Last weekend as I planned my post, I was thinking of sharing some words from Pope Benedict that didn’t get much social media/blog attention, words that most people weren’t talking about – his homily on February 2nd at mass for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, and the 17th year of celebrating the World Day of Consecrated Life.
But that was before the world knew our dear Pope would be resigning! So today, I still feel called to post what I had planned, but my heart is stirred and effected in a new way as I write about Pope Benedict’s words. Indeed, for all Catholics I would venture that much has passed through your hearts and minds in these past few days!
Pope Benedict has been the Pope of my formative years – these past 8 years in which I have come into my own in my spiritual life, in this Faith. JPII passed away my senior year of high school – he was for me the Pope of my childhood, my confirmation and my teenage years. But Pope Benedict is/was my good Shepherd all throughout my deeper spiritual conversion in college and the years since then – through all that it meant to make that college/post-college transition to adulthood.
And as I loved JPII, so I fell in love with Pope Benedict. After the initial transition between the two, I never really felt the need to draw any comparisons between them – and I still don’t. With the encouragement of some dear Catholic friends, I came to know Benedict for his own gifts and came to cherish his own particular graces with which he served our Church and cared for all of us. Over the years I have formed a habit of keeping up with his writings. I have come to deeply appreciate the depth, intelectual clarity and fatherly warmth that he communicates. As he has taught me and guided me through his presence and writings over the years, I have become affectionately attached to him as my spiritual mentor and the humble servant of our great family. He is truly a great man.
So here are the words I felt called to share with you all (and a few more besides).
A few quotes from his homily at the mass on Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the Occasion of the 17th Day of Consecrated Life. It was actually JPII who first decreed that we celebrate a World Day of Consecrated Life, and chose the day as the Feast of the Presentation (here’s a good blog about the World Day of Consecrated Life, from Cardinal Donald Wuerl). Pope Benedict’s words on this occasion really apply to all of us, as we are each invited to live a life consecrated to God through all the various vocations to which God calls mankind.
“I invite you in the first place to nourish a faith that can illuminate your vocation. For this I urge you to treasure, as on an inner pilgrimage, the memory of the “first love” with which the Lord Jesus Christ warmed your hearts, not out of nostalgia but in order to feed that flame. And for this it is necessary to be with him, in the silence of adoration; and thereby reawaken the wish to share — and the joy of sharing — in his life, his decisions, the obedience of faith, the blessedness of the poor and the radical nature of love. Starting ever anew from this encounter of love, you leave everything to be with him and like him, to put yourselves at the service of God and your brothers and sisters” (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, n. 1).
In the second place I invite you to have a faith that can recognize the wisdom of weakness. In the joys and afflictions of the present time, when the harshness and weight of the cross make themselves felt, do not doubt that the kenosis of Christ is already a paschal victory. Precisely in our limitations and weaknesses as human beings we are called to live conformation with Christ in an all-encompassing commitment which anticipates the eschatological perfection, to the extent that this is possible in time (ibid., n. 16). In a society of efficiency and success, your life, marked by the “humility” and frailty of the lowly, of empathy with those who have no voice, becomes an evangelical sign of contradiction.
Lastly, I invite you to renew the faith that makes you pilgrims bound for the future. By its nature the consecrated life is a pilgrimage of the spirit in quest of a Face that is sometimes revealed and sometimes veiled: “Faciem tuam, Domine, requiram” (Ps 27:8). May this be the constant yearning of your heart, the fundamental criterion that guides you on your journey, both in small daily steps and in the most important decisions.
Do not join the ranks of the prophets of doom who proclaim the end or meaninglessness of the consecrated life in the Church in our day; rather, clothe yourselves in Jesus Christ and put on the armour of light — as St Paul urged (cf. Rom 13:11-14) — keeping awake and watchful. St Chromatius of Aquileia wrote: “Distance this peril from us so that we are never overcome by the heavy slumber of infidelity. Rather may he grant us his grace and his mercy, that we may watch, ever faithful to him. In fact our fidelity can watch in Christ.”
Full text here: Homily
Also, from @Pontifex (PBXVI’s official Twitter account), on Feb 2:
“Today I have a special thought for every religious: may they always follow Christ faithfully in poverty, chastity and obedience.”
I will leave you with one last link, in case you missed it yesterday: Pope Benedict’s General Audience on Ash Wednesday, where he addresses his resignation, and calls us to the conversion of this blessed season of Lent. These words carry Benedict’s classic pastoral warmth and intelectual insight – May Pope Benedict’s warm and reassuring words from this audience yesterday help steady your hearts in this unexpected and somewhat confusing time:
“I am strengthened and reassured by the certainty that the Church is Christ’s, who will never leave her without his guidance and care. I thank all of you for the love and for the prayers with which you have accompanied me. Thank you; in these days which have not been easy for me, I have felt almost physically the power of prayer – your prayers – which the love of the Church has given me. Continue to pray for me, for the Church and for the future Pope. The Lord will guide us.”