POPE BENEDICT, HIS FINAL ENCOUNTER WITH CARDINALS: HEART SPEAKS TO HEART

POPE BENEDICT, HIS FINAL ENCOUNTER WITH CARDINALS: HEART SPEAKS TO HEART

Thursday, February 28, 201

Venerable and Dear Brothers,

I welcome you with great joy and I offer each one of you my most cordial greeting. I thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano who, as always, interpreted the sentiments of the entire College: Cor ad cor loquitur [heart speaks to heart] I warmly thank you, Your Eminence. And I would like to say — taking up your reference to the disciples of Emmaus — that for me too it has been a joy to walk with you in these years, in the light of the presence of the Risen Lord.

EWTN’s coverage of this final morning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUp0aTMJ3RU

As I said yesterday to the thousands of faithful who filled St Peter’s Square, your closeness and your advice have been of great help to me in my ministry. In these eight years we have lived with faith very beautiful moments of radiant light on the Church’s journey, as well as moments when several clouds gathered in the sky. We sought to serve Christ and his Church with profound and total love, which is the heart and soul of our ministry. We gave hope, the hope that comes to us from Christ, which alone can give light to us on our journey. Together we may thank the Lord who has enabled us to grow in communion and, together, pray him to help us to grow even more in this profound unity, so that the College of Cardinals may be like an orchestra where differences — an expression of the universal Church — contribute to a superior and harmonious concord.

I would like to leave you a simple thought, which is deep in my heart: a thought about the Church, about her mystery, that constitutes for us all — we can say — the reason and passion for life.

I will allow a sentence of Romano Guardini to help me. It was written in the very same year that the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council approved the Constitution Lumen Gentium, in his last book, which also a personal dedication to me — which makes the words of this book particularly dear to me. Guardini says the Church “is not an institution conceived and built in theory… but a living reality…. She lives through the course of time, in becoming, like every living being, in undergoing change…. And yet in her nature she remains ever the same and her heart is Christ”.

It seems to me that this was our experience yesterday in the Square: seeing that the Church is a living body, enlivened by the Holy Spirit and which is really brought to life by God’s power. She is in the world but not of the world: she is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit. We saw this yesterday. That is why Guardini’s other famous saying is both true and eloquent: “The Church is reawakened in souls”. The Church is alive, she grows and is reawakened in souls who — like the Virgin Mary — welcome the Word of God and conceive it through the action of the Holy Spirit; they offer to God their own flesh. It is precisely in their poverty and humility that they become capable of begetting Christ in the world today. Through the Church, the Mystery of the Incarnation lives on for ever. Christ continues to walk through the epochs and in all places.
Let us stay united, dear Brothers, in this Mystery: in prayer, especially in the daily Eucharist, and in this way we shall serve the Church and the whole of humanity. This is our joy that no one can take from us.

Before I say goodbye to each one of you personally, I would like to tell you that I shall continue to be close to you with my prayers, especially in these coming days, that you may be completely docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope. May the Lord show you the one whom he wants. And among you, in the College of Cardinals, there is also the future pope to whom today I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience. For this reason, with affection and gratitude, I cordially impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.

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“I AM TRULY MOVED AND I SEE THE CHURCH ALIVE! I AM NOT ABANDONING THE CROSS, BUT AM REMAINING BESIDE THE CRUCIFIED LORD IN A NEW WAY”

“I AM TRULY MOVED AND I SEE THE CHURCH ALIVE! I AM NOT ABANDONING THE CROSS, BUT AM REMAINING BESIDE THE CRUCIFIED LORD IN A NEW WAY”

Do you remember where you were five years ago today, February 27, 2013?

Were you by any slim chance at the final Wednesday general audience of Pope Benedict’s pontificate?

I was at the general audience – indirectly – as I began the first of two full days of television commentary for EWTN’s coverage of Benedict’s final days in office, after he announced on February 11, 2013, that he would resign the papacy in February 28.

Mary Shovlain was a partner for much of that coverage that included the final general audience, Benedict’s meeting with each member of the College of Cardinals and his never to be forgotten final hours in Vatican City State as he was taken to Castelgandolfo in a helicopter in a Hollywood ending to a superb pontificate – the bluest skies, the about-to-set brilliant sun, the helicopter passing over Vatican City and past the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Rain almost would have been welcome as it would have summarized our tears!

