(Page 4 of 4)
It was no accident that the first World Youth Day under the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI was already scheduled to occur in Cologne, Germany. The event held in August of 2005 brought record crowds of the young to greet the German pope. The young men and women who gathered in Germany heard from the first German pope in 1000 years, Benedict XVI. He called them to holiness and to radical discipleship. He called them to the re-evangelization of Europe, indeed of the whole world. He continued, without missing a beat, to proclaim the same inspired Gospel message and issue the same kind of challenging call to discipleship and missions that his predecessor and friend Pope John Paul II had proclaimed. And the young people took him into their hearts. The crowds, contrary to some predictions, have not diminished under Pope Benedict XVI. They have actually increased. His next stop in evangelizing an entire new generation of young Catholic missionaries is Australia.
Benedict the builder understood that the task had fallen to him now to teach the next generation and then enlist them in the mission of the Church for this Third Millennium. He has passionately dedicated himself to the task.
Finally, I recall his first homily as Pope. In retrospect it gave more clues to what would occur during this wonderful Pontificate:
"Dear Ones, this intimate recognition for a gift of divine mercy prevails in my heart in spite of everything. I consider this a grace obtained for me by my venerated predecessor, John Paul II. It seems I can feel his strong hand squeezing mine; I seem to see his smiling eyes and listen to his words, addressed to me especially at this moment: 'Do not be afraid!'"
In that beautiful homily, he affirmed all that Pope John Paul taught and recommitted himself to continuing its implementation in continuity with the Tradition. He even emphasized the work of authentic ecumenism proclaiming:
"Thus, in full awareness and at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome that Peter bathed with his blood, the current Successor assumes as his primary commitment that of working tirelessly towards the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, this is his compelling duty. He is aware that to do so, expressions of good feelings are not enough. Concrete gestures are required to penetrate souls and move consciences, encouraging everyone to that interior conversion which is the basis for all progress on the road of ecumenism.
Theological dialogue is necessary. A profound examination of the historical reasons behind past choices is also indispensable. But even more urgent is that 'purification of memory,' which was so often evoked by John Paul II, and which alone can dispose souls to welcome the full truth of Christ. It is before Him, supreme Judge of all living things, that each of us must stand, in the awareness that one day we must explain to Him what we did and what we did not do for the great good that is the full and visible unity of all His disciples.
The current Successor of Peter feels himself to be personally implicated in this question and is disposed to do all in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism. In the wake of his predecessors, he is fully determined to cultivate any initiative that may seem appropriate to promote contact and agreement with representatives from the various Churches and ecclesial communities. Indeed, on this occasion too, he sends them his most cordial greetings in Christ, the one Lord of all.
In this moment, I go back in my memory to the unforgettable experience we all underwent with the death and the funeral of the lamented John Paul II. Around his mortal remains, lying on the bare earth, leaders of nations gathered, with people from all social classes and especially the young, in an unforgettable embrace of affection and admiration. The entire world looked to him with trust. To many it seemed as if that intense participation, amplified to the confines of the planet by the social communications media, was like a choral request for help addressed to the Pope by modern humanity which, wracked by fear and uncertainty, questions itself about the future.
The Church today must revive within herself an awareness of the task to present the world again with the voice of the One who said: 'I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.' In undertaking his ministry, the new Pope knows that his task is to bring the light of Christ to shine before the men and women of today: not his own light but that of Christ."
Pope Benedict XVI's ministry has been that of a builder, working in continuity with the 2,000 year teaching of the Catholic Church and helping to ensure that the proper understanding of the great treasure left by his predecessor, and the proper understanding of the Second Vatican Council becomes reality. He has also surprised many, particularly in the area of ecumenism. I believe that he is leading the Church into a Catholic Millennium. Though things may at times seem dark, I believe even more than I did on that day when I heard those words "Habemus Papem" that we will see the springtime that his predecessor, our beloved Pope John Paul, prophetically anticipated.
