On October 11 I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the Holy Father’s Mass for the opening of the Year of Faith, which he inaugurated on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the 2nd Vatican council. I was particularly struck by his homily. He said that the entrance procession was meant to recall that of the council fathers as they entered St. Peter’s to being the council in 1962. The book of the Gospels which they used at this Mass was the same one that they used during the council. There were other symbols as well which led me to reflect on all that Joseph Ratzinger has seen over the past 50 years. Think about it. He has seen the Church rejoice, he worked closely with John Paul II, and he spear-headed the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But he has also seen the Church’s sufferings: scandals, men leaving the priesthood, and liberal ideologies and great confusion in the post-conciliar period. He also experienced and dealt first-hand with much of this as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Despite all he has seen in the Church over the years, he looks with great hope to the future. He hopes for the Church’s future and is working for it. He is traveling, preaching, writing (did I mention he is 85?)- giving his very life, every last year, hoping and trusting in the brightness of the Church’s future. Seeing him at that Mass, seeing his age and fragility, I felt so proud to be a member of the same Church. I saw a man who may be the most intelligent and accomplished scholar and theologian of our time and I saw the cause for which he is spending, pouring out, all his energy and every last year of his life. He believes that the Catholic Church, the Church of Christ, is a cause worth living and dying for. Why? Because living and dying for Christ is worth it. At that Mass my prayer was for us to live profoundly this Year of Faith that we may know and love Christ’s Church more.