VATICAN CITY, 30 DEC 2009 (VIS) - The Pope focused his catechesis during today's general audience, the last of 2009, on the theologian Peter Lombard, author of the "Book of Sentences" which was used as a standard text by schools of theology for many centuries.
Lombard, the son of a poor family, studied in Bologna, Reims and Paris where, in 1140, he became a professor at the prestigious school of Notre-Dame. In 1159, almost at the end of his life, he was appointed archbishop of Paris.
The Pope explained how this theologian's particular merit was that of having drawn not only on biblical texts but also on those of the great Church Fathers and of other important Christian thinkers, arranging them into "a systematic and harmonious framework.
"In fact", he added, "one of the characteristics of theology is that of organising the heritage of faith in a unitary and well-ordered fashion" so that "the individual truths of faith may illuminate one another" and thus "reveal the harmony of the plan of salvation of God and the centrality of the mystery of Christ".
Benedict XVI continued his remarks by inviting theologians and priests "always to bear in mind the entire vision of Christian doctrine, so as to guard against the modern-day risks of fragmentation and undervaluation of individual truths. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Compendium of the Catechism, supply us with precisely this complete picture of Christian revelation", he said. In the same vein, he encouraged "each member of the faithful and Christian communities to draw profit from these instruments in order to gain a deeper knowledge of the contents of our faith".
Another fundamental aspect of Peter Lombard's work is his view of "the essence of the Sacraments" as being "the cause of grace and having the true capacity to communicate divine life. Later theologians never abandoned this view and utilised the distinction between material and formal elements introduced by the 'Master of the Sentences', as Peter Lombard was called", said the Holy Father.
And he explained: "The material element is visible sensory reality. The formal element are the words pronounced by the minister. Both are essential for a complete and valid celebration of the Sacraments".
"It is important to recognise how precious and how indispensable sacramental life is for each Christian", said the Holy Father. "In this Year for Priests, I exhort the clergy, especially those who minister to souls, to cultivate an intense sacramental life of their own in order to be able to help the faithful".
Pope Benedict expressed the hope that "the celebration of the Sacraments may be dignified and decorous, that it may favour personal prayer and community participation, the sense of the presence of God and missionary zeal.
"The Sacraments", he added in conclusion, "are the great treasure of the Church and it is up to each of us to celebrate them that they may bring forth spiritual fruit. In them, an ever new and surprising event touches our lives: Christ, through visible signs, comes to meet us, He purifies us, transforms us and allows us to participate in His divine friendship".
At the end of the audience, the Holy Father wished people a happy New Year, expressing the hope that the friendship of Jesus Christ may be a daily "light and guide" for everyone.
AG/PETER LOMBARD/... VIS 20091230 (570)