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Benedict's farewell

News accounts of Pope Benedict's final general audience before his retirement have picked up on some of the key quotes, but it's worth reading the full text to get the flavor of it. Here, he gives an elegant reflection on his papal experience in light of the New Testament story of Jesus calming the storm at sea:

When, almost eight years ago, on April 19th, [2005], I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry, I held steadfast in this certainty, which has always accompanied me. In that moment, as I have already stated several times, the words that resounded in my heart were: Lord, what do you ask of me? It a great weight that You place on my shoulders, but, if You ask me, at your word I will throw out the nets, sure that you will guide me and the Lord really has guided me. He has been close to me: daily could I feel His presence. [These years] have been a stretch of the Churchs pilgrim way, which has seen moments joy and light, but also difficult moments. I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been - and the Lord seemed to sleep. Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His - and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He desired that it be so. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.

Some news coverage is focusing on Benedict's remark that "the Lord seemed to sleep" during the stormy times he faced as pope. But there is more to it.

About the Author

Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015).



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"daily could I feel His presence. [] never did He leave me [] without His consolation"Lucky man.

Although I feel impatience for some reforms in our church which may never come in my lifetime, I realize that in other parts of the world identification as a Christian is still a dicey proposition. I do hope the Pope who is elected will focus on one major problem from each continent and work for that reformation. Prayer from the faithful will be the biggest asset to the success of the upcoming papacy. May God give extaordinary blessings and insight to our yet to be elected Holy Father.

Not really what I had prayed to hear.

I was struck by the metaphor he used, of a church buffetted by storms and winds. It is the same image he used, preaching from Ephesians at the Mass in St. Peter's before entering the conclave that would elect him pope. On that occasion, he referred to the "dictatorship of relativism," of an antagonistic world that was the church's greatest enemy -- and it was that address that arguably helped get him elected. Now he uses a similar metaphor, only the storms and threats that capsized his papacy came from within the church. Perhaps there is another, somewhat different message that the pope is leaving with this next conclave.

Not too long ago I think perhaps in mid December, Fr. Komonchak offered a post that showed a lovely medieval illumination illustrating this scene in Mt. 8. Pictures don't seem to paste into the combox but here is what he said, in response to a comment by Ann Olivier:"Ann: I found the image in a manila folder of mine, along with many others that struck me at one time or another over the decades. Ive written on the back that it comes from an illuminated manuscript held in the Bavarian State Library in Munich, but a search there yesterday didnt find it, and so I have no other information. Its clearly medieval in date, part of a larger representation, it seems.Ive always liked the story and its lesson, already apparent in Matthews use of the tradition, that anyone who follows Jesus onto the boat is likely to encounter storms, that the Church may sometimes be in danger of being swamped, that it may at times seem that Christ is asleep.Augustines take on it was that when it seems that Christ is sleeping, its really we who are asleep, and that he awakens when we do, or, rather, that his awakening is ours."

"Augustines take on it was that when it seems that Christ is sleeping, its really we who are asleep, and that he awakens when we do, or, rather, that his awakening is ours.As usual, Fr. Komonchak (to say nothing of Augustine then and Susan Gannon now) beat me to it. In a sense, Benedict's is a lovely metaphor; but in another sense it is unfortunate, seeming to blame God (or indeed God's creation) for our own shortcomings, and our failures, lay and clerical, to allow ourselves to be liberated by obedience to the Lord. (see Fr. K's post on Ps. 119 elsewhere today).Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme -- listen to Bach's 140th cantata for more on this.

In that illumination, why are all the disciples turned towards Jesus instead of tending to their task of managing the sails and oars? The sea doesn't look very threatening, the waters are calm, but the problem is that every one is looking exclusively at Jesus instead of paying attention to the rest of the world; that's why the Church boat is drifting.

No great fan of this, now retired pope. But, his use of this image actually resonated with me and, IMO, was a deeply personal revelation of how he was feeling, thinking, and praying - would suggest that many of us have been at that same place at times.There is a whole other spiritual/theological emphasis that we are on a journey and the risen christ (unlike apostolic times) is *absent* or is felt that way.Yes, agree that it is also typical shifting blame tactic - not sure he meant that way given his decision to retire.

I can't help but think that Benedict had in mind -- even subconsciously -- a famous book about the current Catholic Church that was based on the same scriptural passage: A People Adrift, by our own Peter Steinfels.

"[I]f You ask me, at your word I will throw out the nets, sure that you will guide me."Um, did the Lord "guide" this soon-to-be-ex-pope in throwing out the nets to the SSPXers?

It is high irony that Ratzinger who railed against the "dictatorship of relativism" especially in Western democracies, as we have seen more evident following recent revelations regarding Cardinal Keith O'Brien, had his papacy collapse over a church hierarchy corrupted by its complicity in the most rank moral relativism and hypocrisy.I guess what goes around comes around. Watching the news reports of Ratzinger's flight into internal exile brings into sharp focus the dimensions of his failure at the restoration of a pre-councilar church.In today's NY Times, Hans Kung has called for a "Vatican Spring!" The aging priest, Ratzinger's mentor when they both were at the Council, still packs a punch: [I thought that the artwork that accompanied the op-ed was particularly appropriate.]I'm not as optimistic as Kung, but miracles do happen. All we need is for a CONSERVATIVE prelate who is humble enough to embrace: "Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men [and women] will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams." (Act 2:17)

Perhaps as part of his "farewell," BXVI has authorized exposition of the Shroud of Turin on Holy Saturday, March 30th, at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, the church where the Shroud is stored. Somewhat unusual is that the exposition will be a television-only showing of the Shroud for perhaps a few hours.

