Why I’ll Miss Papa Benny, But Respect Him All The More

Humans are frail.

That’s not necessarily a statement I like to contemplate on a regular basis. It reminds me that my occasional pursuits of perfection are not only overbearing, but antithetical to my own existence. Humans are frail. We get sick. (I know that one well). We’re sometimes not as capable on Monday as we were on Sunday… and it takes until Thursday to regain those capabilities. Some mornings, it’s all I can do to try to find ONE surface in the house I haven’t sneezed all over. (N.B., that was this morning.) Every time I have to call and reorder medications from the pharmacy, I’m reminded that… humans are frail.

And it’s not just a physical thing. We can be weak mentally – find me on a stressful day, ask me a question like “what do you plan to make for dinner?”, and it’s likely that I’ll snap back with 100 words in 10 seconds about how I don’t KNOW what I’m going to make for dinner and I don’t have TIME TO THINK about making dinner because THE WORLD IS COLLAPSING ON MY SHOULDERS.

So like I said. Humans are frail. And for most of us, it can be a struggle to face up to the reality that we’re frail. I know I struggle with it, on several different levels. I’ve been called a “glass case of NO emotions“. I’ve tried to get by without some of my meds, thinking it was weak of me to need them. That ended poorly. One of the greatest struggles we frail humans have is recognizing our frailty – acknowledging it – accepting it – and moving forward.

Papa Benny, a.k.a Pope Benedict XVI, a.k.a. The Vicar of Christ, a.k.a. The Supreme Pontiff, a.k.a. The Successor St. Peter, was my Pope. Yes, I grew up mostly in the JPII era. But I wasn’t nearly as CatholicNerd during that time, as I was in the years that followed his papacy. Papa Benny was the fatherly figure – the one that tells you, no, that’s not okay. You need to stop that, or become better. I love you.

That’s what I needed from the Pope. I needed the words of wisdom in 140 characters or less, via his @Pontifex twitter account. I needed his gentle, yet firm, guidance through the encyclicals he wrote. When I attended the papal audience in November 2009, the warmth he exuded… it’s really indescribable. I can tell you with certainty that I came into contact with Christ that day.

Pope Benedict XVI, November 2009

Here is a man, a human, who knew that the weight of leading the Catholic Church was upon his shoulders. He recognized his own frailness and made a choice that will be derided by many, questioned by others, skeptically viewed and torn apart by yet others, and devastating to some. Yet, he made that choice… and I respect him all the more for it. May I someday be able to act with one tenth of the humility.

And now, I’ll let Papa Benny speak for himself, with just a few excerpts…

We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. -Deus Caritas Est

It is not science that redeems man: man is redeemed by love. This applies even in terms of this present world. When someone has the experience of a great love in his life, this is a moment of “redemption” which gives a new meaning to his life. But soon he will also realize that the love bestowed upon him cannot by itself resolve the question of his life. It is a love that remains fragile. It can be destroyed by death. The human being needs unconditional love. He needs the certainty which makes him say: “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38- 39). –Spe Salvi

Life in its true sense is not something we have exclusively in or from ourselves: it is a relationship. And life in its totality is a relationship with him who is the source of life. If we are in relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we “live”.Spe Salvi

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