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Papa Benedict XVI's Catecheses on Prayer

given at his Wednesday Audiences

Man in Prayer (I)      

BXVI: "Dear friends, in these examples of prayers from different epochs and civilizations emerges the awareness that the human being has of his condition as a creature and of his dependence on an Other superior to him and source of every good. The man of every age prays because he cannot help but wonder what is the meaning of his existence, which remains obscure and bleak, if it is not put in relation to the mystery of God and of his plan for the world. Human life is an intertwining of good and evil, of undeserved suffering and of joy and beauty, which spontaneously and irresistibly impels us to ask God for that light and inner strength which help us on earth and disclose a hope that goes beyond the confines of death. The pagan religions remain an invocation which, from the earth, awaits a word from Heaven. Proclus of Constantinople, one of the last great pagan philosophers, who lived in an epoch already fully Christian, gives voice to this expectation, saying: “Unknowable, no one contains you. All that which we think belongs to you. Our evil and our good are from you, our every yearning depends on you, O ineffable one, whom our souls feel present, raising to you a hymn of silence” (Hymni).

In the examples of prayer of various cultures, which we have considered, we can see a testimony of the religious dimension and of the desire for God inscribed in the heart of every man, which find fulfilment and full expression in the Old and New Testaments. Revelation, in fact, purifies and brings to its fullness man’s original longing for God, offering him, in prayer, the possibility of a deeper relationship with the heavenly Father.

At the beginning of our pathway in the “School of prayer” we therefore wish to ask the Lord to illuminate our minds and hearts so that the relationship with Him in prayer may be ever more intense, affectionate and constant. Once again, let us say to Him: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11, 1)."

Man in Prayer (II)      

BXVI: "Man is by his nature religious, he is homo religiosus just as he is homo sapiens and homo faber: “The desire for God” the Catechism further affirms, “is written in the heart of man, because man is created by God and for God” (n 27). The image of the Creator is imprinted on his being and he feels the need to find a light so as to give an answer to the questions that concern the profound meaning of reality; an answer that he cannot find in himself, in progress, in empirical science. The homo religiosus does not stand out only in the ancient worlds, he traverses the whole history of humanity. In this regard, the rich terrain of human experience has seen arise various forms of religiosity, in the attempt to respond to the desire for fullness and happiness, to the need for salvation, to the search for meaning. The “digital” man, like the cave man, seeks in the religious experience ways to overcome his finiteness and to secure his precarious earthly adventure. Moreoever, life without a transcendent horizon would not have a full meaning, and happiness, to which we all tend, is spontaneously projected towards the future, in a tomorrow that has yet to be accomplished. The Second Vatican Council, in its declaration Nostra Aetate, underlined it synthetically: “Men await from the various religions the answer to the hidden enigmas of the human condition which, yesterday as today, profoundly agitate the heart of man: the nature of man [ - who am I? - ], the meaning and purpose of our life, good and sin, the origin and purpose of suffering, the way to reach true happiness, death, judgement and retribution after death, finally the ultimate and ineffable mystery that surrounds our existence, from whence we draw our origin and towards which we tend” (n 1). Man knows that he cannot respond on his own to his fundamental need to understand. However much he has deluded himself and still deludes himself as being self-sufficient, he has the experience of not being sufficient to himself. He needs to open himself to the other, to something or to someone, who can give him that which he lacks, he must go out of himself towards the One who is able to fill the breadth and depth of his desire."