I also believe that we are witnessing the beginnings of the coming full communion of the Church, East and West, as the "two lungs" on the One Body of Christ begin to breathe together again in order to animate this new missionary age. We are beginning to witness the recovery of the Catholic academy through the rebuilding of some institutions almost lost to the Church and the building of new ones. We are seeing the flourishing of good, solid theological and philosophical work along with a flourishing of the arts and human culture, led by the Church, as it has been in ages past. He, like his namesake, is helping as well to bring the Christian influence back to Europe and beyond.
This mission task of building has not been easy. And, it will probably get even more difficult. The old adage is true; it always seems darkest before the dawn. Those who wanted to try to change the teaching and doctrine of the Church are deeply disappointed. However, for all of us who hunger for a vibrant, faithful, dynamically orthodox Catholic Church, the source of all truth, the God who is Truth, has once again been true to his promise to Peter, "upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against her".
The writings of this Builder Pope have only just begun.
His first two Encyclical letters, "God is Love" (Deus Caritas Est) and "Saved by Hope" (Spe Salvi) evidence the kind of vision of a unity of life which forms the foundation for the Churches Social teaching. In the first, a deeply theological and profoundly spiritual teaching on love, he spent the second half of the letter giving a developed teaching on the demands and implications of social charity as an integral fruit of this theological virtue. In the second, a reflection on Biblical hope, he underscored as well its social expressions. The message is clear; living out the Gospel has social implications. The ongoing work of the Redemption, accomplished in Jesus Christ, is now mediated through his Body the Church and is intended to effect a transformation of the world.
Some sources indicate that he has completed and will soon release his Third Encyclical letter. It is to be a specifically social encyclical, a reflection on the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's, "On the Progress of the People" (Popolorum Progressio). This pope is a scholar and understands the importance of His teaching office with a carefulness which properly becomes the Church's "theologian in chief". It is probably no accident that the release of his Third Encyclical will coincide with the 40th anniversary of "On the Progress of the People". Some reports indicate that Pope Benedict will dedicate his third Encyclical to "faith", the third of the theological virtues. Perhaps, as he did with love and hope, the other two theological virtues, he will, in his masterful way, show how faith is to be expressed in its social dimension.We will soon find out.
Sources also indicate that he will authorize a revision of the Compendium to be released following the release of the Encyclical. Throughout the Compendium the connection between living faith and authentic social concern is beautifully expounded. The message is simple, Christians are called to inform their entire lives, personal, familial, social, cultural, economic and political, by their faith and thus to live, what the Compendium calls "...an integral and solidary humanism".
The Social teaching of the Catholic Church is meant to inform and influence social, economic, political and cultural life, primarily through the work of lay Christians who not only know it but have committed themselves to live by it, making it the foundation of their work in service to human society and the common good. This teaching is called "social" because it speaks to human society and to the formation, role and rightful place of social institutions. It reveals principles and truths that can be known by all men and women - because they are revealed in the Natural law. These truths and principles are also confirmed by - and expounded upon in - Revelation.
Thus, this body of teaching is not simply "religious", in the sense that it is intended only for religious persons. It offers insights that are of tremendous value to all men and women- and it offers them for every nation. The Introduction of the Compendium addresses all men and women with these words: "To the people of our time, our traveling companions, the Church also offers her social doctrine. In fact, when the Church ‘fulfills her mission of proclaiming the Gospel, she bears witness to man, in the name of Christ, to his dignity and his vocation to the communion of persons." The reason for the social teaching is to serve the common good. This is another area of deep concern to this builder Pope. He is well aware of the separation between the faith professed by too many Catholics and the way they conduct themselves in Public Square. Clearly, he has his trowel in hand and is ready to rebuild an entire framework for reasserting catholic Social Teaching.
As Pope Benedict graces our Nation with this visit, each one of us should join together in fervent prayer for his health, protection and the continued assistance of the Holy Spirit for him as he discharges his office. We should also rededicate ourselves to standing in solidarity with him, taking our own place in the Mission of rebuilding the Church. Finally, we should give our assent to embracing fully the teaching of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and redouble our efforts to live that teaching in every area of our lives, becoming missionaries in this new missionary age.
Benedict the Builder comes to America. "Be Not Afraid!"
- - -Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.Keywords:
More Pope in America News
Support our Sponsors