Tear-jerking moments for every single person around the globe who witnessed this final act of humility and courage by a Pope, truly a Holy Father, who had said on February 11:

“After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

Here’s a look back at that general audience, held in the presence of an estimated 150,000 people….this is a tribute filled with great love and respect to a man missed by millions – Sto lat, Benedict emeritus!

Saint Peter’s Square,
Wednesday, 27 February 2013
(Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNf9U9x0pUc)

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate!
Distinguished Authorities!
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I thank all of you for having come in such great numbers to this last General Audience.

Heartfelt thanks! I am truly moved and I see the Church alive! And I think we should also say thanks to the Creator for the fine weather which he gives us even on this winter day.

Like the Apostle Paul in the biblical text which we have heard, I too feel a deep need first and foremost to thank God, who gives guidance and growth to the Church, who sows his word and thus nourishes faith in his people. At this moment my heart expands and embraces the whole Church throughout the world; and I thank God for all that I have “heard” in these years of the Petrine ministry about the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the love which truly circulates in the Body of the Church and makes it live in love, and about the hope which opens and directs us towards the fullness of life, towards our heavenly homeland.

I feel that I bear everyone in prayer, in a present, God’s present, in which I gather together every one of my meetings, journeys and pastoral visits. In prayer I gather each and all, in order to entrust them to the Lord: that we might be filled with the knowledge of his will, with all spiritual wisdom and understanding, and that we might lead a life worthy of him and of his love, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9-10).

At this moment I feel great confidence, because I know, we all know, that the Gospel word of truth is the Church’s strength, it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews, it bears fruit, wherever the community of believers hears it and receives God’s grace in truth and charity. This is my confidence, this is my joy.

Some great photos here: http://archive.boston.com/bigpicture/2013/02/pope_benedict_xvis_last_genera.html

When on 19 April nearly eight years ago I accepted the Petrine ministry, I had the firm certainty that has always accompanied me: this certainty of the life of the Church which comes from the word of God. At that moment, as I have often said, the words which echoed in my heart were: Lord, why are you asking this of me, and what is it that you are asking of me? It is a heavy burden which you are laying on my shoulders, but if you ask it of me, at your word I will cast the net, sure that you will lead me even with all my weaknesses. And eight years later I can say that the Lord has truly led me, he has been close to me, I have been able to perceive his presence daily. It has been a portion of the Church’s journey which has had its moments of joy and light, but also moments which were not easy; I have felt like Saint Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of Galilee: the Lord has given us so many days of sun and of light winds, days when the catch was abundant; there were also moments when the waters were rough and the winds against us, as throughout the Church’s history, and the Lord seemed to be sleeping. But I have always known that the Lord is in that boat, and I have always known that the barque of the Church is not mine but his. Nor does the Lord let it sink; it is he who guides it, surely also through those whom he has chosen, because he so wished. This has been, and is, a certainty which nothing can shake. For this reason my heart today overflows with gratitude to God, for he has never let his Church, or me personally, lack his consolation, his light, his love.

We are in the Year of Faith which I desired precisely to reaffirm our faith in God in a context which seems to push him more and more into the background. I should like to invite all of us to renew our firm confidence in the Lord, to entrust ourselves like children in God’s arms, certain that those arms always hold us, enabling us to press forward each day, even when the going is rough. I want everyone to feel loved by that God who gave his Son for us and who has shown us his infinite love. I want everyone to feel the joy of being a Christian. In one beautiful morning prayer, it says: “I adore you, my God, and I love you with all my heart. I thank you for having created me and made me a Christian…”. Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith; it is our most precious possession, which no one can take from us! Let us thank the Lord for this daily, in prayer and by a consistent Christian life. God loves us, but he also expects us to love him!

But it is not only God whom I want to thank at this moment. The Pope is not alone in guiding the barque of Peter, even if it is his first responsibility. I have never felt alone in bearing the joy and the burden of the Petrine ministry; the Lord has set beside me so many people who, with generosity and love for God and the Church, have helped me and been close to me. Above all you, dear brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your counsel and your friendship have been invaluable to me; my co-workers, beginning with my Secretary of State who has faithfully accompanied me in these years; the Secretariat of State and the whole Roman Curia, as well as all those who in various sectors offer their service to the Holy See: many, many unseen faces which remain in the background, but precisely through their silent, daily dedication in a spirit of faith and humility they have been a sure and trustworthy support to me. I also think in a special way of the Church of Rome, my Diocese! I cannot forget my Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate, the consecrated persons and the entire People of God: in my pastoral visits, meetings, audiences and journeys I have always felt great kindness and deep affection; yet I too have felt affection for each and all without distinction, with that pastoral charity which is the heart of every Pastor, and especially of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I have borne each of you in prayer, with the heart of a father.

