The Chair of Saint Peter has been vacated. This is a surprising situation that has left us unsure of how to respond. Most importantly, I just want to say to a man who has become a “holy father” to me: “Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”
Thank you, Benedict, for being who you are. You didn’t look to become Pope, but you accepted willingly a huge responsibility when asked. You showed your humility and have given a great lesson to all us when you honestly admitted it was time to elect a new Pope.
You have striven to be an authentic human being and a true disciple of your Lord. You followed in the footsteps of another great holy father to the world, Blessed John Paul II, who has been called a “Super Star,” but you didn’t worry about measuring up to false expectations. You showed us that what is important is simply to offer ourselves entirely and purely to the Lord with the gifts and weaknesses we bear. Christ Himself is our only measure.
Time after time as your journeys approached … to England, to the United States , to Spain … critics jeered, yet your presence and your witness left the opposing voices speechless. Your intelligence, your wisdom, your clarity, and your holiness won hearts for Christ. Even negative press organizations had to admit this, though how quickly they seemed to forget.
You have taught us. You have called us to look deeply at things. At great cost you have consistently spoken for truth, wisdom and clear thinking – at times like a voice calling in the wilderness, in a world that simply won’t slow down enough to listen. It doesn’t want to listen perhaps because it knows deep down that so often you have spoken truth and it doesn’t want to change.
Thank you for helping me to grow so very much in my love of the Church, as Communion and as Sacrament of the Presence of Christ. Thank you for reminding me that she is my mother, the home where I am saved. Thank you, too, for helping me to become so much more intellectually and tangibly aware that Mary is Mother of the Church, and even symbolically the Church personified, continuing to give birth to Christ, to the Church, and so to me, too.
Thank you for calling us all to receive the Word Himself, a Living Person, into the depths of our being, as did our Holy Mother Mary.
Thanks be to God for the times I have been able to concelebrate the Eucharist with you. Particularly, I will never forget in Paris on a beautiful September day and in Rome for the Beatification of John Paul II, the long silence after Communion with huge crowds dwelling in deep prayer.
Thank you for calling us to beauty and to mystery! At times people have not understood your insistence on good and correct liturgical practice, even calling it retrograde! But in my travels in many places, I can see you have made a difference. The Eucharist receives much more care and attention while remaining very much a joyful celebration of the People of God.
As you have led spiritually and morally, you have challenged the Church itself to repent and for us to clean up our own act! As you have proclaimed the holiness of the Church you have not been afraid to confront the sinfulness of its members.
You hand on a Church that is much better prepared for its mission in the world today. The night before last I celebrated Mass in a humble chapel in a poor village outside Recife, Brazil. I couldn’t help but be deeply moved by the great joy, the sense of community, the deep prayer, the presence of the Holy, and the longing and commitment to manifest love and justice in our world. I knew that this is the Church that Benedict helped to strengthen in a way that that maybe “under the radar” of world press and secular communications.
The Holy Spirit will make fruitful the prayers of this little community, and so many others around the world, as we say “thank you” to Benedict. We pray for the next Pope, Successor to Peter as well, to be able to continue Christ’s great work.
Benedict XVI now retires to pray for the Church. We will be praying with him.
Fr. Jim Phalan, C.S.C., is the Director of Family Rosary International, which is a part of Holy Cross Family Ministries. HCFM was founded by Servant of God Patrick Peyton, a Holy Cross priest who had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother and preached that the “family that prays together, stays together.” Fr. Phalan will be writing for the Spes Unica Blog each month to share with us the great work of Family Rosary International, yet Family Ministries is one of the creative ways that Holy Cross continues to reach across borders of every sort to spread hope. Learn more about the missionary work of Holy Cross.