Tuesday, January 15, 2019

"Father Benedict": The 'Thirst for the Infinite' Continues

I recently came across this text (see below) from Benedict XVI among notes taken some time ago. Gosh, it's nearly six years since those earth-shaking days of early 2013 when Benedict resigned the papacy and entered into the secluded life of prayer that he continues to this day.

Josef Ratzinger has lived a vast life of service to Christ and the Church, as priest and theologian, bishop, cardinal, pope, and now as the nonagenarian hermit who remains in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in Vatican City.   .

His long thirst for God still burns in silence and hiddenness, and still participates (in ways beyond our imagining) in the inner vitality of the Church's life, and in the often anguished search of human beings for the face of the Mystery who gives meaning and purpose to their existence. Though "Father Benedict" (as he prefers to be called today) rarely communicates publicly and no longer exercises an active teaching mission in the world, he has left us many profound words from his years as Pope. They remain as a precious legacy within the Church, still offering nourishment for meditation on our faith and for living our relationship with God through an encounter with Jesus that enables us to pray with all the depths of our humanity.

As our current Pope Francis continues to carry the burden of the Petrine ministry in his 83rd year of life—with all its responsibilities and its many sufferings—he is no doubt encouraged by the fraternal presence of his predecessor. It is a unique situation, which I don't think anyone expected to last this long, and which is so idiosyncratic that it's not likely to become a custom in the Church.

In these tumultuous times, however, it continues to serve purposes ultimately known only to God.

Here is the text from a homily in 2011, when the decade now drawing to a close was still young. But the truth they express is not bound by time, and speaks the very heart of the person:

"Man bears within himself a thirst for the infinite, a nostalgia for eternity, a search for beauty, a desire for love, a need for light and truth, which drive him toward the Absolute; man bears within himself the desire for God. And man knows, in some way, that he can address himself to God, that he can pray to him. Saint Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest theologians of history, defines prayer as the 'expression of man's desire for God.' This attraction toward God, which God himself has placed in man, is the soul of prayer, which is cloaked in many forms and modalities according to the history, time, moment, grace and finally the sin of each one of those who pray" (Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience of May 11, 2011).