In all the drama of today’s farewell to Pope Benedict XVI, and amidst all the high level comment, intellectual analysis and historical accounting of his legacy, here are the very personal reasons why Benedict mattered to me.
1. He granted the dispensation from the vow of celibacy that opened the door for my ordination as a Catholic priest.
2. He established the Anglican Ordinariate. While I am not a priest in the Ordinariate, I have great interest in the ordinariate and its progress. I believe history will show Benedict XVI to have been a revolutionary pope when it comes to ecumenism–showing new ways for Christians to come into full communion with the Holy See.
3. He showed the way of truly Christian Biblical scholarship. He did not reject the findings of modern Biblical critics as fundamentalists do, nor did he adopt modernism and promote it. Instead was truly Catholic in his approach. He gleaned from all Biblical scholars what was true and good, and he also rejected that which was inconsistent, heretical, merely theoretical and unsubstantiated. His Biblical scholarship was thorough and erudite, yet fully within the magisterium of the church.
4. He turned upside down the media’s stupid portrayal of him as “God’s Rotweiller.” Almost immediately after his election that slur vanished as he revealed himself to be just what he said he was, “a humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard.” He showed the world that he was a gentle, scholarly, quiet man who did not avoid the onerous duties laid upon him by the Lord.
5. Benedict XVI took the name Benedict. I have loved St Benedict for a long time and seek to follow him in what humble way I can as a Benedictine oblate. When he took the name “Benedict” I immediately felt a connection with him. He was not only they holy father, but a kind of universal abbot. Now that he has retired to the monastic life it all seems a perfect ending.
6. He visited England and the United States. My heart is in both lands, and to witness his visit to both countries drew me closer to him and his courageous ministry.
7. He beatified Bl. John Henry Newman. Nuff said.
8. He taught the “hermeneutic of continuity” reminding us that the second Vatican Council did not overturn centuries of tradition, but renewed them and brought them forward with new meaning and insight and relevance. He was not ashamed, in his dress and liturgical style to renew the liturgy by drawing on its deep roots in the past.
9. He managed to combine a contemplative, inward gazing personality with an active and dynamic papacy. He showed the world that quiet men can be leaders too, and that “in quietness and confidence is much strength.”
10. He wore those red shoes.