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By Deacon Keith Fournier

2/13/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The day began with Pope Francis sending a message over twitter : Today I ask you to join me in prayer for His Holiness Benedict XVI, a man of great courage and humility.

The Church was truly blessed to have Pope Benedict XVI at the helm of the Bark of Peter as she sailed into the Third Christian Millennium. Now he is a monk, enclosed within the Vatican, praying for his successor and friend, Our Holy Father Francis.The different personalities and styles of these two men is a testimony to the diversity which has always been present in the Church, since the first twelve were called by the Master. My heart is often drawn back to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. I miss him. He was and is such a humble and holy man. Now, he is a monk. I believe that the monastic life he has now chosen will not only continue his path to sanctity, but strengthen the whole Church and add to the theological treasury of the Church.

His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is now encountering Jesus, every day. His prayer of intercession is assisting the Church in ways which we will only understand in the beauty and light of eternity. My heart tells me that his hidden contemplation will give birth to future writing, even if it is released after he enters the fullness of the communion of love. I believe that his work is far from over. In fact, it is possible that the work which he is doing now may have effects we cannot yet even comprehend.

His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is now encountering Jesus, every day. His prayer of intercession is assisting the Church in ways which we will only understand in the beauty and light of eternity. My heart tells me that his hidden contemplation will give birth to future writing, even if it is released after he enters the fullness of the communion of love. I believe that his work is far from over. In fact, it is possible that the work which he is doing now may have effects we cannot yet even comprehend.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/13/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Papal resignation, monks, anniversary, Pope Francis, Fr Randy Sly, Chair of St Peter, Ordinariate, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online)-  February 11, 2014 marked the one year anniversary of the voluntary stepping aside of Pope Emeritus Benedict from his Petrine ministry. He is now a monk, spending the remainder of his days in intercession and prayer for the Church he loves and, as he openly states, for his successor in the Chair of Peter, his friend and brother Bishop, Francis.

The day began with Pope Francis sending a  message over twitter : Today I ask you to join me in prayer for His Holiness Benedict XVI, a man of great courage and humility.

Hopefully enough time has passed for the inaccurate effort by some in the media to incorrectly contrast Benedict and Francis to end. Pope Francis has openly affirmed his deep respect and affection for his predecessor in his regular comments, homilies and his teaching magisterium.

I was not surprised when the resignation happened. I had been sensing that he was not to be with us much longer.  I watched closely for word on his declining health. Like many I had noted his frailty over the last year of his pontificate as he took to using assistance in his mobility. Then came the humble announcement from the Successor of Peter who earned that title "Servant of the Servants of God". 

I immediately thought back to the day in 2005 when the announcement of his election to the Petrine ministry was made. "Habemus Papem", "We Have a Pope!" the Cardinal announced. Pope Benedict XVI stepped forward onto the balcony overlooking St. Peters Square calling himself "a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord." The applause was uproarious. The joy filled not only that Square but the hearts of millions throughout the entire world who had prayed for this moment.

He continued "that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers. In the joy of the risen Lord, trusting in his permanent help, we go forward."  Then the questions began. All of them related to one singular question "Where will the Pope lead us?" Morning papers and television commentaries were filled with alleged answers. They ranged from ecstatic commentary to morose complaint, depending, as if often the case, on the speaker or writers positions on the so called hot button issues that the dominant media culture was obsessed about.

However, like his beloved predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, Benedict XVI was never so obsessed. In fact, he approached the world in an entirely different way. That way is the ever ancient but ever new way of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as lived, loved, proclaimed and taught by the Catholic Church for two millennia. He, like John Paul, could not be fit into the tired labels that so many try to fit him into. He was and is simply a faithful Catholic Christian.

I was overcome with gratitude and hope for the future when I heard the news while I was visiting with a priest friend in Richmond, Virginia. We were immersed in an intense conversation when another friend, then still a Bishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, called me on my cell phone to tell me the news. "Have you heard?" he asked, "Habemus Papem, We have a Pope!" he proclaimed, hardly able to contain his own joy. My priest friend and I immediately turned the television on and, with the entire world, witnessed history.

One day later, I realized how significant it was that a Christian from another community told me, a Catholic Deacon, that "we" had a Pope. I believed it was a seed and sign of the movement of the Holy Spirit toward the coming full communion of the whole Christian Church. Then on the day of the announcement given to his brother cardinals, while I was still engaged in my morning prayer, that same man informed me of the news of a papal resignation!

However, he is himself a fruit of the ministry of Pope Benedict. Shortly after the announcement in 2005, my friend resigned his ministry and began the process which led him into full communion with the Catholic Church. I was privileged to help catechize he and his wife Sandy. He had no assurance of any ordained ministry; he was just drawn by the splendor of truth which is the ancient but ever new Catholic faith and could not resist its pull.

"How very fitting" I thought to myself "that Fr Randy Sly would inform me of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI". He did so while he was on his way to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Fr Randy Sly was one of the first to be ordained to the holy priesthood for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, approved by Benedict XVI for orders. He now serves as a Catholic priest. He and the priests brothers ordained with him, and after him, are but one of the many fruits of the extraordinary pontificate of Benedict. 

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is one of the most brilliant, insightful and fecund theologians of the age. He knew the need for a New Evangelization and he understood the challenges that the Church faced as she walked forward to the Third Christian Millennium. He was present at and participated in the Second Vatican Council. He understands the authentic teaching of that Council and has led the way in its proper implementation in many areas of life, both within the Church and in her mission to the modern world.

