Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pilgrim and Papa

The kids and I just watched the coverage of Benedict XVI's resignation from the papacy.  Gosh, how hard this is.  You don't expect that a pope will be pope forever, but there is something so surprising and surreal when it is time to say goodbye.

I was born under the pontificate of John Paul II, but really came of age with the influence of Benedict XVI, under his reign.  His encyclical Deus Caritas Est was the centerpiece of my thesis for undergrad.  His words and his quiet presence, his strongminded gentleness have inspired me more than I can say.

And now he retires to a quiet life, the life he envisioned for himself before the Holy Spirit called him to a place where he did not ever see himself going.  I am so thankful for his papacy, and although I miss him horribly already I am thankful for his example of quiet, invisible yet unmistakable holiness that he will now live in seclusion.  Now he can live the life of holiness hidden from the world.  That so great a man can leave the chair of St. Peter for a monastic life instead reminds me of how every day there are hidden saints among us, living quiet holiness and working out their salvation in fear and trembling.

Benedict's greatness comes from his love for Christ, whether he lives as pope or as someone who prays without ceasing.  As simple as it sounds, love made him who he is regardless of what setting he is in.  In some ways, his retirement is a gift.  A painful one but one that can't help but remind me of his beautiful writing.  Man cannot life by bread alone, nor can he love by agape alone.  It is not enough to try to be of service to all people, to be for them, to pour yourself out.  Without eros, without the humility to be filled by the love of a God greater than anything that you can offer, true charity is not possible.

Benedict's life has been one given over to love.  Even as an unlikely pope who would have been more at home in prayerful reflection and solitude, he has lived and loved well.  He has sought God in all things and offered himself in love for others in all things.  Well done, good and faithful servant.  Go forward in joy to the place that has been prepared for you.  You are so very loved, and will be missed.

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