The Apostle accentuates a truth which the Church has always treasured: in the far reaches of the human heart there is a seed of desire and nostalgia for God. The Liturgy of Good Friday recalls this powerfully when, in praying for those who do not believe, we say: “Almighty and eternal God, you created mankind so that all might long to find you and have peace when you are found”.(22) There is therefore a path which the human being may choose to take, a path which begins with reason's capacity to rise beyond what is contingent and set out towards the infinite.
In different ways and at different times, men and women have shown that they can articulate this intimate desire of theirs. Through literature, music, painting, sculpture, architecture and every other work of their creative intelligence they have declared the urgency of their quest. In a special way philosophy has made this search its own and, with its specific tools and scholarly methods, has articulated this universal human desire.
25. “All human beings desire to know”,(23) and truth is the proper object of this desire. Everyday life shows how concerned each of us is to discover for ourselves, beyond mere opinions, how things really are. Within visible creation, man is the only creature who not only is capable of knowing but who knows that he knows, and is therefore interested in the real truth of what he perceives. People cannot be genuinely indifferent to the question of whether what they know is true or not. If they discover that it is false, they reject it; but if they can establish its truth, they feel themselves rewarded. It is this that Saint Augustine teaches when he writes: “I have met many who wanted to deceive, but none who wanted to be deceived”.(24) It is rightly claimed that persons have reached adulthood when they can distinguish independently between truth and falsehood, making up their own minds about the objective reality of things. This is what has driven so many enquiries, especially in the scientific field, which in recent centuries have produced important results, leading to genuine progress for all humanity.
No less important than research in the theoretical field is research in the practical field—by which I mean the search for truth which looks to the good which is to be performed. In acting ethically, according to a free and rightly tuned will, the human person sets foot upon the path to happiness and moves towards perfection. Here too it is a question of truth. It is this conviction which I stressed in my Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor: “There is no morality without freedom... Although each individual has a right to be respected in his own journey in search of the truth, there exists a prior moral obligation, and a grave one at that, to seek the truth and to adhere to it once it is known”.(25)
It is essential, therefore, that the values chosen and pursued in one's life be true, because only true values can lead people to realize themselves fully, allowing them to be true to their nature. The truth of these values is to be found not by turning in on oneself but by opening oneself to apprehend that truth even at levels which transcend the person. This is an essential condition for us to become ourselves and to grow as mature, adult persons.
26. The truth comes initially to the human being as a question: Does life have a meaning? Where is it going? At first sight, personal existence may seem completely meaningless. It is not necessary to turn to the philosophers of the absurd or to the provocative questioning found in the Book of Job in order to have doubts about life's meaning. The daily experience of suffering—in one's own life and in the lives of others—and the array of facts which seem inexplicable to reason are enough to ensure that a question as dramatic as the question of meaning cannot be evaded.(26) Moreover, the first absolutely certain truth of our life, beyond the fact that we exist, is the inevitability of our death. Given this unsettling fact, the search for a full answer is inescapable. Each of us has both the desire and the duty to know the truth of our own destiny. We want to know if death will be the definitive end of our life or if there is something beyond—if it is possible to hope for an after-life or not. It is not insignificant that the death of Socrates gave philosophy one of its decisive orientations, no less decisive now than it was more than two thousand years ago. It is not by chance, then, that faced with the fact of death philosophers have again and again posed this question, together with the question of the meaning of life and immortality.
27. No-one can avoid this questioning, neither the philosopher nor the ordinary person. The answer we give will determine whether or not we think it possible to attain universal and absolute truth; and this is a decisive moment of the search. Every truth—if it really is truth—presents itself as universal, even if it is not the whole truth. If something is true, then it must be true for all people and at all times. Beyond this universality, however, people seek an absolute which might give to all their searching a meaning and an answer—something ultimate, which might serve as the ground of all things. In other words, they seek a final explanation, a supreme value, which refers to nothing beyond itself and which puts an end to all questioning. Hypotheses may fascinate, but they do not satisfy. Whether we admit it or not, there comes for everyone the moment when personal existence must be anchored to a truth recognized as final, a truth which confers a certitude no longer open to doubt.
Through the centuries, philosophers have sought to discover and articulate such a truth, giving rise to various systems and schools of thought. But beyond philosophical systems, people seek in different ways to shape a “philosophy” of their own—in personal convictions and experiences, in traditions of family and culture, or in journeys in search of life's meaning under the guidance of a master. What inspires all of these is the desire to reach the certitude of truth and the certitude of its absolute value.
Nonetheless, I do know that there are people who learn best, not be seeing or hearing, but by reading and rereading. It is for these that this series of columns is being written. It will be like a slow motion learning experience, short doses in every issue.
You know and I do, too, that in our days we want things done right away. We are part of the "instant" generation. Unfortunately, this cannot be done with prayer, at least not in our day. To be able to pray with one's heart it needs preparation. I say, "in our day" because whether we like to admit it or not, we are a damaged people, damaged in such a way that we need some healing from what has been done to us by our culture. We are also a generation of sights and sounds. We tend to fill our day with things to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. Added to this, we have become a "thinky" people. So much is thrown at us each moment of our waking day to stimulate our mind, to keep the mind working, to center our life's experience around thought rather than around the many other fine and varied experiences that the Heavenly Father offers to us.