I would like my greeting and my thanksgiving to extend to everyone: the heart of the Pope reaches out to the whole world. And I wish to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See which represents the great family of the nations. Here I think too of all those who work for good communications and I thank them for their important service.

At this point, I would also like to thank most heartily all those people throughout the world who in these recent weeks have sent me moving expressions of concern, friendship and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone; now I once again experience this so overwhelmingly that my heart is touched. The Pope belongs to everyone and so many persons feel very close to him. It is true that I receive letters from world leaders – from heads of state, from religious leaders, from representatives of the world of culture, and so on. But I also receive many, many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply and from the heart, and who show me their affection, an affection born of our being together with Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write to me in the way one writes, for example, to a prince or some important person whom they do not know. They write to me as brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters, with a sense of a very affectionate family bond. Here one can sense palpably what the Church is – not an organization, an association for religious or humanitarian ends, but a living body, a communion of brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, which makes us all one. To experience the Church in this way and to be able as it were to put one’s finger on the strength of her truth and her love, is a cause for joy at a time when so many people are speaking of her decline. But we see how the Church is alive today!

In these last months I have felt my energies declining, and I have asked God insistently in prayer to grant me his light and to help me make the right decision, not for my own good, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step with full awareness of its gravity and even its novelty, but with profound interior serenity. Loving the Church means also having the courage to make difficult, painful decisions, always looking to the good of the Church and not of oneself.

Here, allow me to go back once again to 19 April 2005. The real gravity of the decision was also due to the fact that from that moment on I was engaged always and forever by the Lord. Always – anyone who accepts the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and completely to everyone, to the whole Church. In a manner of speaking, the private dimension of his life is completely eliminated. I was able to experience, and I experience it even now, that one receives one’s life precisely when one gives it away. Earlier I said that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and feel great affection for him; that the Pope truly has brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, throughout the world, and that he feels secure in the embrace of your communion; because he no longer belongs to himself, he belongs to all and all belong to him.

The “always” is also a “for ever” – there can no longer be a return to the private sphere. My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences, and so on. I am not abandoning the cross, but remaining in a new way at the side of the crucified Lord. I no longer bear the power of office for the governance of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter. Saint Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be a great example for me in this. He showed us the way for a life which, whether active or passive, is completely given over to the work of God.

I also thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have accepted this important decision. I will continue to accompany the Church’s journey with prayer and reflection, with that devotion to the Lord and his Bride which I have hitherto sought to practise daily and which I would like to practise always. I ask you to remember me in prayer before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so weighty a task, and for the new Successor of the Apostle Peter: may the Lord accompany him with the light and strength of his Spirit.

Let us call upon the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, that she may accompany each of us and the whole ecclesial community; to her let us commend ourselves with deep confidence.


Dear friends! God guides his Church, he sustains it always, especially at times of difficulty. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the one true way of looking at the journey of the Church and of the world. In our hearts, in the heart of each of you, may there always abide the joyful certainty that the Lord is at our side: he does not abandon us, he remains close to us and he surrounds us with his love. Thank you!

To special groups:
I offer a warm and affectionate greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors who have joined me for this, my last General Audience. Like Saint Paul, whose words we heard earlier, my heart is filled with thanksgiving to God who ever watches over his Church and her growth in faith and love, and I embrace all of you with joy and gratitude.

During this Year of Faith, we have been called to renew our joyful trust in the Lord’s presence in our lives and in the life of the Church. I am personally grateful for his unfailing love and guidance in the eight years since I accepted his call to serve as the Successor of Peter. I am also deeply grateful for the understanding, support and prayers of so many of you, not only here in Rome, but also throughout the world.

The decision I have made, after much prayer, is the fruit of a serene trust in God’s will and a deep love of Christ’s Church. I will continue to accompany the Church with my prayers, and I ask each of you to pray for me and for the new Pope. In union with Mary and all the saints, let us entrust ourselves in faith and hope to God, who continues to watch over our lives and to guide the journey of the Church and our world along the paths of history.