Farewell Pope Benedict. We can be grateful to him for a number of things:He forced Maciel out of active service.He repeatedly met with sexual abuse survivors.He wrote to the people of Ireland about the sexual abuse crisis, stating that Irish bishops should "carry out decisive action, with complete honesty and transparency", in order to regain people's respect.He declared Hildegard of Bingen doctor of the church, one of only 4 such women.He beatified Newman.He resigned.

"Now he uses a similar metaphor, only the storms and threats that capsized his papacy came from within the church."That reminded me of this:"He who travels in the barque of Peter had better not look too closely into the engine room." Msgr. Ronald Knox

" --- his use of this image actually resonated with me and, IMO, was a deeply personal revelation of how he was feeling, thinking, and praying would suggest that many of us have been at that same place at times."Similar, maybe, to how Mother Teresa felt?

Another lake storm episode (Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-62 and John 6:16-21) has Jesus not asleep in the barque - with Peter and the others doing battle with the watery chaos threatening to swamp the craft. Rather Jesus, after a night of prayer following the feeding of the five thousand, comes to them, walking on the waters roiled by wind. "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said "Let there be light, and there was light.'"(Genesis 1)In Jesus the One who sent him asks Peter to come to himself who as in the beginning orders chaos creatively - to come to him where he already is - through faith and steadfast love ever bringing order out of chaos in the world at large. Here Jesus is outside the boat "in the midst"; not in the boat asleep. In the one narrative Peter and the others can complain: "Is it nothing to you that we are perishing" (Mark 4:38); in the other narrative they have no such excuse. Peter's lack of faith is evident as he begins to slip below the waves; the Lord of chaos who is already there reaches out and saves him. No complaints here. In John's Gospel we will learn that Peter will be led to where he would not wish to go. No more bickering.Interesting how the passage to which Pope Benedict refers is the "Jesus in the boat asleep" narrative and not the complementary story - "Jesus walking on the watery chaos" - already out there calling Peter to come. "Be not afraid." Where do our real risks lie?

What would be useful to help the conclave: a list of papal contenders with, for each possible pope, links not merely to secondary sources (the Allen presentation, the wikipedia page,) but also to a few selected primary sources: a few remarkable homilies, pastoral letters, or other materials. Why? Because it's nice to see the synthesis done by journalists, but I'm sure that the cardinals will want to look up the actual words said or decisions taken by the contenders. Why only a few? Because cardinals won't have time to read more than a few pages by each contender.I have not seen that anywhere. It's not for the general public (too much information for us: we are happier with the pre-digested summary of each profile) but seems important for the electors. Do they have access to such a resource?

Claire: maybe it is felt that what you are calling for is not within our pay grade ... or spiritual grade. Sheep, you know.

Bye, pope Benedict. There was one thing I did like about him - his love of animals ... so much of what he did was negative, at least in my eyes ... the missal translation, the Latin mass, wooing the SSPX, the reinterpretation of V2, his anti-ecumenical moves, his invention of the idea that gayness is an intrinsic evil, his silencing of theologians, attacks on the nuns, etc.

You guys are so negative. Right now we don't have a pope: rejoice!The weight of the hierarchy has been lifted, for a brief period: enjoy!If there is anything you really want the church to do and where you have been stifled, now is the window of opportunity: get to work!If you/we stick to cynicism and negativity, maybe it means that the problem is within you/us more than with the church hierarchy how's that as a thought for Lent?

Crystal --I agree that Benedict had some serious negatives. But -- as to the Latin Mass, yes, he supported it, but he didn't require it. He remained pro-vernacular Masses, at least in principle. As to his relationships with other religions he recovered from that serious gaffe about the ancient Muslim, and by the end he had established some healthy contacts with some of them. He also welcomed some of the Anglicans back, and he made some progress with the Lutherans. I don't think he invented the idea of homosexuality as intrinsically disordered. I think you can find it in Aquinas if not in so many words. He was just saying what others have said but, typically, more clearly. Clarity can get you into trouble.

Ann,I'm not as charitable as you, I guess :) About the Anglicans and the Lutherans - the idea that the ordinariates were a good thing was a conservative Catholic view, not the view of the Anglican Communion or the Lutheran Church - they were peeved and rightly so, I think.

This comment thread reminds me why I so seldom want to read them. Every time I do I feel like I'm sucked right back into 1978.

I think we should not idealize or romanticize Benedict XVI's resignation. I think he simply meant: "I quit! I cannot deal with this mess that is largely of my own making. Let somebody else take care of it!"

Crystal --I can understand the Anglicans who didn't change being peeved, but it really isn't their place to judge their co-religionists. And hasn't it always been the case that within the Anglican/Episcopalian groups there has been the high-church/low-church tension? As to the Lutherans, I was thinking of the agreement Benedict signed with at least some of them about the nature of grace. (Actually, I think Benedict is quite Lutheran in some ways -- on the nature of grace and on his de facto deep mistrust of logic.)

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