Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum;
The announcement continued as I prayed. The cardinal announced:
My prayers changed to fervent pleading! No, no, no! Please let it be a different Joseph.
Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger
qui sibi nomen imposuit Benedictum XVI
There was nothing left for me to do but cry so that was what I did. I cried for days and I feared until I came to the point, several months later, that if I was stuck with this guy I should at least read something that he wrote.
The first book I read was "Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church". I remember I was sitting in the waiting room of the local garage getting an oil change and an inspection sticker when I came across words that have become burned into my mind.
One is Church and one is member therof, not through sociological
adherance, but precisely through incorporation in the Body of the Lord through
baptism and the Eucharist.
The Church is not our Church, which we could dispose of as we
please. She is, rather, his Church. All that is only our Church is not Church in
the deep sense; it belongs to her human - hence secondary, transitory -
aspect.(...)If the Church, in fact, is our Church, if we alone are the
Church, if her structures are not willed by Christ, then it is no longer
possible to concieve of the existance of a hierarchy as a service to the
baptized established by the Lord himself. It is a rejection of the authority
willed by God...the Church of Christ is not a party, not an association, not a
consequently hierarchical. For the hierarchy based on apostolic succession is
the indispensible condition to arrive at the strength, the reality of the
Upon arriving at our lodgings which were in the extra-territorial zone of Vatican City and directly across St. Peter's Square from the Apostolic Palace I was told that two tickets to the Papal Audience had been reserved for us. My actual thoughts were, "Ugh, I guess we have to go, but do I really want to see the Pope another time!" I decided to make the best of it and we went to the audience.
Pope Benedict came out in the popemobile and rode slowly around the square. I took pictures mainly for posterity and for this blog (although I don't think I ever posted my feelings here). He approached where I was standing along the barricade when someone threw something into the path of the popemobile. Suddenly, I found that he was stopped directly in front of me. People were reaching out to him, and I was one of the few with a camera aimed directly at him and he stopped and looked directly at me as I took a picture. Then he continued greeting the crowds. He took the hand of the woman to my right and reached for mine as well, but I was completly frozen. In the split second, he saw my dazed expression and chuckled softly to himself. It was as though he was wondering what it was about him that made me freeze like that. Before I realized what had happened, the obstruction was cleared and the popemobile was moving again.
It was at that moment that I knew what the expression "hardened heart" and "heart of stone" meant as I felt my heart crack and bleed and the tears streamed down my face. What I saw wasn't the ogre, but a gentle, humble, kind, grandfatherly sort of man who seemed to be in awe of all the attention which was focused on him. I saw him 4 more times that week and each time I was amazed by his gentleness and humility. He never placed any attention on himself, but always directed the attention to Christ. In fact, he looked totally embarassed by the attention given to him.
Throughout that week, I desired his presence as I never expected. I found great comfort in looking out in the evening at the glowing windows of the Papal apartment and I loved sitting on the balcony and watching the lights go out as the Holy Father retired for the night. I remembered those weeks after Pope John Paul's death and the emptiness in the shuttered apartment. Seeing those windows I could say, "Everything is fine, Papa is home and we are in good hands".
Unbelievably for me, I wished I could have told him about my experience. Partially so he wouldn't think I had been some crazy lady, but also so I could tell him of my conversion. I prayed that he would grow comfortable in his new role and accept that the attention given to him shouldn't be a source of embarassment, but is the result of the dignity of his office. He is the successor of St. Peter and the Vicar of Christ. That is no small order! He deserves the trappings and honors and attention which is office brings not because of who he is as a man, but because of his office, who he represents, and our union with Christ to whom all these honors are ultimately directed.
I haven't stopped reading his writings and I haven't been disappointed. Instead, each book I read and reread brings to closer to Christ and deepens my understanding of Christ and His Church.
God, thank you for our Holy Father, Benedict. Thank you for opening my heart which had been hardened by the words of those around me and my own prideful refusal to accept your wisdom.
My dear Holy Father, I love you! May God protect you as you lead His Church. Thank you for showing me Christ and His Church in it's fullness as I had never understood it before. Thank you for showing me the errors of my understanding and for opening my heart to true Catholic teaching. May you have many more years in service of Christ!
Photos by: Domini Sumus