I commend all of you, with great affection, to his loving care, asking him to strengthen you in the hope which opens our hearts to the fullness of life that he alone can give. To you and your families, I impart my blessing. Thank you!
I offer a warm and affectionate greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors who have joined me for this, my last General Audience. I commend all of you, with great affection, to his loving care, asking him to strengthen you in the hope which opens our hearts to the fullness of life that he alone can give. To you and your families, I impart my blessing. Thank you!

Lastly, my thoughts turn to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. May the Lord fill with love the heart of each one of you, dear young people, so that you may be ready to follow him with enthusiasm; May he sustain you, dear sick people, so that you may accept the burden of suffering serenely; and may he guide you, dear newlyweds, so that you may raise your families in holiness.

BENEDICT XVI AT FINAL GENERAL AUDIENCE

My memories of February 27, 2013:

I feel so blessed to once again be part of a moment in history, to have been present today to help do the commentary for EWTN for Pope Benedict’s final general audience as Pontiff.

The weather was beautiful, a decidedly miraculous change from the rainy, cloudy, cold weather of past days.

The event – the freely given resignation of a Pope – was momentous, singular, not seen since Celestine V renounced the papacy in 1294, 719 years ago.

And the world, through television and all the various social media, could watch, hear, listen and be part of this unique moment –and even share it electronically with others around the world as it was taking place!!

It was amazing to walk three blocks from my home to St. Peter’s Square and see the enormous crowds that had gathered from early hours to get to see “their” Holy Father – a crowd later estimated by the police to be at least 150,000, a crowd that reflected the Universal Church with the many colorful flags, banners, and multi-lingual cheers, a crowd that included 70 plus cardinals, one of whom could well be Benedict’s successor.

Here is a link to the YouTube video of this morning’s general audience – commentary during the actual general audience was by Vatican Radio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saKWsdNUwbo

Today was a very full day, and I am in between appointments as I write these words. I was on the EWTN set for about four hours, and then went to the press office for a very short briefing, back home for a quick lunch and some preparatory research for future shows, followed by my weekly radio show with Teresa Tomeo in mid-afternoon, and then a hop over to Fox News Rome studios to do a show at 4:45. The guest before me was a friend from London, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster.

I have an appointment this evening at 9 in St. Peter’s Square with Australian television to make an appearance on a morning show (given the time difference between Rome and Australia). Then, perhaps a bite to eat and more research for the live transmissions EWTN will do tomorrow – the Pope’s final meeting with cardinals, his departure for Castelgandolfo and the final event, the closing at 8 pm of the great gate at Castelgandolfo by the Swiss Guards who will then leave the apostolic palace.

At 8 pm the sede vacante starts.

I now offer you the entire profound, personal, emotional, beautiful words by Pope Benedict who speaks to the faithful of the world for the final time as Supreme Pontiff. The translation is from the Vatican Information Service (see above).

A POPE AND A CHALICE MARK 90 YEARS – LOOKING BACK: BENEDICT XVI, IN BIRTHDAY HOMILY, SPEAKS OF HIS BAPTISM

Today is Pasquetta, Little Easter in Italy, a big holiday throughout much of Europe.

I am celebrating Easter for the first time in many years in the U.S., and it has been beautiful from the moment I got off the plane on Holy Saturday afternoon to this minute that I am preparing today’s column. The only difficult moments occurred when I had to try and ward off some jet lag at the always very lengthy and always extraordinarily Easter Vigil Mass!

I attended this Mass at St. Matthew’s cathedral in Washington, with Cardinal Donald Wuerl presiding. Every person who had a role that evening did a superb job, from the ushers to the choir, from musicians to eucharistic ministers, from truly amazing lectors to beautifully talented cantors.

I was just grateful that it was at the start of Mass that the church was darkened, lit only by hundreds of small candles, and not at the end of Mass!

Easter Sunday was beautiful in every way – weather-wise and celebration-wise. My hostess Margaret Melady and I spent the afternoon with her daughter, son-in law and four teenage grandchildren. It was a joy – a terrific meal, lots of great conversation and for me, just being in a family was the best part of the day, enjoying a home and back yard and tons of flowers in bloom.

I could have driven around DC for an hour just to take photos of the azaleas, cherry blossoms, wisteria, roses, magnolias, bouquets of crocuses and colorful daffodils that carpet the landscape. Some neighborhoods and individual homes were beyond breathtaking!

