VATICAN CITY, APR 22, 2007 (VIS) - Having concluded his visit to Pavia's "San Matteo" hospital, the Pope travelled by car to the "Almo Collegio Borromeo" where he celebrated Mass at 10.30 a.m. Bishops of Lombardy, priests of the diocese of Pavia and a number of Augustinian Fathers concelebrated with the Holy Father.
In his homily, the Pope focussed on the "three great stages" of St. Augustine's journey of conversion.
These "conversions" of St. Augustine, he said, "were in fact one big conversion: searching for the Face of Christ and then walking alongside Him."
"The first fundamental conversion was Augustine's interior journey towards Christianity, towards that 'yes' of faith and Baptism. ... The saint was constantly tormented by the question of truth. ... He wanted to find the right path, and not just to live blindly without meaning or goal. This passion for truth is the true key to understanding his life."
"He had always believed - at times somewhat vaguely, at others more decidedly - that God exists and that He looks after us. But truly knowing God and really becoming familiar with Jesus Christ, to reach the point of saying 'yes' to Him with all the consequences it brings: this was the great interior struggle of the years of his youth."
St. Augustine's "second conversion," Pope Benedict explained, took place following his Baptism, when he returned to Hippo in Africa where he founded a small monastery and intended to dedicate his life to the contemplation of God. However, by popular request and almost by force, he was ordained a priest and so "had to live with Christ for everyone."
"The great philosophical work of his life, of which he had dreamed, remained unwritten. In its place came something more precious: the Gospel translated into the language of everyday life."
This, said the Holy Father "was the second conversion that this man, struggling and suffering, had to achieve: being there for everyone, offering his life, always and anew together with Christ, so that others could find Him Who is true life."
Finally, "the third and decisive stage" on St. Augustine's journey of conversion took place when he discovered that "only one person is truly perfect and that the words of the Sermon on the Mount are fully realized only in one person, in Jesus Christ Himself. And the entire Church - all of us, including the Apostles - must pray every day: 'forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.'
"Augustine had understood an ultimate level of humility. Not only the humility to make his own great philosophy part of the faith of the Church, not only the humility to translate his great knowledge into the simplicity of announcement, but also the humility to recognize that he himself and the entire pilgrim Church were in constant need of the merciful goodness of a forgiving God. And we, Augustine added, become as similar as possible to the Perfect Christ when we become like Him people of mercy."
Following the Eucharistic celebration and before praying the Regina Coeli, the Pope addressed a special greeting to young people, to whom he expressed the hope "that you become ever more aware of the joy of following Christ and of becoming His friends. ... This is the same joy that brought me to write my recently-published book 'Jesus of Nazareth.' It may be a little difficult for the youngest of you, but I consign it to you ideally, that it may accompany the journey of faith of the new generations."
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