On Thursday the 24th of June, the Pope visited a community of cloistered nuns in the Dominican convent of Santa Maria del Rosario in Rome’s Monte Mario district. The picture, as seen on the side, is the picture St. Dominic brought to San Sisto when he established the nuns there.
Please find the homily Pope Benedict XVI gave on the occasion below:
I address to each one of you the words of Psalm 124 (125), which we just prayed: “Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts!” (v. 4). I greet you above all with this wish: the goodness of the Lord be upon you. In particular, I greet your Mother Prioress and thank her from my heart for the kind expressions she addressed to me in the name of the community. With great joy I accepted the invitation to visit this convent, to be able to pause with you at the feet of the image of St. Sixtus’ acheropita Virgin, now protector of the Roman convents of St. Mary in Tempulo and of St. Sixtus.
Together we have prayed the midday prayer, a small part of this Liturgical Prayer that, as cloistered, marks the rhythm of your days and makes you interpreters of the Church-Bride which unites her, in a special way, with her Lord. With this choral prayer, which finds its culmination in the daily participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, your consecration to the Lord in silence and seclusion becomes fecund and full of fruits, not only for the path of sanctification and purification, but also for the apostolate of intercession that you carry out for the whole Church, so that it can appear pure and holy in the presence of the Lord. You, who know well the efficacy of prayer, experience every day the many graces of holiness it can obtain in the Church.
Dear Sisters, the community you make up is a place where you can dwell in the Lord; it is for you the New Jerusalem, to which the tribes of the Lord go up to praise the name of the Lord (cf. Psalm121:4). Be grateful to Divine Providence for the sublime and gratuitous gift of the monastic vocation, to which the Lord has called you without any merit of yours. With Isaiah, you can affirm “the Lord formed me from the womb” (Isaiah 49:5). Even before you were born, the Lord had kept your heart for himself to be able to fill it with his love. Through the sacrament of baptism you received Divine grace in yourselves, immersed in his Death and Resurrection, you were consecrated to Jesus, to belong to him exclusively. The way of contemplative life, which you received from St. Dominic in the form of cloister, places you, as living and vital members, in the heart of the Lord’s Mystical Body, which is the Church; and as the heart makes the blood circulate and maintains the whole body alive, so your hidden existence with Christ, interlaced with work and prayer, contributes to sustain the Church, instrument of salvation for every man whom the Lord redeemed with his blood.
It is this inexhaustible source that you approach with prayer, presenting in the presence of the Most High the spiritual and material needs of so many brothers in difficulty, the strayed life of all those who separate themselves from the Lord. How can one not be moved by compassion for those who seem to wander aimlessly? How can one not wish that in their life they will encounter Jesus, the only one who gives meaning to existence? The holy desire that the Kingdom of God be established in the heart of every man, is identified with prayer itself, as St. Augustine teaches us: Ipsum desiderium tuum, oratio tua est; et si continuum desiderium, continue oratio (cf. Ep. 130, 18-20); because of this, as fire that burns and is never extinguished, the heart remains alert, it never ceases to desire and it always raises a hymn of praise to God.
Recognize because of this, Dear Sisters, that in everything you do, beyond the personal moments of prayer, your heart continues to be led by the desire to love God. With the Bishop of Hippo, acknowledge that the Lord has put his love in your hearts, desire that dilates the heart, until it makes it capable of receiving God himself (cf. In. O. Ev. tr. 40, 10). This is the horizon of the earthly pilgrimage! This is your goal! This is why you have chosen to live in obscurity and in the renunciation of earthly goods: to desire above all that good which has no equal, that precious pearl that merits the renunciation of any other good to enter into its possession.
May you be able to pronounce every day your “yes” to God’s designs, with the same humility with which the Holy Virgin said her “yes.” May she, who in silence received the Word of God, guide you in your daily virginal consecration, so that you will be able to experience in obscurity the profound intimacy she lived with Jesus. Invoking her maternal protection, together with that of St. Dominic, St. Catherine of Siena and of the many men and women saints of the Dominican Order, I impart to you all a special Apostolic blessing, which I willingly extend to the persons who entrust themselves to your prayers.