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A Humble Worker in the Vineyard of the Lord

I’m shaken, I’ll admit.  

This doesn’t strike me as a particularly propitious moment for the Church. (Or for democracy, the rule of law, and other essential components of what we continue to call civilization.) No doubt Benedict considered this before making his decision, but Paul VI chose not to resign for fear he would set a bad precedent–from then on, this group or that would attempt to pressure his successors into resigning themselves–and it seems to me that Paul VI had a point. And who will succeed Benedict? The more closely I observe contemporary bishops, frankly, the less impressed with them I am (there are exceptions, of course, but still) and I can’t see much reason to suppose that the bishops in the College of Cardinals rises all that far above the general run.

I’m shaken, as I say.

Against all this? I have the example of Benedict himself.

Take a look once again at the two minutes of tape below. Proclaimed pope less than an hour before, an old Bavarian scholar stands on the balcony of St. Peter’s addressing a hundred thousand in the piazza below–and, by television and radio, all the world. He speaks without notes, in Italian. Immediately–you can see this at about 25 seconds–he speaks of his predecessor as “the great” pope John Paul. Then–this takes place at about 40 seconds–he explains how he sees himself in relation to John Paul II: He himself, says Benedict, represents only “a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.”

A humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.

The calm Benedict displayed–the profound serenity–proved then, as during these eight years since, that he believed what he said, and that he believed that was enough.

Say your prayers. Do your work. And leave the rest to the Lord.

Much easier said than done, of course, particularly for someone with as intense an impulse as mine to comment and meddle. But the magnificent life of Josef Ratzinger–for eight years supreme pontiff, and, as of the final day of this month, once again a quiet priest and scholar–proves that it’s worth a very good try.

  1. Giantkiller

    I could not agree more – shaken and moved.  A truly great man and Pope.

  2. Ursula Hennessey
    C

    Amen to all you’ve said, Peter.

    (…revealing my own intense impulse to comment and meddle … )

  3. Pseudodionysius

    Peter,

    You have no reason to be shaken. Stirred perhaps, but not shaken. Entrust yourself during this Lent to the care of the favorite spiritual author of Pope Benedict XV and Pope Pius XII, the some day Doctor of Divine Adoption, the man who introduced the late Blessed John Paul II to the mysteries of the spiritual life, the Irish/Belgian Benedictine Dom Columba Marmion

    Blessed Columba Marmion was born in Ireland and served for several years as a priest in Dublin before finding a vocation to the monastery. Eventually he became Abbot of Maredsous Abbey in Belgium and one of the foremost spiritual masters of the 20th century. His books have been translated into eleven languages and sold some 1.5 million copies. The back cover describes the work thus: “Firmly rooted in the Bible, the Liturgy, and the writings of the Saints and Doctors of the Church, Marmion explores every aspect of Catholic dogma — with penetrating insight — but his great emphasis is on the person o Christ, and the doctrine of Divine Adoption.” 

  4. Colin B Lane

    Peter, 

    Be not afraid. 

    God

  5. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    Actually, Peter, I think that this is a good thing. Benedict’s Papacy had entered its twilight, and the Church mice in the Vatican were beginning to stir and to speak on his behalf. His decision is an indication of his awareness that he can no longer shoulder the burden, and it may signal his determination not to allow others to make of him their mouthpiece.

    We must hope and pray that his successor will be a man of real quality. These are trying times, and we are only now beginning to recover from a period of deep corruption.

  6. Tennessee Patriot

    Maybe they can find one this time who is not pro-socialism and realizes that free people in free nations creates the most “social justice”. The Catholic Church stance on statism is appalling.

  7. Douglas
    Paul A. Rahe: Actually, Peter, I think that this is a good thing. Benedict’s Papacy had entered its twilight, and the Church mice in the Vatican were beginning to stir and to speak on his behalf. His decision is an indication of his awareness that he can no longer shoulder the burden, and it may signal his determination not to allow others to make of him their mouthpiece.

    We must hope and pray that his successor will be a man of real quality. These are trying times, and we are only now beginning to recover from a period of deep corruption. · 1 hour ago

    I only hope the next Pope can live up to the legacy of the last two. They left some pretty big boots to fill.

  8. Frederick Key

    I think I understand the term “gobsmacked” now.

    I’m a huge admirer of the Holy Father; his Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration is a tremendous work. Have not gotten to the others yet–just have not felt up to the heavy lifting. What an incredible Christian thinker.

