"Shock." "Disbelief." "Uncertainty." "Bittersweet."
The above descriptors were all used by friends to describe their reaction to last week’s resignation announcement by Pope Benedict XVI. I awoke at 6:02am last Monday to several text messages from friends informing me of the reported, yet still unconfirmed, “shot heard round the world.”
The resignation of our Holy Father, at first, felt like the loss of a grandparent that you have grown up with; I have grown up in the Church of Pope Benedict XVI. After letting the news sink in over the last week, I have found some inspiration in Psalm 30:6, which speaks of sorrow leading to rejoicing: “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” My sense of loss has been transformed into a greater sense of admiration for a man that I have never met, yet have such a deep respect for.
For lack of something more appropriate to say, I offer to you the words of the Holy Father during his homily at the Final Mass of the 26th World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain on August 21, 2011. May his words serve as a challenge to all of us during the last days of his momentous pontificate. Oremus pro Pontifice et pro invicem.
Dear young friends, as the Successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen this faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. Make Christ, the Son of God, the center of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own”, or to approach the life of faith with that kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.
Having faith means drawing support from the faith of your brothers and sisters, even as your own faith serves as a support for the faith of others. I ask you, dear friends, to love the Church which brought you to birth in the faith, which helped you to grow in the knowledge of Christ and which led you to discover the beauty of his love. Growing in friendship with Christ necessarily means recognizing the importance of joyful participation in the life of your parishes, communities and movements, as well as the celebration of Sunday Mass, frequent reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and the cultivation of personal prayer and meditation on God’s word.
In closing, I share with you a rendition of Tu es Petrus, composed by Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci, Director Emeritus of the Sistine Chapel Choir, performed during World Youth Day in Madrid.
Alex R. Boucher is the Program & Operations Coordinator for the Catholic Apostolate Center. Follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexBoucher.