Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thank You Holy Father


Marks of his Papacy

Pope Benedict XVI greets pilgrims at an audience in December 2011.  CNS Photo/Paul Haring Pope Benedict XVI's papacy testifies to a churchman of scholarship and pastoral sensitivity.

Born in a devout Catholic family and baptized the day he was born he felt one with the church from his earliest days. As a boy with his parents and brother and sister he visited the Bavarian shrine Our Lady of Atotting, a place he returned to as pope. There praying before the Black Madonna, as the smoke-charred linden wood image of Mary is called, he left at its base the ring he received from Pope Paul VI. His intense fervor for Mary showed clearly in 2008 at Lourdes, where he said: "When speech can no longer find the right words, the need arises for a loving presence. We seek the closeness not only of those who share the same blood or are linked to us by friendship, but the closeness of those who are intimately bound to us by faith. Who would be more intimate to us than Christ and His holy mother, the Immaculate One?"

While a reserved man, Pope Benedict's heart was touched by victim/survivors of child sexual abuse by clerics. On several visits, including his noted visit to the United States in 2008, he met personally with men and women whose lives were altered by the harrowing experience of abuse. He offered heartfelt comfort in the personal encounter and on the bureaucratic level he stiffened penalties for abusers and expanded the definitions of what constitutes sexual abuse to include child pornography.

When elected pope at 78 he quietly told friends that given his age and health he wouldn't be a globe-trotter. However, he quickly realized the best way to reach people was to go to them and he did, first to World Youth Day in Germany, just months after his election. In his first five years alone, he traveled to five continents, 14 countries, about 60,000 miles. He knew the power of the press and that if he went to desperate people in Africa, the media would follow. The eyes of the world might be opened to the scandal of poverty and the terrible distance between the rich and poor and their access to resources given by God for all.

As a scholar he brought a laser-like focus to his writings. His encyclicals, one of hope, Spe salvi. . . (In hope we are saved)and two others on love, Deus caritas est. . . (God is love) and Caritas in veritate. . . (Charity in truth) spoke simply of profound truths.

Spe Salvi. . . (In hope we are saved) presents Jesus as the source of the hope that the world desperately desires. The pope recognizes that no human means can adequately redress the heinous wrongs within human history, such as the Holocaust, natural calamities, war and terrorism; nor are there human means to bring forth total justice.

"No one and nothing can answer for centuries of suffering" the pope said. Yet he presents Jesus as the harbinger of hope. Pope Benedict assures us that with the coming of Jesus in glory there is a resurrection of the flesh. There is justice. He reminds us that hope assures that every tear will be wiped away.

Caritas in Veritate. . . , a social encyclical, seamlessly weaves together what many consider polar opposites: spirituality and human progress, "life ethics" and "social ethics," justice and charity, personal ethical behavior and more just social structures, the concerns of rich nations and the needs of poor nations. The pope reminds humanity that the demands of love have both personal and social dimensions. Love applies to both "micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) and macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones)." Pope Benedict critiques the excesses of markets without justice, supports increases in international assistance to poorer nations, calls for action on the structural causes of global hunger, champions the rights of workers and insists on fairer trade policies to help poor nations. He teaches that "the way humanity treats the environment influences the way it treats itself, and vice versa."In other words, a society that finds people expendable will find nature expendable.He declares that "a lack of respect for the right to life" weakens the "conscience of society" and its grasp of "human ecology" and thus "environmental ecology."As he observes, "The book of nature is one and indivisible."

The first encyclical letter of his pontificate, Deus caritas est. . . , summarizes thye pope's teachings on love. He reminds us that all our actions as Christians must be informed by a clear understanding of our faith. "God's love for us is fundamental for our lives, and it raises important questions about who God is and who we are," he said. Since God has loved us first, love is less a "command" that the response to the gift of God's love.

For Pope Benedict, love encompasses the whole of human existence. Man needs to both give love and receive it as a gift. The Eucharistic communion, he says, includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn. "A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented," he said.

An "intimate encounter with God" leads to a "communion of will" in which we learn to look at the other person from the perspective of Jesus Christ. The pope expresses beautifully what this means when he writes: "Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave."

Opening his pontificate with a letter on love was both a wise move and a true "act of love" for the Church, in which he showed he clearly understood his new role as the universal pastor. God's love is so fundamental to human existence that the pope did not hide in the opening statements the reason for this letter, which would set the tone of his pontificate: "to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others."

The unprecedented resignation by a humble man aware of the weaknesses of old age testified to his love of the church. When he felt he couldn't give the papacy everything that he saw was needed, he did what hadn't been done in about 600 years – he stepped aside for a life of prayer. The teacher and scholar choose another pastoral service to the church to whom he has given his entire life.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Only Positive, Appropriate Comments Please! -Joseph