2-December-2009 -- Vatican Information Service |

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Wednesday Audience: William of St. Thierry, Cantor of Love

VATICAN CITY, 2 DEC 2009 (VIS) - William of St. Thierry was the subject of the Holy Father's catechesis during his general audience, celebrated this morning in St. Peter's Square.

William, a friend and admirer of Bernard of Clairvaux, was born in Liege between the years 1075 and 1080. A member of a noble family, he was educated in the most famous schools of the time and later entered the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Nicaise in Reims. He subsequently became abbot of the monastery of Saint-Thierry where, however, he was unable to reform the community as he wished and abandoned the Benedictines to enter the Cistercian abbey of Signy. There he wrote a number of important works of monastic theology.

"De natura et dignitate amoris" (The nature and the dignity of love) contains, the Pope explained, one of William's fundamental ideas, which also holds true for us today: "The principal force that moves the human soul is love. . The truth is that only one task is entrusted to each human being: learning to love sincerely, authentically and freely. But only at the school of God can this task be achieved and can man attain the end for which he was created".

"Learning to love is a long and arduous path", said the Holy Father. "In this journey people must impose an effective asceticism upon themselves . in order to eliminate any disordered affections . and unify their lives with God - source, goal and power of love - until reaching the summit of spiritual life, which William defined as 'wisdom'. At the end of this ascetic itinerary, we experience great serenity and sweetness".

William likewise attributes considerable importance "to the emotional dimension" because "our heart is made of flesh and when we love God, Who is Love, how can we not express our human feelings in this relationship with the Lord? . The Lord Himself, becoming man, chose to love us with a heart of flesh".

For this Cistercian monk, love "illuminates the mind and enables a better and more profound understanding of God and, in God, of people and events". Love "produces attraction and communion to the point of effecting a transformation, an assimilation, between the lover and the loved. . And this holds true, above all, for knowledge of God and of His mysteries, which surpass our mind's capacity to understand. God is known if he is loved", Benedict XVI affirmed.

He concluded by quoting from the "Epistola aurea" addressed to the Cistercians of Mont-Dieu, a summary of William of St. Thierry's ideas on the subject of love: "The image of God present in man impels him towards resemblance; that is, towards an ever fuller identification between his will and the divine will. This perfection, which William calls 'unity of spirit', cannot be achieved through individual effort, . but by the action of the Holy Spirit which . purifies and . transforms into charity all the desire for love present in the human being. .In this way . man becomes by grace what God is by nature".

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