Easter is obviously a family day, a day off from work for many of us so I waited until today to want to share a story with you that actually has yesterday’s timeline – April 16, 2017 – Easter Sunday and also the 90th birthday of our beloved Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. He was born on Holy Saturday and marked 90 years on Easter Sunday!  Does it get any better!

A POPE AND A CHALICE MARK 90 YEARS

Once upon a time…..

My paternal grandparents had two lovely summer homes on a large piece of property on Lake Michigan that were used alternately by my parents and my Dad’s sisters and brother throughout June, July and August every summer. The main home was called White Ledge and was a legend in the area for many reasons but mainly because it could accommodate about 30 guests on a weekend – many bedrooms and bathrooms and, of course, a huge dining room and kitchen. My grandmother spent six months a year at this home and hosted many philanthropic and church events in the house or gardens.

One of my grandfather’s brothers – our great-Uncle Frank and great-Aunt Julia – had a rather large estate about a mile up the road from our property. Because the Catholic populace grew so much when people came up for the summer, the small local church could not handle everyone, even with multiple Sunday morning Masses (no evening Masses in those years), and so my aunt and uncle obtained permission to have Mass outdoors at their home on Sunday.

They were great philanthropists and the Church was the focus of their lives. It was quite common for them to invite some of their closest friends – cardinals, bishops, priests and seminarians – to spend the weekend at their Michigan summer home. The main house was quite large and they a number of almost equally large year-round homes on the property for their large family and for guests.

Every Saturday night, the caretaker Ignatz would set up the “pews” – the benches and kneelers – for a couple hundred people. And every Sunday morning, before the 10 a.m. Mass, big bunches of gladioli were cut and put into tall vases near the altar – which was at the top of some steps going up to my uncle’s main porch. My brothers and some of our young cousins often served as altar boys in those years.

My Dad and uncles served as ushers and Sunday morning Mass at Aunt Julia’s and Uncle Frank’s was often a family affair! I do remember Aunt Julia telling us once, years later that, for 30 summers, it never rained on a Sunday morning between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.! I know she had several relics she would bring out each Sunday and place on her pew.

Over the years I met many prelates, as you can imagine. I just wish I had thought then of keeping a diary!

One of the priests I remember seeing when I was fairly small was Fr. Toohey. I remember him as being a delightful man who always wore a big smile and was very grandfatherly.

Years later, when I arrived home on vacation, I noticed a beautiful chalice in my parents’ home and asked the about it.

Dad told me that his parents, my grandparents, had paid for a young man – Fr. Toohey – to attend seminary on Chicago and on his ordination day, gave him this chalice.

Yes, he was ordained on April 16, 1927! The very day Pope Benedict was born! It is a little hard to see in this photo of the bottom of the chalice.

And, of all the truly amazing things, the chalice was made in Germany!

 

I have been told – and have to explore this further! – that these markings indicate exactly where in Germany this was made and by whom.

The bottom of the chalice reads: “Presented to Rev. Leo Raphael Toohey by Mr. and Mrs. William H. Lewis on his ordination day – April 16 AD 1927.”

The chalice was purchased at Edward Koenig Company in Chicago. It was given to my grandfather when Fr. Toohey died at 53 on January 8, 1950, then passed to my Dad, and my parents eventually wanted me to have this chalice.

I’ve had several dreams for this chalice.

I hope to set up a scholarship for a seminarian from Chicago at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and will arrange to have this chalice given to a seminarian from Chicago – so that, after many decades, the chalice makes a “round trip,” returning from whence it came.

My biggest dream was to have Pope emeritus Benedict XVI celebrate Mass with this chalice.

Since I wrote this story for the first time a few years ago, that dream has come true.

At 7:30 a.m. on the morning of October 19, 2013, I attended Mass in the chapel of the monastery where Pope emeritus Benedict XVI lives in retirement with Abp. Georg Gaenswein and four memores or consecrated women.

Benedict XVI said Mass with Fr. Toohey’s chalice, Abp. Gaenswein did the readings. It was beautiful and intimate and very moving for me, a morning that was special beyond telling! The Pope emeritus came from the sacristy after Mass and we spoke for about five  or six minutes – it was as moving and wonderful as the Mass itself!

Benedict XVI’s first words to me, said with a big smile, were: “What a beautiful story that chalice has.”

