Prayer Vigil of
Thanksgiving and Remembrance
Benedict XVI R.I.P.
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
4th January 2023
We all know well that our childhood experience and the years of our youth have a huge impact on our lives. The kind of family we grow up in, our school experience, the wider society’s impact too. It was no different for the late Pope Benedict. We know he grew up in a devout Catholic family with his brother and sister. His father was in the police force, which meant the family moved often because of his work. Music was very important in their home. However, the greatest impact on his young life was the emergence of the National Socialist Movement under Adolf Hitler. He was a reluctant conscript to the Nazi Youth Movement. He escaped from it as soon as he could.
I suggest this experience was hugely impactful on his life’s work because it gave him a deep sense of the importance of ideas, ideals and human freedom. Pope Benedict had a profound sense of the importance of truth, beauty, honour, integrity and humility which were inspired by his faith in and love of God in and through Jesus Christ Our Lord. All that is best in humanity and the cultivation of authentic human values were for him a reflection of the goodness of God and creation. In that sense his faith and life was filled with a sense of being blessed – as so simply reflected in the words of Jesus in the Beatitudes.
Writing in his first Encyclical Letter (2005) Deus Caritas Est – he distils the essence of that faith
“We have come to believe in God’s love
In these words the Christian can express the fundamentals of his/her 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”
This is truly great news for anyone young and old in search of truth, of joy, of fulfilment and peace in life – Place your trust in Christ Jesus. In that sense Benedict though a great theologian was rooted in the reality of life’s daily trials and difficulty. There is a disarming simplicity in his spiritual guidance and teaching.
Too often Benedict was cast in the mould of being ultra conservative and rejecting change. Many were vigorous in their opposition and some vitriolic in their criticism all because they did not like what they heard. Still, Benedict was unfailingly charitable toward them. His reason he makes clear in Deus Caritas Est
“Those who practice charity in the Church’s name will never seek to impose the Church’s faith upon others… A Christian knows when it is time to speak of God and when it is better to say nothing and to let love alone speak” (DCE 31)
On 24th April 2005 after Benedict was elected Pope in his 1sthomily he reflected on the piece from St. Luke’s Gospel we heard this evening (Lk. 5:1-11). It recalls Jesus’ invitation to the apostles to cast out their net again though they had fished all night and caught nothing. Because Jesus had asked them to – they did – and we know the result. Pope Benedict, no doubt chose that text carefully as a way of saying to the Church not to lose hope but to focus on the stars of hope by way of people and events where goodness shines through and shines out. Such hope strengthens us to persevere. Benedict would ask us this evening to take to heart Paul’s invitation to the Thessalonians (2nd Reading)
“Stand firm then and keep the traditions I/we taught you by word of mouth or by letter
May Our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God Our Father who has given us his live, and through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say” (2 Thess 2:15-17)
My friends, this night we thank God for the courageous and clear voice that Pope Benedict XVI has been for the Church.
We pray for his successor Pope Francis who in turn seeks to be a prophetic voice to humanity. May he be sustained in faith and health at this challenging moment in history.
May Mary our Blessed Mother continue to intercede for and keep vigil with the Church in this moment of transition and bereavement.
Grant eternal rest to your servant Pope Benedict. May perpetual light shine on him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. AMEN