"If I have seen further," Sir Isaac Newton wrote, "it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." A look back on Pope Benedict XVI's crusade against relativism reveals the legacy of his short pontificate to be no fleeting scene in the drama of our times. Amongst the many theological treasures he has bestowed upon the faithful, Benedict's crowning achievement is the restoration of order to the liturgy, equipping his 21st century knights with the graces necessary for Western Civilization's last stand.
TUCSON, AZ (Catholic Online) - "The Church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning," stated then-Father Ratzinger in a 1969 Hessian Rundfunk radio speech. "Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then, they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret."
Fast forward to last Sunday's Angelus ceremony, during which His Holiness stated, "The time of testing is here." With the promulgation of the HHS mandate and the promotion of same-sex partnerships in the U.S., economic and reproductive freefall in Europe, and the formation of a united, militant Islamic Middle East, the Pope's forecast is clear: Catholics today are embarking on a journey of persecution.
Benedict began his Episcopal career grounded in the belief that a smaller, holier Church was in the works. And now, with his papal resignation, Benedict's shining light as the North Star uniting the galaxies of moral and dogmatic theology has finally dimmed. As Catholics around the world witness the supernova of his pontificate, the elements of a structured and unified liturgical realm will ultimately nurture the growth of a new constellation of Catholic leaders, the young men and women who matured during his pontificate: Generation Benedict XVI.
In the U.S. alone, the past forty years have witnessed Catholics turning their backs on their spiritual home of Rome, with reports by the Guttmacher Institute stating over 60% of women reject Church teachings on birth control and the Public Religion Research Institute finding that only 38% of Catholics attend weekly Mass. Top those numbers off with the lack of Catholicity exhibited by self-identified Catholic politicians and the question then arises, "If the Church is the true Faith, just why have so many of Her members run away?" Examining the situation from a secular, sociological point of view, the most fitting answer would seem to be that the Church is not with the times.
However, delving through the Summa Theologica and CCC, it is clear that the answer is supernatural: there has been a lack of sanctifying grace in the world, a rejection of the sacraments.
In his autobiography, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, then-Cardinal Ratzinger reflected upon changes in the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council, "The old building was demolished, and another was built.this has caused us enormous harm.I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy." Having built the foundation of his theological vision on the timelessness of the Church and Her teachings, Cardinal Ratzinger was the papal candidate most capable of arming the Church Militant for the coming struggle. "In the inferno that swallowed up the powerful," then-Ratzinger recalled about the years of Nazi Occupation, "[the Church] had stood firm with a force coming to her from eternity."
At 85-years-old, the 265th successor of St. Peter could have labored more in the natural realm, spending his time globetrotting, as his predecessor did, but this pope, in his special wisdom, knew to fight fire with fire. We've witnessed Benedict XVI fighting a supernatural crisis in the only logical way possible: with supernatural means.
While many believed Pope Benedict to be an interim pontiff, he proved them wrong. Pope Benedict XVI has left his stamp on the Church outside the realm of time, outside the physical world. His restoration of the treasure that is the Latin Mass and more accurate revision of the Novus Ordo are yielding progress on the Catholic front that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Benedict XVI's legacy is the liberation of the liturgy, existing only in the hidden, spiritual realm as of now, with graces he has opened up from Heaven, sewing in silence.
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