Wednesday 13 February 2013

Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, we love you! And here's why...

Unusually, I have just spent a week away from connectivity - no Internet, mobile phone or other data connection: our family had travelled up to the Lancashire moors to celebrate my Grandfather-in-law's 100th birthday. We had a wonderful time, with family from all over the world coming to celebrate until...

...yesterday morning, For no discernible reason I felt an 'itch' to turn on the television. As we don't own a TV at home, this is quite unusual . We had been staying in rooms above a pub in the edge of the Lancashire moors, and my husband and children had gone off after breakfast to pick up my in-laws who were visiting from North America. I was tidying our room and suddenly decided on a whim to see whether or not the TV worked and just happened to switch on BBC News 24 to see images of our Holy Father broadcast live with the announcement that he had just made.

I'm not the first Catholic blogger to say that I was shocked. Shocked is probably the wrong word. Bereaved comes closer. While I understand on an intellectual level what Cardinal Arinze is getting at here

I think that everyone who heard the news has been affected in a profoundly personal way. I felt bereft. My first thought was "Holy Father, where should we go? What should we do?" I felt small and childlike and lost. Were is my father going? I dropped down to my knees and prayed a decade of the Rosary. I wondered: " Beloved Pope Benedict - our Holy Father - what will we do without you?"

I instantly remembered how I felt when I heard that Pope Benedict had been elected in 2005: ELATED. At the time I didn't know why, exactly, it was so important to me that he became Pope rather than any other - but I was already blundering towards traditionalism (blundering meaning that nothing else felt right, nothing else answered the questions that had been left unanswered by decades in the Novus Ordo) - and I had a deep sense that having the then Cardinal Joesph Ratzinger as Pope mattered. 

Years on, I can confirm that it was a defining moment in my reversion to Holy Mother Church. Yes, I was already a Catholic "revert" but Pope Benedict defined and refined my faith through his encyclicals and books. I devoured them. I professed - and continue to profess - gratitude for his clarification of the position of the Traditional Latin Mass. When the Moto Proprio came out in 2007 I was primed and receptive. Hungry for spiritual nourishment, I asked my (then) pp whether we might have a monthly Traditional Latin Mass as there were several families in the parish who were very keen to have one. I was told that I was getting all the Latin I could expect in our Novus Ordo use of the Gloria, Agnus Dei and Sanctus from Mass VIII throughout the year. We had "some" Latin - what more could I want?

Indeed: how much Latin could anybody want? "Feed my sheep" said our Lord, and indeed. as a family, we were hungry.Starving. Both my husband and myself had come from nominally Catholic families. "Culturally" Catholic families, one could say. We had reverted from an agnostic / atheistic / lackadaisically Catholic point of view, towards an orthodox, traditionalist point of view. Pope Benedict XIV provided spiritual food for the last stages of that journey, and for that we will be forever grateful. He provided the signposts that gave our journey direction.

I was born in 1969. I received my First Holy Communion in 1978 with little or no catechises. I was confirmed in 1983 with even less catechises: I didn't even manage to have a saint's name for my confirmation name! (Priestly readers: is there any remedy for this?)

I returned to the Church I believe in large part due to the workings of the Holy Spirit. My husband and I were married and had our children baptised. We went to church every Sunday and Holy day of Obligation, and I often took the children on weekdays. We felt as though we were hungry. We were looking for more, and as well-meaning as it was, our Novus Ordo parish wasn' t giving us the spiritual food that we craved.

I mention this all to explain why I consider myself to be of the "Benedict XVI" generation. Sure, I was 35 when Cardinal Ratzinger became our Holy Father, but for me (and for many of my age and generation) this was a defining moment. Pope Benedict XVI was unambiguous about Church teachings. He directed us towards timeless Tradition and Truth and in doing so filled the spiritual chasm that had been an irritant since adolescence. I cannot be the only person who has felt this.

In real terms this affected our family. Over time we gravitated towards traditional devotions, such as a nightly Rosary and saying the Angelus at noon, and later the traditional Latin Mass. We later moved house so that we could be attached to a parish with a priest who supported us in our decision to home educate our children and who offered our family a parish with a rich and nourishing spiritual life. As a family we became attached to traditional spiritual devotions, and became immersed in a broader and richer spiritual life than we had access to in the pre-moto-proprio days. Certainly these aspects of Catholicism existed before the pontificate of Benedict XVI, but his encouragement certainly served as a catalyst for our family.

I feel immensely grateful that our family has been privileged to pray with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, at the beatification Mass of Blessed John Henry Newman at the Mass in Birmingham as well as having prayed the Angelus with him when we went to Rome in November 2012 in thanksgiving for the 5th Anniversary of the Moto Proprio for the Una Cum Papa Nostro pilgrimage.

Do you remember where you were on 19th April 2005?  I do. I was in my dining room, close to the kitchen door, and I heard BBC Radio 4 announce the outcome of the conclave. I remember punching the air. It felt so very important at the time, and I don't think I realised how important it actually was until much much later on.

I will never forget where I was sometime after 10:30 am GMT on 11 February 2013: I was in a rented guest room above a pub on the moors in Lancashire. There was no mobile or internet reception. I had turned on the  TV news utterly randomly.

There has been much talk of the JPII generation. I consider myself to be of the BXVI generation: sure, I was born in the late'60s but I came "of age" spiritually under the guidance of our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. And for this reason I will forever be in his debt.

Thank you Holy Father. Thank you. thank you, thank you. May Almighty God always bless and protect you.

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