I was alone and in the Eternal City. I spent the day walking from church to church, admiring the intricate nativities and decorations for Christmas. As I walked, I prayed: for the Church, for my family, for my friends, for the Holy Father’s intentions. I attended mass. I prayed for my own special intentions. Then, in the evening, I managed to secure a ticket to vespers, with His Holiness Benedict XVI.
Observing the Holy Father that night (wheeled in on the movable platform during the procession), he seemed frail, and tired. He coughed during some of the prayers, and his voice was thin and wispy. I fretted a bit over his condition, and brought home a new prayer intention — for his health and strength.
I love Pope Francis; he is what the Church needs now. But Benedict XVI holds a special place in my heart. I love how he writes and how he thinks. I love how he reminded us that Catholicism is spiritual and intellectual, how nothing the Church teaches should be dumb or fail to make sense, how we can apply the light of reason to our faith and receive illumination and enlightenment.
And he did all of these things quietly, with humbleness, without ever trying to be anything other than what and who he was. He is the counterpoint to the Catholic “star quality” of JPII and Francis.
He is, in a sense, the only pope who could resign, and that absolute freedom and trust that he placed in God is something the entire Church will continue to draw from in the future. His legacy is the dismantling of the papacy as a power structure and its restoration as that of Universal Pastor, Servant of the Servants…
Please, for the new year, offer a prayer for His Holiness Benedict XVI, and also offer a prayer for His Holiness Pope Francis. We are blessed this year that two popes live and breathe, and that this reality strengthens the Church is her mission at this time.