It still hasn’t quite sunk in. While the fact that Pope Benedict XVI announced his decision to resign as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church is by now old news, I have yet to adjust to the fact that this brilliant theologian and teacher has humbly decided to move aside and retreat to a monastic life of prayer.
Yes, I know he never wanted to be pope in the first place and yes, I recall quite well the comments he made in April 2005 as he was accepting his new role as the head of the Roman Catholic Church. He admitted publicly what he really wanted was to retreat back to his native Bavaria to pray, write, read and play the piano. Even with those statements in mind, I still can’t imagine our Church without Pope Benedict at the helm.
When it comes to Pope Benedict, I admit it I am selfish. I want to hear what he has to say every week at the Wednesday audience. I look forward to his reflections each Sunday after the Angelus. Listeners of my daily radio show know that they are going to get their regular dose of him when they tune in. They understand that I am a Pope Benedict groupie of sorts, as I follow his every move and every word, sharing with them what he has to say on issues of the day. A dear friend of mine, Father John Riccardo, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in suburban Detroit, and fellow Ave Maria Radio hosts enjoy teasing me about how often I use the words “he’s so clear” to describe Pope Benedict’s instructions to the faithful.
I can’t help it. This pope speaks to my heart, and I guess that’s why my heart breaks when I think about him no longer sitting in the chair of Peter. Of course, I have every confidence that the Lord left us in good hands and that the princes of the Church will continue to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit and give us another vicar well suited for the challenging times facing Catholicism in the 21st century. But Benedict will also be forever special to me. Thanks to my work in Catholic media the last 10 years, I have had the opportunity to lead many pilgrimages to Rome and attend a number of papal audiences. It was five years ago that I attended the Vatican congress on the 20th anniversary of Blessed John Paul II’s ground-breaking document, Mulieris Dignitatem (“On the Dignity and Vocation of Women”). We delegates were treated to a private audience with the pope during that gathering, and his stunning words concerning the true dignity of women inspired me to learn more about what Jesus and the Church has to say about our unique gifts regarding what women can do to help change the world.
What I will miss the most is the accessibility to one of the greatest thinkers and one of the most holy men of our time. After all, Pope Benedict used every technological tool available to spread the Gospel and to stay connected to his flock. During his pontificate, a number of Vatican websites were revamped and made much more user friendly. The pope has had his own YouTube page, along with a huge following on Twitter. His effective use of the media kept him close to home. And as Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver stated in a recent column, the humility shown in Pope Benedict’s recent decision makes us love, respect and soon miss him even more.
“To the world it is unsettling to imagine a man with global influence and practical power, moving to a small room, in a house of prayer where he’ll offer Mass and probably practice the piano,” the archbishop wrote. “But Benedict XVI has never been interested in power or influence. He has been interested in friendship with Jesus Christ — his, and mine, and yours.”
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 160.
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