Tomorrow marks the end of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. I thought it appropriate to spend a few minutes thanking the Holy Father for his service, and for making the brave decision to resign from the Chair of Saint Peter. Why was this decision brave? Because it demonstrates for us that even the Holy Father himself must answer Christ’s call, and it seems very clear that Pope Benedict feels that the Lord was calling him to serve in a quiet life of prayer and permit the Chair of Saint Peter to be filled be someone younger, more vigorous, and more physically capable of continuing the fight.
In his final Wednesday audience, the Pope expressed thanks and gratitude for the opportunity to serve, and also articulated his personal reflections on the struggles and the times when “the Lord appeared to be sleeping.” It seems that Pope Benedict, like Mother Teresa and countless others before him, experienced a long dark night of the soul during his pontificate. He continued this reflection in noting that the Church is not his, nor ours, but Christ’s, and that is what we must remain focused on. To me, this reflects an profound example of maturity of worship. Pope Benedict continues to follow Christ’s command, even in some cases when it feels like he is not present. That is the essence of true worship and true trust, and the acknowledgement that God is always with us, even when he withdraws… and I believe that is why he withdraws, so people with profound integrity of spirit can show with their example how God should be praised.
The Holy Father continued, “Loving the Church means also having the courage to make difficult and painful choices, keeping always the good of the Church at the fore and not our own.” I pray that I am able in my life to follow the example that Pope Benedict provides us, to meet Christ wherever He is and lead wherever He follows.
Thank you, Pope Benedict, for the gifts of your writing and the strong leadership that you provided the Church. Your term as pontiff may be over, but you have proven to be a good and faithful servant of Christ. I hope that your life of quiet, reflective prayer helps to bring you closer to the Lord and that the Holy Spirit blesses your successor to lead the Church with the same care that you did.
The photo for this article was taken from CatholicVote’s Facebook page.