As I was watching Pope Benedict’s last public Mass last night, I had very mixed emotions. The crowd at St.Peter’s showed happiness and sorrow. There were smiling faces and weeping ones as well. I myself felt a rush of sadness at this most special moment in the Church’s history.
I also felt an overwhelming sensation of appreciation and love for this Pope. Here he was, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, serving the Church for over 40 years and just waiting for the time when he could retire to a quiet monastic life of prayer. In April 2005, this all changed.
Our beloved Pope John Paul II had died and a new Pope was to be elected. Cardinal Ratzinger was the Dean of the College of Cardinals, the body of men who elect the Pope. He clearly did not want the job of Pope. But, the Cardinals with the guidance of the Holy Spirit came calling to him. And he answered the call.
In his first speech as Pope, Benedict stated that he was just “ a humble servant in the vineyard of the Lord”. He was humble from the start. This man, who just wanted to fade into the sunset, was now in the spotlight. His life would never be the same because he answered God’s call.
How do you follow an act like John Paul II? It is impossible to do but yet, Benedict did so with grace, humility and scholarly wisdom. Benedict’s writings are inciteful and inviting to us as Catholics. His intelligence is evident yet he doesn’t throw that intelligence in your face with false pride. Pope Benedict guided the Church with love for the Church and for God.
In his resignation, Benedict again is thinking of the Church first. He knew that he couldn’t do all that it takes to be the Pope on a daily basis anymore. Unlike John Paul, Benedict did not see in his case the advantages of suffering in public. It is just not his style. So, thinking again of the Church first and with God’s blessings, Pope Benedict will be leaving on February 28th. A new Pope will be elected and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger will finally be able to retire to that monastic life that he so desired. He will use his remaining days and dedicate his hours to prayer for the Church and all of us.
So, I would just like to say – thank you, Pope Benedict XVI. Thank you for answering the call. Thank you for your wisdom, compassion and guidance for the Church during your papacy. Thank you for the changes you have made to make the liturgy more meaningful, even if it meant learning new prayers for Mass. Thank you for your holy example of following God’s will for your life.
May you enjoy your retirement and I know that when you finally are called home, God will say to you “well done, good and faithful servant” .