Pope Benedict XVI - Now I Believe It


Written on 12:18 AM by Jack B.

I confess that I never thought Cardinal Ratzinger would ever be pope. To me John Paul II (the only pope I've ever known) was a force of nature - every time he got sick I always thought he would recover, I never actually imagined him dying no matter how much weaker and immobile his body became. He just seemed so alive to me. So I thought John Paul would definitely live more than two years and that by then Ratzinger would be 80 and not even a cardinal-elector anymore. Even when many made him the odd-on favorite going in I couldn't quite believe it.

Don't get me wrong. I've read some of Ratzinger's writing and find him brilliant, and to me in video clips or pictures he doesn't come off as a reactionary but as a very shy humble man (although I haven't been able to get the quote from Kathy Shaidle at Relapsed Catholic about him having a "resemblance to Mr. Burns and Nosferatu, along with his Stalag 13 name" out of my mind since I read it). I would have rejoiced at his election - I just didn't think it would actually happen.

Then when it did I just couldn't get used to it. The only man I'd ever seen in my lifetime wearing the white pope suit was John Paul II. Benedict XVI just looked like the old Cardinal Ratzinger dressed up in John Paul's clothes. I still had a problem calling him Benedict too.

Yet yesterday as I watched the installation mass live for the first time I saw him not as Joseph Ratzinger, Head of the CDF, but as Pope. Holy Father. Vicar of Christ on Earth. It's as if he himself at age 78 has changed, his demeanor, his posture. Of course this is how people who knew him say he's been all along but that's not how I've seen him or read him portrayed as in the last 20+ years - and it came a shock (a pleasant one) to me. His homily was particularly moving because with the decline of John Paul, I had ceased listening to JP2's actual homily over the last few years (which he had a more and more difficult time getting out) - to me John Paul himself was the homily. His body language, his strength, his determination spoke to me more than a thousand words about the Gospel message. I found myself watching him rather than listening to him (then reading the homily later). But with Benedict (who doesn't exude that dramatic actor's flair of his predecessor) I found myself listening to the Pope's words and found them poetic, encouraging, (and though the media would probably hate me for saying this) true.

Lines like:

The Church is alive – she is alive because Christ
is alive, because he is truly risen. In the suffering that we saw on the
Holy Father’s face in those days of Easter, we contemplated the mystery of
Christ’s Passion and we touched his wounds. But throughout these days we
have also been able, in a profound sense, to touch the Risen One. We have
been able to experience the joy that he promised, after a brief period of
darkness, as the fruit of his resurrection.


And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the
desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment,
of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God’s darkness,
the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human
life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal
deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth’s treasures no longer
serve to build God’s garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve
the powers of exploitation and destruction. The Church as a whole and all
her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards
the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who
gives us life, and life in abundance.


My dear friends – at this moment I can only
say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and
more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more – in
other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you
together. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Let
us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will learn to
carry one another.


This is what they say: for a fish, created for water, it
is fatal to be taken out of the sea, to be removed from its vital element to
serve as human food. But in the mission of a fisher of men, the reverse is
true. We are living in alienation, in the salt waters of suffering and
death; in a sea of darkness without light. The net of the Gospel pulls us
out of the waters of death and brings us into the splendor of God’s light, into
true life. It is really true: as we follow Christ in this mission to be
fishers of men, we must bring men and women out of the sea that is salted with
so many forms of alienation and onto the land of life, into the light of
God. It is really so: the purpose of our lives is to reveal God to
men. And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we
meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some
casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a
thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is

And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on
the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people:
Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you
everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in
return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true

These are not the words of a reactionary. These are not the words of someone who someone who want to turn the clock back. These are not the words of any of the insulting labels then have been attached to this man since his election. These are the words of a shepherd. A disciple of the Man from Galilee. Someone who can step into the Shoes of the Fisherman. These are the words of a Father, a Papa, a Pope. And so now Cardinal Ratzinger has been replaced in my mind with Benedict XVI and I doubt I'm the only one. I think it will be increasingly difficult for the media to continue to paint him with a cold and harsh brush.

I don't know how long Benedict XVI will be pope. Probably at his age he's expecting a short reign himself but I think he's exactly what we need in the present moment just as John Paul II was. So for the Church's sake (and thus the world's) I can only say "Sto Lat, Papa Benedetto!" - may he live a hundred years.

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