The Benedictine Surprise

February 11, 2013, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

PopeBenedict3Yesterday Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from the Papacy effective February 28, 8 p.m. Rome time. Perhaps those closest to him knew he was going to do this, but obviously many in the Vatican and Curia were taken totally by surprise based on their own words. Certainly the faithful the world over were shocked. I know I woke up today completely dumbfounded.

Popes have resigned before for various reasons, but it’s been 597 years since Pope Gregory XII voluntarily stepped down at the behest of the Council of Constance in order to end the Western Schism. Until today, no other Pope has resigned his ministry.

In his official resignation letter Pope Benedict wrote:

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, [his decision was not a spur of the moment affair but one taken after much prayer and discernment] I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.

I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. [The Pope doesn’t shrink from the demands of his office, nor the prayer and suffering that it requires. He has become too physically weak to carry on.] For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom [the Pope cannot be forced to resign by anyone] I declare that I renounce the ministry [the office of the papacy is one of service just as Christ emphasized at the Last Supper when He washed the feet of the apostles] of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. [How many outgoing Presidents or Governors of countries would ask for pardon? A beautiful example here of humility. Nobody’s perfect. Is it not important to ask for pardon for our failures or defects of leadership?] And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013

The Holy Father will go to Castel Gondolfo to rest until he can return to the Vatican and reside in a cloistered monastery there, spending the rest of his life in prayer and penance.  He will not be on the world stage again, nor will he have any role in the governance of the Church, but his legacy as a great teacher and theologian will endure.  I am very grateful for his motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, his encyclicals, and his books. Most of all I am grateful for his holiness and example, and his fearless declaration of the Gospel and Church teachings.  I am very sad to see him step down, but I believe he is doing the right thing for the Church and the world.

Last night I woke up and was thinking about all the kinds of sin in the world. Sex trafficking in East Asia, the belligerent oppression of the communist Kim dictatorship of North Korea, the kidnapping and forced labor of children in Africa and Asia, the worldwide drug syndicates, the corruption of Wall Street, the United Nation policies of abortion and contraception, the abortion machines in all countries of the world, the Chinese one child policy and forced abortion there, vivisection of Uigurs by the Chinese for human organ transplants, the Obama administration’s death care policies, and on and on.

“Lord,” I prayed, “we need a whole lot of monasteries of contemplatives, each dedicated to the eradication of a specific sin to pray for deliverance of this world from those evils.  I wish I could put one full of holy souls near the centers of all these evils to do spiritual combat.” When I heard of the Pope’s plans I thought that maybe God was showing me His plan – sic the German Shepherd on the evils of this world from behind the cloister walls. Not conventional warfare, but powerful nonetheless. Perhaps it will inspire many others, especially retired bishops to do the same. Power retiring in dignity and humility but still working invisibly for the salvation of souls.

No one knows how much longer God will leave Benedict on this earth but we were very blessed to have him for our Pope.  We can be sure that the next Holy Father will need our prayers and penance just as much as this one.  Whatever our Lenten intentions are, maybe we should add the intention of offering up our fasting, abstinence, prayers, almsgiving, suffering and good works for the strength of the next Pope to fearlessly lead the world to Christ and carry on the legacy of Ratzinger.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

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Monday, February 11th, 2013 Catholic Church

13 Comments to The Benedictine Surprise

  1. Good post, Barbara. I will miss hearing and seeing him, but I have several more books of his to read, so have plenty more to learn from him. May God bless us with yet another holy, gifted, faithful, loving Pontiff. God Bless You!

  2. Colleen on February 11th, 2013
  3. Prayers for this and the next Pope, and may we thank them for their service to the Church.

    God bless.
    Victor S E Moubarak recently posted..Faith? What Faith?

  4. Victor S E Moubarak on February 11th, 2013
  5. Victor, we owe a great debt to this pope and yes, may we offer praise and thanksgiving to God for Him.

    Colleen, I also have books of his that I want to read. Saying good-bye to him is hard – as hard as saying good-bye to Pius XII who is the only other Pope I’ve felt so deeply toward, although I also loved JP II. We are so fortunate to have a legacy of great writings of his to ponder.

  6. barb on February 11th, 2013
  7. That’s a good way to look at it. His sacrifice and prayer will be powerful support for the church and the next Pope. The next Pope will feel good about having Benedict right there in prayer.
    MichaelMaedoc recently posted..Unjust Use of Force, Not Really A Choice

  8. MichaelMaedoc on February 16th, 2013
  9. As soon as I heard the announcement, I began praying immediately for the Spirit to bring us the Pope we need…whatever that means for the Church. And yet it seems silly to pray for it, because it’s not like He *wouldn’t*, you know? I guess this is another one of those prayers that’s not to shape God’s will, but to form ours in union with His.
    Kathleen Basi recently posted..Sunday Snippets

  10. Kathleen Basi on February 17th, 2013
  11. I was surprized and sad when I heard that our Holy Father was resigning. At the same time I admire his courage and willingness to do what he believes God is calling him to do.

    Thank you for your beautiful reflection on his leaving.
    Carol@simple_catholic recently posted..Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival (February 17, 2013)

  12. Carol@simple_catholic on February 17th, 2013
  13. I love this Pope. He is so holy and inspiring. And he is not leaving us!

  14. barb on February 17th, 2013
  15. Kathleen, we really do need to pray for the right Pope because we are not guaranteed we will get him. All we know for sure is that God will not abandon the Body of Christ.

  16. barb on February 17th, 2013
  17. B16 has a set a valuable precedent.
    Christian recently posted..A Cheap Bible

  18. Christian on February 17th, 2013
  19. I agree, and whatever laws he signs into existence concerning this will protect the papacy and the Church. I have been very impressed with his ability, from the start, to be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove. A lot of people underestimate him and it will be to their grave disappointment.

  20. barb on February 17th, 2013
  21. We have been so blessed by the papacy of Benedict XVI. I, too, will miss him, Barb, but like you, I understand and agree with his decision, which is courageous and humble as he is. May God continue his ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit, as he devotes himself to the prayer he love, his study, reflection and teaching, I hope.
    Joann recently posted..Mercy Triumphs!–VIDEO

  22. Joann on February 17th, 2013
  23. Beautiful post, Barb. I also began praying as soon as I heard the news that the Pope was resigning. And I trust him and understand his decision. He has been a wonderful Pope. I will continue to pray for him and for the election of the new Pope.
    Ellen Gable Hrkach recently posted..Sunday Snippets – February 17

  24. Ellen Gable Hrkach on February 17th, 2013
  25. Beautiful article. We will have such a powerful pray-er for the church won’t we?
    I will miss him. I love him and I admire him.
    Colleen recently posted..Desert Time

  26. Colleen on February 18th, 2013


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