his way of acting. Some of the saints’ behaviour challenges us, shows us new meanings and opportunities. This is what happened, for example, to Saint Ignatius of Loyola. When describing the fundamental discovery of his life, he adds an important clarification, and he says: “From experience he deduced that some thoughts left him sad, others cheerful; and little by little he learnt to know the diversity of thoughts, the diversity of the spirits that stirred within him” (cf. Autobiography, no. 8). Knowing what happens within us, knowing, being aware.
Discernment is the narrative reading of the good moments and the dark moments, the consolations and desolations we experience in the course of our lives. In discernment, it is the heart that speaks to us about God, and we must learn to understand its language. Let us ask, at the end of the day, for example: what happened today in my heart? Some think that carrying out this examination of conscience is to calculate the balance of sins – and we commit many – but it is also about asking oneself, “What happened within me, did I experience joy? What brought me joy? Was I sad? What brought me sadness? And in this way, we learn to discern what happens within us.
[I cordially greet the French-speaking faithful, in particular the pilgrims of Rennes, the Mayors of Cambrai and the heads of the educational institutes of Créteil, accompanied by their respective Bishops. I then greet the pilgrims from Switzerland, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti. Brothers and sisters, let us learn to understand the language of our hearts by letting ourselves be permeated by the Word of God, so that we will be able to discover in others an opportunity offered to know better the book of our life. God bless you!]
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims taking part in today's Audience, especially those from Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Indonesia, Canada and the United States of America, including the priests of the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College . In greeting the pilgrims present from Nigeria, I think of the violent rains that have fallen on their country in these days, causing flooding, numerous deaths and tremendous damage. Let us pray for all who have lost their lives and for everyone affected by this devastating natural disaster. May these, our brothers and sisters, experience our solidarity and the support of the international community.
Ein herzliches Willkommen den Pilgern deutscher Sprache. Versuchen wir in diesem Missionsmonat Oktober immer besser zu verstehen, welche Sendung der Herr einem jeden von uns anvertraut hat und bitten wir ihn, er möge all unser Tun mit seiner Gnade begleiten und vollenden.
[I extend a cordial welcome to the German-speaking pilgrims. In this Missionary Month of October, let us try to understand ever better the mission that the Lord has entrusted to each of us. Let us ask him to accompany and carry out all our activities with his grace.]
I cordially greet los peregrinos de lengua española. El next domingo we celebrate the Jornada Mundial de las Misiones. Recemos especially por los misioneros y las misioneras que, enviados a distinctas partes del mundo, escriben con sus propias vidas a historia de amor in the service of the Evangelium. Jesús los bendiga y la Virgen Santa los cuide. Muchas gracias.
Queridos peregrinos de língua portuguesa and em particular a Comunidade Canção Nova de São Paulo, os fiéis das paróquias São Sebastião, Nossa Senhora Aparecida and Nossa Senhora das Graças, bem-vindos headquarters! De coração vos saúdo a todos, confiando ao bom Deus a vossa vida and a dos vossos familiares. Rezai também vós por mim! Que as vossas famílias se reúnam diariamente para a reza do terço sob or olhar da Virgem Maria, para que nelas não se acabe jamais or óleo da fé e da alegria, que brota da vida dos seus membros em comunhão com Deus!
[Dear Portuguese-speaking pilgrims and in particular the Canção Nova Community of São Paulo, the faithful of the parishes of São Sebastião, Nossa Senhora Aparecida and Nossa Senhora das Graças, welcome! I cordially greet you all and entrust your life and that of your family members to the good Lord. You too pray for me! Your families should gather daily for the recitation of the rosary under the gaze of the Virgin Mary, so that the oil of faith and joy, which flows from the life of their members in communion with God, never runs out.]
أُحَيِّي المؤمِنينَ الناطِقينَ باللغَةِ العربِيَّة. التَّمييزُ يساعدُنا في أنْ نقرأَ حياتَنا بكلِّ ما فيها مِن أفراحٍ وأحزان، وأنْ نَتَعَرَّفَ على الحقيقةِ الَّتي تَسكُنُ قلبَنا. باركَكُم الرّبُّ جَميعًا وحَماكُم دائِمًا مِن كُلِّ شَرّ!
I greet the Arabic-speaking faithful. Discernment helps us to read our life with all its consolations and desolations, and to recognize the truth that dwells in our heart. The Lord bless you all and always protect you from all evil!
Pozdrawiam serdecznie wszystkich Polaków. Potrzeba zgłębiania własnego życia, dotyczy również całych narodów. Warto poznawać historię swojej ojczyzny, aby zobaczyć obecne w niej ślady obecności Boga. Z tego względu cieszę się, że w ubiegły poniedziałek otwarte zostało w Lublinie Centrum Relacji Katolicko-Żydowskich. Życzę, by pomagało ono dowartościować wspólne dziedzictwo, nie tylko obu religii, ale także obu narodów. Z serca wam błogosławię.
[I cordially greet all the Poles. The need to scrutinize one's life also applies to peoples. It is important to know the history of one's homeland in order to discover traces of God's presence in it. This is why I am pleased that the Center for Catholic-Jewish relations was inaugurated in Lublin last Monday. I hope that it will promote the enhancement of the common heritage, not only of the two religions, but also of the two peoples. I heartily bless you.]
Pozdravljam hrvatske hodočasnike! S osobitom radošću pozdravljam drage vjernike i svećenike Varaždinske biskupije, predvođeni njihovim pastirom, Msgr. Božom Radošom. Dragi prijatelji, prigodom dvadeset i pete obljetnice osnutka vaše biskupije došli ste na grob svetog Apostola Petra da potvrdite svoju vjeru i da kao mlada biskupijska zajednica obnovite kršćansku nadu. Na ovome svetom mjestu upravite pogled u Gospodina Raspetoga, koji širi svoje ruke kako bi privukao k sebi cijeli svijet. Osnaženi Božjim Milosrđem na ovome hodočašću, ostanite čvrsti u vjeri i molite za mir i jedinstvo vaše Biskupije i vaše Domovine. Obećajem vam svoju duhovnu blizinu te udjeljujem vama i vašim obiteljima moj Blagoslov. Hvaljen Isus i Marija.
[I greet the Croatian pilgrims! I am pleased to welcome in particular the faithful and priests of Varaždin, led by their Pastor, Archbishop Božo Radoš. Dear friends, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the foundation of your diocese, you have come to the tomb of the Apostle Peter to confirm your faith and, as a young diocesan community, to renew Christian hope. In this sacred place, fix your gaze on the Crucified Lord, who opens his arms wide to welcome the whole world within himself. Strengthened by Divine Mercy on this pilgrimage, always remain steadfast in the faith and pray for the peace and unity of your Diocese and your homeland. I assure you of my spiritual closeness and I bless you and your families. Praised be Jesus and Mary!]
* * *
I extend a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the seminarians of Reggio Calabria, the Public Security agents of Naples and the Teleperformance Italia Company of Taranto. I am pleased to welcome the faithful of the parish of San Timoteo di Termoli, and the confirmed ones of the diocese of Faenza-Modigliana, accompanied by their Bishop. These know how to make noise; they're good! I encourage everyone to draw from the Gospel the inspiring criteria for personal and community life.
And let's go back to the tormented Ukraine and pray for Ukraine: let's pray for the bad things that are happening there, the torture, the deaths, the destruction.
Lastly, my thoughts go, as usual, to young people, the sick, the elderly and newlyweds. In this month of October dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary, I would like to invite you to look with filial trust to the Mother of God, drawing from her example and from her intercession the strength to go forward.
My blessing to all.