The feast of the Chair of St Peter. A week from today that chair will be empty. But Benedict has been the Pope of my vocation, and I think it is fitting on this day to pay him tribute for this. Perhaps it is significant that I encountered him above all in his written words. I have come quite close to him in person several times, but that is not how he communicates. He is a teacher. My first experience was actually in reading his homily delivered at the mass of his inauguration. It marked my Novitiate and subsequently my Religious life. Above all the lines:
“Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything.”
He addressed exactly the fear that I was struggling with, that if I gave Christ all, I would lose something, and once and for all he dismissed it. I have never looked back, and never been so happy!
And so I can only say thank you! Thank you Pope Benedict for your words and for your testimony. Thank you on behalf of a generation of young priests and religious. For many of us, John Paul sowed the seeds but you have made them blossom. Your time has not been in vain. We are here thanks to you, and this we will never forget!
Thank you, our brave Vicar of Christ, BenedictXVI, for the beautiful priests you have gardened by your fruitful instruction. God bless you!