Call me crazy, but there is a part of me that is happy that our beloved Pope Benedict XVI is retiring. I’ve been a huge fan of his leadership, his wonderful and profound writings, and his great wisdom in leading the Catholic Church. As I came to work in the Church he led it with grace and clarity and a quiet strength that inspired me to keep toiling for the sake of the Kingdom.
When I heard the news at Mass this morning, I was as shocked, if not more so, than the folks around me. However, as the day goes on I realize that I’m actually happy he’s retiring.
Why, you ask, am I rejoicing over Benedict’s retirement? Because I’m Catholic.
Perhaps that answer sounds obvious, but it is true. It is with great fondness that I recall the days after Pope John Paul II’s death. The world looked to Catholics, reported on Catholic life and tradition, and waited with eager anticipation for the white smoke to arrive, announcing that another successor to St. Peter had been named.
Today the world is looking at Catholics. Today news reporters are headed to diocesan offices for statements, and they are looking into Church history. Do you know what those reporters are finding? Some nasty stuff, because, let’s be honest, there are parts of our history that aren’t so pretty. Yet through it all, the Church has held strong. She’s survived the papacy being sold, popes who have had illegitimate children, and more scandal that I could detail in one little blog post.
I’m happy, jubilant, and excited that the world is looking at Catholics, diving into our history and traditions, and trying to understand our practices. Will the news get it wrong? Will the stories be biased and slanted? Will people say horrid, wretched things about Pope Benedict XVI? Of course.
But as the world looks to the Catholic Church I’m hoping that they see the good, the love, and the stability that she offers. I’m hoping that her people rise up and defend her and her dear popes. I’m hoping that the world looks to the Catholic Church and sees a force to be reckoned with. I’m hoping that they see the quiet strength and true humility of Benedict XVI. I’m praying that the world sees the goodness of the Catholic Church because a time of papal transitions is one of the most amazing times to be a Catholic and to witness to the beauty of all that we believe.
As Archbishop Aquila so wisely wrote, “Pope’s Benedict’s message for eight years has been that the Christian claim is made credible by our charity, and is rejected through our sinfulness…Benedict XVI has never been interested in power or influence. He has been interested in friendship with Jesus Christ — his own, and mine, and yours.”
Now is the time, Catholics. Now is the time to follow our Pope’s lead, to make the Christian claim credible by our authentic and charitable witness, despite the changing times and nay-sayers in the world. But more importantly, now is the time for the most important friendship of all: our own with Jesus Christ. Through that friendship we can and will set the world on fire.
Are you ready?