He also understood the way that the Council was hijacked in some circles, disregarded in others and absolutely misinterpreted in still others. He was a voice for dynamic orthodox and faithful Catholic Christian faith, practice, worship and life. In his homily prior to the convening of the conclave where he was chosen to fill the Chair of Peter, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger gave a prophetic insight:

"How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking... The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth.

"Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. "Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching," looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires
."

Some attempted to misuse that insight to paint him as rejecting the modern world. That was nonsense. What he rejected is the emptiness of modernity and what he aptly referred to as the dictatorship of relativism. What he proposed was a different path, not to the past, but to a future of hope and authentic freedom in Jesus Christ.

He reaffirmed the saving and liberating truth that paves that path to authentic human flourishing and freedom. It is to be found in Jesus Christ who proclaimed that He is the "Way, the Truth and the Life." Jesus reminds every person in every age, that we can "know the truth" and that "the truth will set you free." Benedict was his mouthpiece and Vicar. He discharged the office with beauty, holiness and inspiring fidelity.

His choice of the name Benedict was a sign of how his pontificate would unfold. One of the young priests who commented on his election noted that then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger visited Subiaco, where St Benedict went to pray, before all the events in Rome began. He prayed and rededicated himself to the work of the Church for the future. Benedict the great monk helped to rebuild the Church of his age and spread the influence of Christendom. Pope Benedict XVI laid the seeds for a similar work in the Third Millennium. Pope Francis is now watering many of the young plants.  

I remember the first homily of Pope Benedict: "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!'

He 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."

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was anything but a caretaker pope, as some predicted when he was elected.. He was a rebuilder of theological, liturgical and pastoral foundations which needed to be shored up. I believe he will go down in history as one of the great popes. He continued the pastoral visits of his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II with amazingly fruitful travels around the world. He pastorally and decisively dealt with serious matters concerning the need for a purification of the Church. 

He became what he told us he was when he began his service, a "simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord" Notice how little fanfare accompanied his historic resignation! Clearly, to this successor of Peter, it was simply not about him, but about the Lord whom he serves. His diminutive size and humble manner reveal the holy heart of this man totally given over to the Lord. He was - and is - so refreshingly counter cultural in this age of narcissism and self love.

He is a scholar of the highest order, yet he was able to communicate with simplicity and beauty because he is a man of deep prayer. He gave continual teaching to the faithful - including some of the finest hagiography in centuries - during his Wednesday Catecheses. He made Church history, when Motu Propio (on his own authority), he released of the Apostolic Constitution on Groups of Anglicans which began the healing of the divided Western Church. The fruits of these Ordinariates will be recounted by future historians as among the most important events in the Third Millennium of the Church.

He earned the great respect of Patriarchs and leaders of the Orthodox Church and made progress toward some form of communion between Eastern and Western Christianity which could make the Third Millennium a millennium of communion. He championed the re-christianizing of Europe and passionately promoted the New Evangelization of the Church - even establishing a new Pontifical Council on the New Evangelization. He was a champion of the New Ecclesial movements and helped to ensure that they are rooted in the heart of the Church and received as gift for the missionary work of the Church in this hour.

He doggedly defended the Christian roots of the West and defended religious freedom as a fundamental human right. He engaged the Islamic world with great charity and courage on the ground of dialogue in truth. He began the Courts of the Gentiles outreach engaging atheists and agnostics. 

The Church was truly blessed to have Pope Benedict XVI at the helm of the Bark of Peter as she sailed into the Third Christian Millennium. Now he is a monk, enclosed within the Vatican, praying for his successor and friend, Our Holy Father Francis.The different personalities and styles of these two men is a testimony to the diversity which has always been present in the Church, since the first twelve were called by the Master.
 
My heart is often drawn back to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. I miss him. He was and is such a humble and holy man. Now, he is a monk. I believe that the monastic life he has now chosen will not only continue his path to sanctity, but strengthen the whole Church and add to the theological treasury of the Church.

Monks are a treasure of the Church. No matter how much formal theological study they have, it is their depth of prayer which makes them the best of theologians. So it is with His Holiness, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Evagrius of Pontus once wrote "a theologian is one who prays and one who prays is a theologian."  

Out of the storehouse of grace monk/theologians help the faithful in their pursuit of the longing of every human heart - communion and intimacy with the God who has revealed Himself in the face of Jesus Christ.  What is necessary is to encounter Him, contemplate the beauty and be transformed in the encounter.

His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is now encountering Jesus, every day. His prayer of intercession is assisting the Church in ways which we will only understand in the beauty and light of eternity. My heart tells me that his hidden contemplation will give birth to future writing, even if it is released after he enters the fullness of the communion of love. I believe that his work is far from over. In fact, it is possible that the work which he is doing now may have effects we cannot yet even comprehend.

Monastic life and spirituality is labor immersed in prayer. I believe that the brilliant theologian and monk named Benedict, from that cloister right within the walls of the Vatican, is still writing from the depth of his prayer and contemplation. I will venture to propose that some of his best writing may still be ahead. It is his unfinished work. Let us continue to pray for Benedict XVI and give him the honor he so deserves.Church history will record him as one of the great Popes.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


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Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


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