Even in the day of the Apostles, though they had nothing in the way of obstacles to prayer that you and I have, they nevertheless said to Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray." Prayer does not come to us instinctively, like eating and sleeping. It has to be learned. We have to enter into it by way of a process. In somewhat a parallel, we could not converse with Uncle Willie who may live only a few blocks away unless we had a telephone hook-up with all that means, and it means more than we would ordinarily think. Prayer, as a conversation with God, that is, with the Father, or with Jesus, or with the Holy Spirit, is just that, a conversation. It means that there is a time when we speak and God listens, and a time when God speaks, and we listen. This is not as simple as it may seem. God is always ready and prepared to hold up His part in the conservation. It is the frail human person, one whose mind has been darkened and his will weakened through Original Sin. It is one who may be, at times, crippled by forces without and within, making it almost impossible for him first even to establish a relationship with God and then, in that relationship, to be mature enough to carry on a conversation with One Who is on a plain of infinite stature, with One Whom he cannot see, with One Whose Words he can not always "hear", much less clearly understand.
To say prayers is not the same as praying. It is true that we can say prayers with our heart. We can sincerely mean what words we say to God. We can say them with the simplicity of a child. When the prayers we say are more than just a repetition of words, when we put "heart" into them, God DOES listen and He IS touched. To say prayers heartily is already an accomplishment.
There are those who have not yet reached this level. There is, nonetheless, a vast difference between saying prayers with the heart, and praying with the heart. Note that Our Blessed Mother does not say, "say prayers with your heart." She says, "PRAY with your heart." In one place she says, "Be a LIVING prayer." Scripture says "Pray ALWAYS. It should be clear then that Heaven is speaking of character and disposition rather than of words, thoughts, and feelings. It seems that when we say, pray with the heart, that it could be understood as 'let your heart do the praying, let your heart speak to Hearts, let Hearts speak to hearts.' It is the human heart and the Divine Heart which engage in the conversation, which are engaged in prayer.
For everyone of us to grow to that state of intimacy with our God wherein his/her heart is pure enough, free enough, believing enough, loving enough to "touch" the Heart of Jesus and also to be "touched" by it is, for most of us, a long way off and for some of us it is doubtful whether we would ever be able to pray with the heart. But take courage. There's hope. In the next column I'll begin to blueprint how.
I beseech all of my children to be at peace. The Cross of my Divine Son is the only way to reach Salvation. Therefore, for each one I pray that you will, with joy, love and trust, embrace the Cross which has been given you. Trust in God with all your being, for He seeks only to receive you into His embrace.
But do not let satan's snares cause you to reject the Cross, your sufferings and approaching persecutions. Therefore, I solemnly tell you that your hearts must be converted now. Live only for and in Him Who is God. If you remain attached to the world, in these the end times, you shall not persevere but lose your faith and perish in eternal flames.
My time of apparitions is coming to an end. Soon you must stand strong, nourished by your True Faith and unshakable in the face of all heresy, blasphemy, apostasy and schism. That time already covers the world and seethes to the surface, bringing forth the antichrist.
I ask each of you to pray much, very much and at all times to give utmost reverence to my Divine Son in the Holy Eucharist. Cling to Him! I will help you, for I am the Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception, and I love you with the same love as my Divine Son.
Prepare yourselves now and do not be afraid. God shall light your way in the time of darkness.
I love and bless you. I ask again. Pray! Arm yourselves with ceaseless prayer. Keep the lamp of your faith lit, and seek the refuge prepared for you in my Son's Sacred Heart, through the consecration to my Immaculate Heart.
O! Dear children, if you would only listen and believe! Pray! Pray! Pray! Thank you for responding to my Call!
I speak now to all of my little ones on the eve of my feast as Our Lady of Lourdes. O! What great graces has God given all mankind at this Holy Shrine. And there are still immeasurable graces in all places of my appearances. My children, the hour is upon you when, by the Will of God, each must become a holy shrine, a living tabernacle by obedience to the Divine Will.
This is the refuge you must have as the Great Darkness draws closer. In this refuge you are able to draw down Divine Mercy and obtain the Triumph of my Immaculate Heart now. This is true Mercy, for the legions of Hell are unleashed and roam freely everywhere.
My children, I, the Mother of God, Queen of Peace, the Immaculate Conception, say to all that the moment of my apparitions to cease is close at hand. Therefore, I beseech all to wisely use this Holy Season of Lent to truly accept their cross and walk the way of Calvary. Here is strength to keep you always in the secure refuge of the Divine Will.
Pray! Please pray. Give your life to God and abandon the world - for the physical, material world is passing away. Convert your hearts now and know I constantly intercede for all of my children.
Know I weep for all who have hardened their hearts to my words. So many of my little ones read my words and interpret them according to their own will, their own understanding. Thus, I beseech all who are in this state of doubt to go back in prayer to the Holy Spirit and re-read my words. Then shall God enlighten you and you shall see the error of your finite minds.
I love and bless you. Thank you for responding to my Call!
Death of Saint Columban, Irish Abbot and missionary. For more on this saint, see TODAY'S LITURGY.
Pope Alexander III returns to Rome at the invitation of the citizens on this date from exile after Frederick of Barbarossa had established the antipope Paschal III. Though he was welcome, he could not offset the ruthless power of Barbarossa.
Cardinal Francisco Albani is chosen the 243rd successor of Peter and selects the name Pope Clement XI. When he received the news of his election he waited a week before accepting the papal crown to assure himself it was legitimate. He was a man of great culture and a lover of the arts, enriching the Vatican Library. His pontificate would last 21 years and he would conclude the 16th Jubilee the year he was elected.
Death of Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, Mexican priest and martyr. For more on him, see TODAY'S LITURGY who had fled the country in 1914 to escape religious persecution but returned in 1926 to meet the needs of his people. Often traveling in disguise, he was arrested on phony charges and martyred for his faith. As he stood bravely before the firing squad, he refused the blindfold, forgave his executors and uttered his last words "Viva Cristo Rey" which meant "Long live Christ the King."