Pope Benedict VI has published his new encyclical which you can read HERE .
“Spe salvi facti sumus” it begins quoting St Paul’s letter to the Romans-in hope we are saved.
So Papa has covered the cardinal virtues in his two encyclicals, Charitas (love) and now faith and hope.
As I have a rather unwell baby to take care of I have been stuck under her and that gave me time to have a quick read through of ‘Spe Salvi’. I love the way the Holy Father writes. He is not difficult to understand at all and yet he manages to ack so much meaning into a small number of words. The encyclical is deeply rooted in Scripture as one would expect.
He speaks of the real Christian hope of redemption comparing it with the rather limited hopes of those who only have things to hope for. He points out how St Paul and the author of Hebrews have a much deeper and more substantial grasp of hope.
Salvation is not simply given, writes the Holy Father, it is offered…and we are on a journey to attain it. He then begins the journey with the nothingness we are tempted to live within-the old gods who can lead us from nothing to nothing-to slavery.
He then tells us the story of St Josephine Bakhita. I love this saint and have been working on writing a children’s version of her lifestory for my godchildren for some time. One of my godchildren is called Josephine and I don’t think there are other saints with that name.
St Josephine was kidnapped from her village in Darfur, Sudan by muslim slave traders. She was sold and resold, tortured and abused until at last she came to the house of the Italian consulate and began nurse to his friend’s daughter.
Finally in Italy she found the God she had always sought in the tortured Christ-a God who loved her with every drop of blood from his wounded heart. She was baptised and joined the Canossian sisters and lived her life sharing the love of God she had found. The children loved her too and called her their Black Mama.
Pope Benedict links the story of St Josephine with St Paul’s letter written in prison as he sends back the slave Onesimus to his master -no longer as a slave, but as a brother in Christ.
From there we journey deeper into an understanding of this hope. We are not called as isolated individuals but as a people; family, community. Papa is clear that we are not meant to see our salvation as just for ‘me’ and each man’s relationship with God being purely personal-it is communal.
He writes of the 19th Century modernity and it’s loss of hope. We must pray and we must suffer and be willing to suffer for other people. We must embrace the cross as Christ commanded. It is part of the journey-it is how we offer “com-passion”. He reminds us we need to “offer it up” but he isn’t being trite-it is part of hope and the gift of redemption.
Having given a view of hell and human made justice he goes on to look briefly at purgatory and then we are brought back to heaven. He calls on Mary Ave Marie Stella to be our guiding star and help to bring us home.
Read it all-it will be well worth your time. We are well blessed to have a pope like this.