Papal words to ponder

One of my favorite ways to learn about my faith and to grow in my relationship with God is to read the writings of Pope Benedict XVI. For some reason, the pope’s words always hit me right between the eyes and strike me smack dab in the heart. Whether it is something he said during his weekly general audience, his message after the Sunday Angelus prayer or a statement in reaction to breaking news in the world, I always find him to be a profoundly clear and prolific teacher. 

That’s why at the top of my list of resolutions for 2013 is to look back at some of the pope’s words of wisdom in 2012. I try to read as much of Pope Benedict as I can. However, often I find that reading takes place in the middle of an already jam-packed day. So, I do almost a speed reading of the document, letter or article without really taking the necessary time to deeply reflect and pray about what I have just absorbed. Initially, because of the pope’s way with words, my reaction is usually “wow” or “how true.” But then I put it aside and get back to the task at hand, which is why taking a second look is at the top of my hit parade. 

Recently I went back to the article he wrote for the Financial Times. The article originated from a request made by the newspaper asking for the pope’s comments regarding Christmas and on the release of his latest book on Jesus’ infancy. Here the pope reminds us that the birth of Christ should challenge us to “reassess our priorities, our values, our very way of life.” 

“While Christmas is undoubtedly a time of great joy it is also an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience. At the end of a year that has mean economic hardship for many, what can we learn from the humility, the poverty, the simplicity of the crib scene?” 

OK, here we are technically only a few weeks past all the Christmas celebrations. How many of us have long stopped pondering the manger scene or, for that matter, can even remember where we stored the manger for next year? Going back to that article forced me to think about how I need to spend more time, and not just during Advent and Christmas, reflecting on the Incarnation. 

“Christmas can be the time in which we learn to read the Gospel, to get to know Jesus not only as the Child in the manger, but as the one in whom we recognize God made Man. It is in the Gospel that Christians find inspiration for their daily lives and their involvement in worldly affairs — be it in the Houses of Parliament or the Stock Exchange. Christians shouldn’t shun the world; they should engage with it. But their involvement in politics and economics should transcend every form of ideology.” 

See what I mean? Here comes that “wow” factor again. Just chewing on this paragraph for a while can help us put the election into a clearer perspective in terms of those in office who claim to be Catholic but can’t seem to rise above today’s political correctness. The pope forced me to take stock of how I may in some ways also be buying into instead of standing up against the ideologies and actions that are in direct conflict with the teachings of the Church. 

So, before you move forward full force into 2013, go back to some of the writings of our pope and other great Catholic teachers. In addition to www.osv.com, some of my favorite resources include www.zenit.org, www.ewtnnews.com and www.news.va. This is one resolution you won’t mind keeping, and as a matter of fact will be the gift that just keeps giving by putting that extra spiritual spring in all those steps you plan to take this year. 

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.

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