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As a young Catholic (well, I am 64 but only came into full communion with the Church in October 2004), Pope Benedict XVI was the first pope I truly followed and got to know. John Paul II reigned when I entered the Church, and my family and I got to see him in his last days in Rome in December 2004/January 2005, but it was Joseph Ratzinger whom I would follow closely as I grew as a Catholic. I’ve read his encyclicals, a handful of his books, and a great deal of his homilies. But his lasting legacy for me will be his love of the liturgy and the momentous step he took in 2007 with his issuance of Summorum Pontificam, his Apostolic Letter liberalizing the use of the Traditional Latin Mass. As he stated in a book-length interview with Peter Seewald: “Something that was previously the most sacred thing in the Church to people should not suddenly be completely forbidden.”
Latin Mass communities are growing in the US despite the efforts of Benedict XVI’s successor, Pope Francis, to destroy the Latin Mass. Pope Francis issued his own Apostolic Letter, Traditiones Custodes, which basically attempts to undo all the good that Benedict XVI accomplished with the liturgy.
In a wonderful article at Adoremus, Fr. Uwe Lang writes on the liturgical legacy of Pope Benedict XVI:
I am convinced that his epochal labors to restore the sacred liturgy to the heart of the Church, with intellectual courage, spiritual depth, and at great personal cost, have only begun to bear fruit and will prove his lasting legacy to Christianity.
I agree with this 100%. Despite the efforts of Pope Francis to throw Benedict XVI under the bus, the work of B16 will bear fruit because he had things ordered right: God first:
“Beginning with the liturgy tells us: ‘God first.’ When the focus on God is not decisive, everything else loses its orientation. The saying from the Rule of St. Benedict ‘Nothing is to be preferred to the liturgy’ (43,3) applies specifically to monasticism, but as a way of ordering priorities it is true also for the life of the Church and of every individual, for each in his own way.”
Pope Benedict then recalled a theme he has widely explored in his writing and preaching—the fullness of meaning of “orthodoxy”: “It may be useful here to recall that in the word ‘orthodoxy,’ the second half, ‘-doxa,’ does not mean ‘idea,’ but, rather, ‘glory’ (Herrlichkeit): it is not a matter of the right ‘idea’ about God; rather, it is a matter of the right way of glorifying him, of responding to him. For that is the fundamental question of the man who begins to understand himself correctly: How must I encounter God? Thus learning the right way of worshipping—orthodoxy—is the gift par excellence that is given to us by the faith.”
If you are at all interested in the liturgy of the Church and Pope Benedict XVI, I highly recommend Fr. Lang’s article (best enjoyed with a cocktail). It is full of the richness of Joseph Ratzinger. May he rest in peace and may his legacy bear great fruit.Published in