The LuLac Edition #2356, February 11th, 2013
I do a lot of thinking in church. Oh I listen to the homily and the readings but a lot of times I just think. And the other night I was thinking about Blogfest. I thought I had to put up an announcement about it in the Sunday edition of LuLac. Then I thought about that date, April 19th. That was the day that Pope Benedict XVIth was elected. I reflected on the fact that he was closing in on eight years as Pope. I wondered how his health was thinking about the concessions he made to age by having a type of vehicle roll him to the front of the altar at St. Peter’s Cathedral.
I remembered back to April of 2008 at Yankee Stadium. That was on April 20th. Mrs. LuLac and I had the opportunity to go the Papal Mass. A few of my friends and relatives wondered why I was so insistent on going to see Benedict. He was not the rock star like John Paul II. Why did I want to see him they all asked. It was precisely the reason why he was not a rock star like John Paul II that I wanted to hear and see him. Rock stars are always a hard act to follow. It takes a special breed, someone with a secure sense of himself but also someone not afraid to take on the mantle of responsibility knowing he would be forever compared to his more popular predecessor. Few leads can handle that. It was one of the factors in the political decline of Lyndon Johnson.
Plus Benedict seemed to be the blending of the first two Popes of my lifetime. I was only four when Pope Pius XIIth died but as I entered grade school at St. John the Baptist (you know, the Slovak Church and School that was assassinated by the modern Catholic Church) I read articles on the two Popes provided by that youth oriented Catholic publication “My Weekly Reader”. (They had the best covers I had ever seen as a young child, to me it was my Life or Look Magazine). Perhaps m pull toward Benedict reminded me of Pius and John XXIII. Benedict seemed to be a hybrid of Pius’ intellect and the underestimation of John as merely being a placeholder to the Papal throne. Whatever it was, he was my guy.
I came home from New York that night exhausted. Tired. Exhilarated. It was the last time I would see the old Yankee Stadium and what better way to say goodbye to it than with a Papal Mass. (I bought the hat and the tee shirt later on line). Here’s the link from LuLac on that day. http://lulacpoliticaletter.blogspot.com/2008/04/lulac-edition-465-april-21rst-2008.html
Benedict, for his age made significant trips outside Vatican City. He took responsibility and apologized for the Sex Scandals in the church. To some that will never be enough. To me, it was all he could do.
His legacy will be debated far and wide by people smarter than me. But even though I was surprised when I heard the news on the radio today (I had heard so many reports of Pope’s deaths that way) I wasn’t entirely shocked. Benedict was always the fierce protector of the Church as an institution. He was the gate keeper for Pope John Paul II. His role as Pontiff was to hold firm the Conservative policies of the previous Pope. So it should come as no surprise that Benedict looked at the Institution of the Church first his responsibility rather than the honor being the head of it afforded him personally. In church Saturday night, I thought it possible for Benedict to live to maybe 90 as many older people do in this age. And if he were to live that long as an ex Pope, how would that play out in Vatican politics?
Benedict will be commended for many things. But perhaps the most important one will be the way he chose to leave the throne of St. Peter. It is a curious dichotomy. Church teachings say that the Pope, a human entrusted to be the Vicar of Christ is infallible in his decrees and decisions. Perhaps Benedict’s greatest legacy will be that he had the intellectual capacity to separate his spiritual title from his frailties as a human being. In the end, Benedict served the Church and not himself. It was a rare and selfless act to relinquish power for the greater good. We will not see that anywhere in this world for a very long time.