I had written the story down in English and had given it one day to my friend Michael Hesemann who knew I had hopes that Benedict would celebrate Mass with the chalice. He translated it into German and, during a trip to Regensburg, Germany, gave it to his friend, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the Pope’s brother who, two weeks later, gave it to Pope emeritus Benedict.

I received a phone call, telling me that Pope emeritus Benedict would be delighted to say Mass with this chalice – would I like to be present?!

Following Mass and our brief but ever so memorable conversation, Pope Em. Benedict gave me a rosary and two holy cards for the young man who will receive this chalice some day and he gave me – for myself – a rosary and two holy cards. Abp. Gaenswein handed me an envelope and inside was a note with his crest that stated that Pope Em. Benedict said Mass with this chalice on October 19, 2013.

I have yet to write the final line to this story – the name of the seminarian to whom the chalice will go.

Stay tuned!

P.S. Three hours later I met Pope Francis at a gathering of the Patrons of the Vatican Museums! The singular, joyful, unforgettable Day of two Popes!

LOOKING BACK: BENEDICT XVI, IN BIRTHDAY HOMILY, SPEAKS OF HIS BAPTISM

Monday morning, April 16, 2012, in the Pauline Chapel, in the presence of members of the College of Cardinals and bishops from his native Bavaria, Pope Benedict celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving to mark his 85th birthday that day and the April 19th anniversary of his election to the papacy.

In his homily he recalled how, on the day he was born and baptized, the liturgy “erected three signposts showing me where the road led and helping me find it”: the feast of St. Bernardette of Lourdes, the feast of St. Benedict Joseph Labre, and Easter Saturday which fell on the very day he was born. He spoke at length of the two saints, and then focused on Holy Saturday.

“Finally there is the Paschal Mystery. On the day I was born, thanks to my parents, I was also reborn with the water of the Spirit. … Biological life is in itself a gift, yet it begs an important question. It becomes a true gift only if, together with that life, we are given a promise stronger than any misfortune that may threaten us, if life is immersed in a power which guarantees that it is a good thing to be a man, and that the person is a benefit whatever the future may bring. In this way rebirth is associated with birth, the certainty that it is good to exist because the promise is greater than the threat. This is what it means to be reborn from water and from the Spirit. … This rebirth is given to us in Baptism, but we must continually grow therein, we must ever and anew allow God to immerse us in His promise, in order to be truly reborn into the great new family of the Lord, which is stronger than all our weaknesses and all the negative powers that threaten us. That is why today is a day of thanksgiving.”

Benedict XVI noted that in 1927, the year he was born, it was still customary on Easter Saturday “to hold the Easter vigil in the morning, followed by the darkness of Easter Saturday without a Hallelujah. This singular paradox, this anticipation of light in a day of darkness, can almost be seen as an image of the history of our own times. On the one hand there is the silence of God and His absence, yet the resurrection of Christ contains an anticipation of God’s ‘yes’. We live in this anticipation, through the silence of God we hear His words, and through the darkness of His absence we glimpse His light.”

The Holy Father then said: “I am in the final stage of my life journey and I do not know what awaits me. However, I do know that the light of God exists, that He rose again, that His light is stronger than all darkness, that the goodness of God is stronger than all the evil in this world. This helps me to continue with confidence. This helps us to continue, and I would like to thank everyone who, through their faith, continually makes me aware of God’s ‘yes’.”

 

THANK YOU, POPE BENEDICT! MAY GOD CONTINUE TO SIT ON YOUIR SHOULDER!

How I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall – or an invited guest – at this Vatican celebration of Benedict XVI’s 65th anniversary of his priesthood! Beautiful words from and about both men.

I also had a very privileged day – a single, unique day – when I spoke to both Popes, the reigning Pope Francis and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. How many people on earth could even say that! Those special moments occurred on Saturday, October 19, 2013 – a story I will tell some day!

In the meantime, I want to get ahead of myself with today’s column. I have some photos I took in Germany in 2006 when Pope Benedict visited his native Bavaria for the first time as Pope, including pictures of the church in which he and his brother Georg were altar boys together and learned to play the organ. I found a photo online of the brothers on the day they were ordained to the priesthood 65 years ago tomorrow. I was going to post those photos tomorrow, on the actual anniversary day but given this morning’s marvelous celebrations in the Vatican, I’ll place them within this article. The two photos of the Popes embracing are from AP and CTV.

THANK YOU, POPE BENEDICT! MAY GOD CONTINUE TO SIT ON YOUR SHOULDER!

