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AUTHOR: Jay Boren, Headmaster

As the Church prepares today to bury Pope Benedict XVI, I wanted to share some thoughts on the life of this great Catholic man.

Although his health has been in decline for some time, I still felt myself caught a bit off guard by the news of his passing this week. It seemed like such a personal loss for me. As a young Catholic coming of age in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, John Paul II and Benedict XVI were my spiritual heroes. They inspired me and were the rocks I fell back on when dark nights came. I loved reading their works and felt called to follow their example. With Pope Benedict’s death this week, I felt a deep sadness. In many ways it feels like the end of an era. I am sad because I know the Church will miss him.

However, I have also come to feel great gratitude at this time. What a great blessing he was to the Church! What a great blessing his writings are for all who will follow. What a powerful intercessor he will be for us. I am perhaps most grateful to Pope Benedict XVI for making it possible to be introduced to – and fall in love with – the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Benedict’s motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, gave an entire generation access to the beautiful Mass of our ancestors. In 1997 he wrote,

“I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. It’s impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent. Can it be trusted any more about anything else?”

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth, 1997

In Summorum Pontificum he generously offered all of us the opportunity to encounter Christ in the usus antiquior. I think the Latin Mass is the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven and I feel so indebted to Pope Benedict for generously allowing me to experience it.

In addition to gratitude for his great life I also recalled these words from Pope Benedict:

“Christianity is not an intellectual system, a collection of dogmas, or a moralism. Christianity is an encounter, a love story; it is an event.”

Pope Benedict XVI

I will never forget reading these words for the first time – I was in the chapel at my previous school reading and praying. At different times in my life I have favored some quotes over others as they take on different meanings during the changing seasons of life. However, these words have stood the test of time. It is easy to get caught up in the theological, moral, and ideological debates of the age, but at the end of the day it is important for us to remember that Christianity is, first and foremost, a relationship with Jesus Christ. It seems that Pope Benedict’s final words were, “Jesus, I love you.” So fitting. So timely. He truly was a great witness.

Pope Benedict asked us to pray for him, so let us do that. However, let us also ask for his prayers, that we may all have such deep and profound faith. “Jesus, I love you.”

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