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Remembering Pope Benedict XVI on His Birthday

I first learned of Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, from his former student, Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, during lectures he gave at two Catholic conferences at the University of Notre Dame. I remember Father Fessio describing Cardinal Ratzinger as a brilliant yet humble man who was always kind, a great help to Pope Saint John Paul II, and resolutely dedicated to teaching the truth of the Catholic Faith. He explained and defended the Church’s teachings amidst confusion by leading the committee that wrote the Catechism of the Catholic Church and through his work as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. I began to pray for him, and he became part of my family in the Church. When Saint John Paul II died, I prayed that Cardinal Ratzinger would be our next Pope, and I thank God that he was.

At his homily the day before being elected, Cardinal Ratzinger named and condemned the tyranny of relativism. He preached:

Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be ‘tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine,’ seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.
We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An ‘adult’ faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth.
We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith – only faith – that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.”
(Ratzinger, 2005)

As a theologian and as Pope, he showed us that truth exists, does not change, and is found in Jesus.

From the beginning of his papacy, Pope Benedict emphasized that he would not be pursuing his own vision for the Church but would strive to enact God’s vision. In the homily for the Mass for the Inauguration of the Pontificate, he said: “My real programme of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him, so that He himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history” (Ratzinger, 2005).

Pope Benedict was not afraid to share his weaknesses and limitations. He felt the difficulty of becoming Pope as an older person with health problems. He was not physically strong; he was not comfortable with large crowds or with being the focus of attention. He also knew the great challenges he would experience in a world that is hostile to Christianity. He relied on God to give him the strength needed and on us to support him with our prayers. I will always remember his humble request at his Inaugural Mass:

My dear friends – at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more – in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will learn to carry one another.”
(Ratzinger, 2005)

We needed him as our Holy Father, and he needed us to help him in his mission.

Read more at Catholic Exchange 

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