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday hosted a celebration for the 65th anniversary of the priestly ordination of his predecessor Benedict, the pope emeritus. Joseph Ratzinger, who took the name Benedict XVI when he was elected to the papacy in 2005, attended the celebration in the Sala Clementina within the Apostolic Palace. More than thirty cardinals were also present, as well as a number of other invited guests.

FRANCIS AND BENEDICT 2 CTV

The event began with music from the Sistine Choir and a speech by Pope Francis. In his remarks, the Supreme Pontiff recalled St Peter’s response to Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?” “Lord, you know that I love you,” answered the first Pope. And this, the current Pope said, “is the note that has dominated a life spent entirely in the service of the priesthood and of the true theology”.

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Pope Francis said that Benedict continues to serve the Church, “not ceasing to truly contribute to her growth with strength and wisdom.” “And you do this,” he said, “from that little Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican, that is shown in that way to be anything but that forgotten little corner to which today’s culture of waste tends to relegate people when, with age, their strength diminishes.” He spoke, too, about the “Franciscan” dimension of the monastery, which recalls the Portiuncula, the “little portion” where St Francis founded his order, and laid down his life. Divine Providence, he said, “has willed that you, dear Brother, should reach a place one could truly call ‘Franciscan’, from which emanates a tranquillity, a peace, a strength, a confidence, a maturity, a faith, a dedication, and a fidelity that does so much good for me, and gives strength to me and to the whole Church.”

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At the conclusion of his remarks, Pope Francis offered best wishes to Pope emeritus Benedict on behalf of himself and of the whole Church, with the prayer for Benedict, “That you, Holiness, might continue to feel the hand of the merciful God who supports you; that you might continue to experience and witness to us the love of God; that, with Peter and Paul, you might continue to rejoice with great joy as you journey toward the goal of the faith.”

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The view from the little church –

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Later, after more music and speeches by Cardinals Gerhard Müller and Angelo Sodano – respectively Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Dean of the College of Cardinals – Benedict offered words of thanks to all his well-wishers, and in a particular way to Pope Francis. Speaking to the Holy Father, Benedict said, “Your kindness, from the first moment of the election, in every moment of my life here, strikes me, is a source of real inspiration for me. More than in the Vatican Gardens, with their beauty, your goodness is the place where I dwell: I feel protected.”

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The Pope emeritus also reflected on the concept of “thanksgiving,” reflecting on a word written, in Greek, on a remembrance card from his first Mass. That word, he said, suggests “not only human thanksgiving, but naturally hints at the more profound word that is hidden, which appears in the liturgy, in the Scriptures,” and in the words of consecration. The Greek word “eucharistomen,” he said, “brings us back to that reality of thanksgiving, to that new dimension that Christ has given it. He has transformed into thanksgiving, and so into blessing, the Cross, suffering, all the evil of the world. And thus He has fundamentally transubstantiated life and the world, and has given us, and gives us today the Bread of true life, which overcomes the world thanks to the strength of his love.”

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PS. A cousin of the Ratzinger brothers showed us the little pewter cups that the young brothers used when they played at being priests –

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MOTHER ANGELICA: FROM THE VATICAN – SHE CHANGED THE WAY WE SPEAK ABOUT GOD – FAREWELL TO MOTHER ANGELICA

MOTHER ANGELICA: FROM THE VATICAN

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI knows that Mother Angelica died. We learned through his secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, that he said “it’s a gift” that she passed on Easter Sunday.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office was informed Sunday night by Michael Warsaw and Monday morning by our Rome Bureau. He said to our employees in Rome: “Dear ones, thank you for the information. I also received a letter from M. Warsaw inviting me to come to the funeral (of course I can not), along with the press release. Certainly she was a great witness and a missionary apostle. I hope that she prays for us more than we for her. I had the joy of seeing her briefly when I attended a meeting of various Catholic Radio stations several years ago in Birmingham at EWTN and someone had kindly taken me to the shrine to greet Mother. I do not remember exactly what year it was. I think it was the first meeting of Catholic Radio stations organized by EWTN (or second?). For me it was also the proof that faith and love of God are the true engine that drives our communication … (more so than technique and ‘professionalism’).”

