Papal Household Preacher on How Holiness Begins

Advent Homilies to Point to Example of Mother Teresa

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 5, 2003 ( The basis of all Christian holiness "is the response to a call and obedience to a divine inspiration," the Papal Household preacher said in an Advent homily to the Pope and Roman Curia.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa's meditations for the liturgical season in preparation for Christmas are focused this year on the theme: "This Is the Will of God, Your Sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3): Reflections on Christian Holiness in the Light of the Experience of Mother Teresa of Calcutta."

"The beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta last October 19 put before everyone's eyes the fact that there is only one authentic greatness in the world -- sanctity," Father Cantalamessa said today in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace.

Holiness "is the perspective on which the whole pastoral endeavor of the Church must be focused," the Capuchin said.

But first of all it is a "gift" that Christ has given us, which in turn is translated into a "commitment that must govern the whole of human existence," the friar stressed, quoting John Paul II's apostolic letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte."

The fundamental act on which Mother Teresa's sanctity was based was "the response to a call, and obedience to a divine inspiration, discerned and recognized as such," Father Cantalamessa noted.

In fact, "it is never too late to begin to become saints," the preacher explained, referring to Mother Teresa's personal experience, when at age 36 and already a religious of the Sisters of Loreto, she received a call to be at God's disposition for a work he would indicate.

In the end, "Mother Teresa, as Mary, said her full 'fiat,' her 'yes,' and she said it with joy," the preacher said. All the "great undertakings of holiness of the Bible and the history of the Church rest on a 'yes' said to God the moment he reveals his will personally to someone."

"In the life of each one of us, as in that of Mother Teresa, there has been a call; otherwise we wouldn't be here," he added.

"We must not be afraid to recognize what God has been able to build on that little 'yes,' despite our resistances and infidelities," he continued.

"The first and decisive call from God is followed by many other discreet invitations that we call good inspirations," the priest said. Obedience to them is "essential for our sanctification," he added.

"What God wants in particular from each one is" primarily discovered through "inspirations of grace," those "interior requests of the Spirit in the depth of our heart through which God not only makes known what he asks, but at the same time communicates the necessary strength to realize it if the person accepts," the Capuchin said.

Hence the importance of a "renewed decision to entrust ourselves in everything and for everything to the interior guidance of the Holy Spirit, as a sort of spiritual direction," the preacher said.

"If acceptance of inspirations is important for every Christian, it is vital for those who have tasks of governance in the Church. Only in this way do we allow the Spirit of Christ himself to guide his Church through his human representatives," he added.

The next Advent meditations will take place on the next two Fridays. The Papal Household preacher, or apostolic preacher, a title that goes back to Paul IV (1555-1559), delivers a homily every Friday in Advent and Lent in the presence of the pope, and cardinals, bishops and general superiors of religious orders.

Since Benedict XIV (1743), this office is reserved exclusively to the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins. Father Cantalamessa has been Papal Household preacher since 1980. The apostolic preacher resides in the General Curia of the Capuchin Friars.