  9. KC Mulville

    Of course, is it out of the question that Benedict would write another theology treatise, or better, a spiritual memoir?

    After all, he’s just resigning from a stressful job – he isn’t dead yet. 

  10. notmarx

    Peter Robinson says: A humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.  The calm Benedict displayed–the profound serenity…

    *

    He has the nicest way with him, a quiet radiance.  John Paul I admired.  I love Benedict.  And I trust him, so I’m inclined to believe he’s made the right decision; and as one of his flock, inclined to hope.     

  11. Rachel Lu
    C

    I would never accuse Pope Benedict of doing something thoughtlessly, but it’s hard not to feel discouraged. Not just because I love this Holy Father, but because I keep thinking about how no pontiff will again be able to say or do anything controversial without an accompanying chorus of screams about how the pope is out of touch and needs to resign. It’s hard not to feel a little let down.

  12. Irene F. Starkehaus

    Shaken, yes.  Pope Benedict’s successor will sig­nal to the Church’s followers that Catholi­cism has either given up and fallen to the despo­tism of moral rel­a­tivism or has steeled itself against the erod­ing tide of human­ism to light the way for those who truly seek to do God’s will dur­ing their time here on earth.  For myself, I’m not certain that the Church is prepared to make this stand.

  13. Nanda Panjandrum

    To Rachel Lu & Cranky1:  In Whom do we place trust?  (Cf. Mt. 16:18)

  14. Cornelius Julius Sebastian

    Thank you, Peter.  Your words put a tightness in my throat that I have not felt since the memorial service for Blessed John Paul II (the Great) at my parish nigh eight years ago.  I tremble some for who will next wear the Shoes of the Fisherman, but less so than were the man deciding he must step aside been a cleric of ordinary caliber, instead of one of our Church’s greatest theologians.   Let us have faith in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Still, admittedly perhaps more for selfish reasons, I am tinged with sadness to think of what we as a Catholic family will be losing when our Holy Father steps aside.  Men such as Karol Wotlya and Joseph Ratzinger are rarely produced, let alone in tandem.  One cannot help but feel the time of giants is ending. Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us and the conclave.

  15. Nanda Panjandrum

    CJS. Re #23:  Just a reminder, Benedict (he of the ‘good word’) is not yet lost to us.  Also, let us not foreclose the action of the Holy Spirit. [Cf. 1 Cor. 2:9-10]

  16. Nick Stuart

    Although my family have been Protestants back to Jan Hus, and it’s not likely we’re coming back anytime soon, I was evangelized by Catholics, attended a Catholic university, have five children, and am ardently pro-life. So I’m hard to pick out of the crowd at the semi-annual KofC sponsored blood drive.

    Anyway, I’ve been admirer of the Holy Father (defending him as required to liberal Catholics) and am sorry to see him go.

    It is admirable that he knows when to hang it up and it is an example that the superannuated politicians (e.g Byrd, Kennedy, Hyde, Thurmond, &tc.) and judges (Marshall, Rhenquist, &tc.) in the US would do well to follow.

    Let not your heart be troubled Peter. God is either in control, or he’s not. And if not, the resignation of a pope is among the lesser of our worries.

  17. Western Chauvinist
    KC Mulville

    J Climacus:

    Don’t sweat the Papal Election… and let us put our faith in the real Helmsman behind the Church.

    Second that.

    Although, MSNBC has latched on to the key meaning of electing a pope:

    “It’s going to be a watershed moment for the Catholic Church. Where do they go?” asked MSNBC analyst Mike Barnicle. “Do they go right? The pope took the church even more to the right. Or do they come back toward the middle with the American church in their minds?”

    Rarely has MSNBC articulated my fears so precisely.

  18. Bereket Kelile

    And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

    The fate of the church is in Jesus’ hands and there is no reason to worry about what the future will bring. It’s not that we hope in a future victory but that we trust in the victory that has already been won. The Lord will build His church and no one can do anything to stop that. 

    And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

  19. Nick Stuart

    On the lighter side, from my twitter feed:

    • Second resignation in 7200 months. Turmoil in bedrock institution.

    • As soon as the pope discovered Twitter, he just couldn’t keep his head in his day job.
  20. Rachel Lu
    C

    I’m not fearful for the long-term future of the Church as a whole. The Holy Spirit will protect it, as he always has. But of course that doesn’t preclude the possibility of dark days in the interim. There have been plenty of those too. And we rank-and-file have to put up with the fallout as much as anyone else.

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