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Posted October 8, 2010

True happiness is found in
close friendship with Christ, pope says

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- True happiness can be found by strengthening one's friendship with God through a love for sacred Scripture and the sacraments, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Christians today can find many role models in the saintly men and women who lived throughout history, he said during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square Oct. 6.

In his catechesis, the pope described the life of the 13th-century Benedictine mystic, St. Gertrude the Great.

Far from being a historical figure stuck in the past, this "exceptional woman" remains for today's faithful "a school of Christian life, a principled life, and she shows us that at the heart of a happy and real life is friendship with Jesus," he said.

St. Gertrude entered the monastery at a very young age and was an extremely talented student, the pope said. She loved literature and music and was diligently devoted to her studies.

However, when she was 24, she grew disgusted with her secular pursuits, he said. She said the sense of turmoil and anxiety she felt was a gift from God, who was giving her a sign that she needed to "tear down that tower of vanity and curiosity."

While her ardent love of learning helped bring her to religious life, the saint said it had gone too far and it was driven by pride, the pope said.

From that moment on, St. Gertrude began to intensify her relationship with God. She switched her studies from humanistic subjects to theological works, and in her monastic life, she went from living what she called being "negligent" to a life of intense prayer and missionary zeal.

St. Gertrude represents one of the most famous female mystics in church history, and she's called "the Great" because of her "exceptional natural and supernatural gifts."

She displayed "a very profound humility, an ardent zeal for the salvation of others, an intimate communion with God through contemplation and a readiness to come to the aid of the needy.

"True happiness is the goal in our life," the pope said, and the only way to find that kind of happiness is in forging a friendship with God.

"This friendship you learn through a love for sacred Scripture, a love for the liturgy and (by cultivating) a deep faith and a love for Mary in order to truly get to know God better."