Saturday, April 23, 2005

We Are Safe Now

Many devout Catholics breathed a sigh of relief (if they didn't jump for joy) when the name of the new Pope was announced. "We are safe now", many said to each other. We knew that Pope Benedict is a holy, orthodox, brave man. We knew that he will not falter or waver when proclaiming the Truth. He is a reserved man; he has not the ebullience of John Paul II. He is a studious man; he has not the magnetism of his predecessor. But he has suffered. He has sacrificed.

He was coerced into joining Hitler's Youth Program at the age of 14. For those who don't realize it, it was MANDATORY for all German youths to do so; refusal meant penalty of death. Later when he was drafted he deserted and was subsequently interned as a POW under the American army. His early suffering was different from John Paul II's. Karol Wojtyla endured an occupation and brutality from an outside invader. Joseph Ratzinger endured hostility and coercion from his own people. It must be very disturbing, to witness and be forced to partake of that which deviates from one's own culture and principles - to see your own people go astray from the right path.

And that is what Pope Benedict recognizes and sees in Europe, particularly western Europe. It is no coincidence that he chose the name "Benedict" for his pontificate. St. Benedict is the Father of Western Monasticism. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe descended into chaos and anarchy. All of civilized man's works: literature, government, art, etc... were in peril. It is Benedict of Nursia who retreated and created monastaries where his followers could pray, study, and preserve all that was good culture from the ancient worlds. He developed a set of Rules, on which much civil and religious government are based.

Pope Benedict sees a direct correlation between Europe's decline into a coarser society and its rejection of Christianity. A man of deep insight, he recognizes the dangers which face the Church today - especially "relativism"- about which he preached in his homily for the Mass on the eve of the Conclave. He has faced fierce criticism and hostility from the left and the media alike for his unvarnished statements about abortion, homosexuality, birth control, etc... Under Pope John Paul, he has taken many bullets as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

He has expressed a desire to retire many times, but Pope John Paul would not allow it. In an interview conducted last year, Cardinal Ratzinger wryly commented that he could not retire in good conscience when he was seeing how the Holy Father continued his pontificate in suffering and ill health.

A literate man, who also enjoys playing piano and listening to Mozart, he has written many theological works including a memoir. The name, "Benedict", Latin for "good words" is doubly appropriate for this man of faith. Those who know him or have met him have consistently commented on his courtesy, his humility, and his gentleness.

Catholic youth have embraced John Paul, and the world was astonished when they saw the hordes of young people crowd St. Peter's Square to see his body lie in state before the funeral. When the new Pope was proclaimed, they chanted his name "Benedict" and cried with joy. This generation of youth is the first to have grown up without a father. Children out of wedlock, broken marriages - the result of the 60's ideologies - they embraced the Pope as a father figure. They want someone who stands for something. They want someone who will tell them the Truth without whitewashing, without politically correct language. They want someone who will love them and tell them what is good and right, like a true father would.

In Pope Benedict XVI, they have been granted their wish.