A Quick Note to Benedict on Pope Francis’ Inauguration Day

“Behold, a faithful and prudent steward, whom the Lord set over his household.” – Entrance Antiphon, Joseph, Spouse of Mary, March 19

Dear Benedict, Emeritus Pontiff;

There is so much to thank you for after your decades of service to the Church, but today, on your name day, the feast of St. Joseph, we owe you thanks for the amazing weeks we are living through right now.

Today is the day of the Inaugural Mass of Pope Francis, and though you were not present at the celebration, you were very present in spirit. After all, it was you who made this celebration possible.

Pope BenedictIn your first message as Pope, you called it “very significant” that your pontificate began halfway through the Year of the Eucharist. You called for more “love and devotion to the Eucharistic Jesus … above all through the solemnity and the correctness of the celebrations.”

An amazing phrase, that. You told us to love Christ liturgically, through the Church.

You certainly did that this year. You timed your resignation with the liturgical calendar in mind, and that means you timed it with us in mind.

You  made the Lenten season all the more penitential with the sadness of preparing for your departure, and you made Lenten prayers all the more intense, because we were praying for you and for the Church.

Then, when we experienced “sede vacante” in the middle of Lent, it was as if Peter had entered the desert with Christ. But you reminded us that we were supposed to join him there, too.

I think you knew what would happen. And as former dean of the cardinals, you probably guessed that around the Fourth Sunday of Lent, we would experience the joy of the arrival of your successor — connecting our “Habemus Papam” with Laetare Sunday’s “O be joyful, Jerusalem!”

You also foresaw what this new Pope will do for the liturgies of Holy Week and Easter. Celebrating with a new Pope means we will be paying very close attention to his Mass of the Last Supper, the Stations of the Cross, and the Easter Vigil. It will mean the media will pay attention this time, too.

In short, the way you stepped down will end up riveting the world’s attention to Christ, deepening the world’s experience of the Passion, and heightening our joy at Easter.

You, who saw such significance in changing Popes halfway through the Year of the Eucharist, made sure that when we changed popes this time, it was halfway through the Year of Faith.

Were you already planning this when you announced the Year of the Faith? Here’s what you said in October, four months before you announced your resignation:

“I wish to invite my brother bishops from all over the world to join the Successor of Peter, during this time of spiritual grace that the Lord offers us, in recalling the precious gift of faith. We want to celebrate this Year in a worthy and fruitful manner. Reflection on the faith will have to be intensified, so as to help all believers in Christ to acquire a more conscious and vigorous adherence to the Gospel, especially at a time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing.”

What you did this February made sure we united with the Successor of Peter to reflect intensely on the faith amid profound change.

Nicely done, fellow pilgrim. Thank you.

22 thoughts on “A Quick Note to Benedict on Pope Francis’ Inauguration Day

  1. Antonio A. Badilla says:

    Tom,

    Thank you for remembering the Pope Emeritus. I was beginning to think people have forgotten his 8 year pontificate and reading expressions like “the extravaganza has ended” by an emeritus Cardinal, left me with a very bad after-taste.

  2. Clare Krishan says:

    Glad I followed Amy Welborn’s tweet. Well said.
    But then I never thought otherwise, despite those who seek “signs” and “portents” in anything unsual. The most important signs and portents are right under our noses in the liturgical scripture selections, a pre-eminent gift of the Council Fathers we still have not unpacked. He timed it perfectly becuase he consecrates time daiy in praying the Liturgy of the hours (I try my best with the wee Magnificat booklet’s help, when you become attentive to life rhythym this way surprises are in store says BXVI’s favorite Doctor, the Little Flower
    http://tinyurl.com/E-FACT-enthralling

  3. Leo Beer says:

    Thank you for your excellent service to our church. You heped form us toward the church Christ intends us to be. The church may never realize all your contributions. Thank you.

  4. Maureen says:

    Thank you Benedict for all your prayers for the whole world.
    Continue to pray for all of us, and especially Pope Francis I.
    We will all be praying for you.

  5. Helen says:

    Many thanks for your service to God and his people. Knowing you will be praying for us is a comfort to me. The world needs to change for the good if we are to receive eternal salvation.

  6. Evan says:

    Thank you, Tom for a wonderful letter of gratitude to Pope Emeritus Benedict! I’m also profoundly grateful for his pontificate and gifts to the Church — he really was a wonderful shepherd, and still is! Praying for us and having left us great works to draw from far into the future, in hindsight many will realize what a blessing he is. May the Lord bless him.

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