We thought you’d be with us for many more years, and that thought gave us some peace, even when the world made war on our souls. And now those years are cut to 16 days…
(This lament, which departs from departed state of this blog, was written after the first shock of learning that Pope Benedict XVI will resign the papal office.)
You are Peter, Kepha, Rock, the Lord Jesus had named the first of His earthly vicars, the first bishop of Rome. His city was the new Babylon, the center of the greatest pagan empire on earth; but by his ministry as its bishop and his witness unto death St. Peter assured its conversion into the capital City of God, the beating heart of the Body of Christ.
And in this century you were given to us, Blessed in name and Blessed in truth, amidst a world that wanted to tear down the New Jerusalem to build a New Sodom that even the ancient pagans would have cursed. And while innovators surrendered to the world’s assault, you turned humbly to the Lord and became the great instrument of His grace and truth.
And upon this Rock I will build my Church, Christ our Lord had said of Blessed Peter, and through Him of you, Benedictus Petrus. You allowed the ancient liturgy of the Latins its ancient freedom, and gave the new worship of the West a new depth. You upheld God’s truth and pointed out His hope, leading us through the straight and difficult path of His commandments, so that we might remain in His love.
And the gates of Hades will not prevail against the Church, promised the Lord, and He fulfilled it in you. For the world did not just reject the grace by which God raises our nature to Himself; but it denounced even the nature He made in His image, making human life an optional value before selfishness and sin. But its culture of death could not topple the pillar and foundation of truth which the Rock of Salvation had set upon His earthly, human vicar.
But how Satan tried you, as he tried the first vicar of Christ. You, who fought to purge sin from priests’ souls, were blamed for the disease that had festered because of another shepherd’s medicine of mercy. Because you dared convict it of sin, the world that forgave the beam in other men’s eyes gnashed teeth at the speck in yours. Worse, those who called themselves God-knowers worked for your fall, because their hearts were far from the God Whom their lips theologized.
Like them we found it pleasant and “free” to turn from His one fold to follow our own way, till we drew too near to the roaring beast that devoureth. Too late we remembered the words of the first Peter, who warned against the adversary that prowls about. But you held your ground before us, and by an old man’s strength kept the wicked lions from our souls. How glad we were then to hear you call, as sheep hear the living voice of their shepherd.
For the Word made flesh had said, Confirm your brethren. So you held fast to the faith once delivered to the saints by epistle and word of mouth, and by precept and example your strength became ours. And when the world and its treasonous pastors stormed at the ark of our salvation, you piloted us without fear, and unfurled its sails that the Spirit would bear us to our true homeland.
Beloved Father, why do you now leave your children so suddenly? Who will now hold the bleeding and weeping body of Christ?
Beloved Shepherd, who will now feed the lambs and sheep? Who will fight off the baying wolves when you are gone?
Beloved Teacher, who shall guide us when you turn silent? Who will speak the truth we need and hate to hear, the law we know and fear to follow?
Your Holiness, while our minds accept that you must go, our hearts do not—not yet—, and they are very broken. There is so much undone that may never now be accomplished, so many wounds to mend that may never now be healed. We thought you’d be with us for many more years, and that thought gave us some peace, even when the world made war on our souls. And now those years are cut to 16 days.
And we fear what shall pass when you leave. We know by faith that the Church will never fail, and we hope in Christ that we shall sail in Peter’s barque to paradise; but what if the next Peter is one who denies the Lord, and not one like you who was crucified in His name? By grace the new Pontiff is the infallible rock on whom God set His kingdom; but if he be a sinner in deeds or a compromiser in policy, then might we not stumble on his block?
And yet, always, Holy Father, we have faith in Christ Who promised to be with us always, and in His Spirit Who leads us into all truth, even those we could not yet bear. We trust in your judgment that a man of strength in mind and body is needed for the office of Peter, and that this man is no longer you. And we choose to hope that this faith and trust will outlive the pain that sears us now and so much at your resignation.
Oh, Benedict, our Benedict, we love you and we will pray for you, as you have ever prayed for us. May God bless you always, as He has blessed us through you.