SHE CHANGED THE WAY WE SPEAK ABOUT GOD – FAREWELL TO MOTHER ANGELICA

Michael Warsaw – on the website of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican daily:

A miracle of evangelization: only in this way could one define the legacy left by Mother Angelica, founder of the international Catholic network EWTN. A network whose success is proven by the numbers: launched in a garage in 1981 without caring about the cost, today the network broadcasts 24 hours a day, reaches over 264 million homes in 144 different nations, and publishes in or contributes to major magazines and agencies of religious information in the United States and around the world, in multiple languages.

Mother Angelica returned to the Father’s house at 5p.m. March 27, the Solemnity of Easter. She was 92. In the morning she participated in Mass inside her room, from the bed to which she has been confined since 2001, when a stroke permanently damaged her mobility.

Mother Angelica’s whole life has been marked by dates that follow the liturgical calendar, as if to signify her unconditional “yes” to God and her unshakeable trust in Providence. The stroke came on Christmas Eve 2001. She entered the Order of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration August 15, 1944, a day that was to become the Solemnity of the Assumption. And it was August 15, 1981, that Eternal Word Television first aired. It was the television network God had asked Mother Angelica to found.

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Born April 20, 1923, with the name Rita Rizzo, Mother Angelica experienced poverty and a life of hardship after her parents divorced when she was just six years old. But she didn’t just live with solitude, suffering and distress. She was also tried by physical suffering. When she was a teenager, she had consistent stomach pain. She was cured when Rhonda Wise, a woman from Canton (the town in Ohio where she lived) to whom miraculous cures were attributed to, told her to recite a novena to St. Therese of Lisieux. In 1944, at 21, she entered the Order of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Cleveland and took the name Sister Mary Angelica of the Annunciation. Two years later, she was invited again to the city of her birth, Canton, to found a new monastery. She lived there for several years, until the 50s. While cleaning the floors with an electric scrubbing machine, she lost her balance on the slippery floor, covered in soap, and slammed her back against the wall. The injury lasted for two years, and even worse, she needed a surgical operation. It was risky, and she had a 50 percent chance of being paralyzed. So she promised God that if the operation was successful, she would build a monastery in the South.

The operation succeeded, and Mother kept her promise.

The okay from Rome to found the Monastery of Our Lady of the Angels in Irondale, Alabama came February 3, 1961. A charismatic speaker, Sr. Mary Angelica was asked if her speeches could be recorded and distributed. She did it for the first time in 1969. In 1971, she recorded her first radio program, which was a 10 minute transmission for WBRC. Seven years later, Mother began to record her first television programs, which were half-hour transmissions titled “Our Hermitage.” It was the spark that inspired the idea of a media apostolate faithful to Catholicism. The spark then flared up when she realized that the owner of the studio where she recorded her transmission wanted to broadcast a program she considered to be blasphemous. Mother said that she would go elsewhere to record. Upon receiving threats that she would be out of television forever, she confidently responded: “I will found my own.”

And so it happened. The Eternal Word Television Network was born August 15, 1981, and from there began the work of evangelization through media.

It is a company willed by Providence, just as it was Providence which characterized the foundations of Mother Angelica: the Congregation of the Missionary Franciscans of the Eternal Word, a community of men which consists of 15 friars who are very active in evangelization within EWTN; but also the monastery itself in Irondale, because Mother Angelica’s request to found a new monastery came simultaneously with that of another sister, and the Mother Superior decided to that she would give permission to the first of the two sisters that received a response from the local bishop.

Some observers have said that the network founded by Mother Angelica (EWTN) has helped to protect the Church in the United States. If this is true, it is true because Mother Angelica built the network in His own image and likeness: with an unwavering faith in God, the knowledge of the goodness of the teachings of the Church and the desire to share them with people, truly reaching everyone. And if the network has grown so much in recent years, it is also due to the fact that Mother Angelica – who left leadership in 2000 – has ceaselessly watched over it with her prayers, despite being bedridden for almost 15 years.

She ascended to the Father’s house on Easter day, as often happens with the Saints, after receiving countless awards, even from the Pope. In October 2009, Benedict XVI gave her the “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” award, the highest recognition that a Pope can give to a layperson or religious to honor their work. Upon hearing the news of Mother Angelica’s passing, Benedict XVI commented that “it’s a gift” for her to have gone to heaven on Easter Sunday. And on February 12, 2016, while on his way to Cuba, Pope Francis prayed for her.

Mother’s model of evangelization through media is an example for all to follow.

By Michael Warsaw, Chairman of the Board & Chief Executive Officer, EWTN Global Catholic Network