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How Pope Benedict re-ignited the flame of faith in my heart

We are ‘Generation Benedict,’ and we will miss him so much, writes Collette Power

By on Friday, 15 February 2013

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow

It was with great shock and sadness that I learned of the news of Pope Benedict’s abdication on Monday. Pope Benedict has been responsible for the conversion, reversion, vocation and the deepening of faith of many young Catholics in this country.

At the time of his visit to the UK, I was living a life at complete odds to the Church but his powerful homily at Bellahouston Park was the catalyst for my conversion. Through his eloquence, his love and genuine concern for the young Catholics of Scotland, the powerful Truth of the Gospel message crashed into my life. Looking back it was like a moment from Acts of the Apostles, for upon hearing his message, I too was cut to the heart. Like the crowds in Jerusalem, I asked the question, “What must I do?” Through the ministry of Peter’s successor and in the subsequent messages of his UK visit, I found the answer to this question and began an incredible journey back into a living relationship with Christ and His Holy Church. The Holy Father re-ignited the flame of faith in my heart and in a world marked by mediocrity, he challenged me to become a saint.

The Church in England will reap the fruits of his short pontificate for many years to come. We are already seeing the flourishing of new signs of life in the Church in the UK. I think of the many vibrant lay apostolates in the UK: Youth 2000, Take a Stand, Made for Glory, 2nd Friday, Night Fever, 40 Days for Life and so on. These young apostolates are very much influenced by a pontificate which called us to enter into an intimate relationship with Christ, to find our home in the Catholic Church, to live our Catholicism without compromise and to give a bold and courageous witness to the Gospel Truths in a world that so desperately needs Christ.

I know of many young men for whom the Papal Visit or WYD Madrid was the deciding factor in their entering seminary. Indeed the numbers in our seminaries continue to increase each year. Even more recently, the press coverage for the abdication saw many outstanding young Catholics from across the UK interviewed. Through their questioning, many presenters were seeking the “youth of the Church” to call for reform and the modernisation of the Church under a new Pope. What they got was a response from “Generation Benedict”.

Paschal Uche put it rather splendidly when he spoke these words on behalf of all young Catholics in a Channel 4 interview: “We aren’t looking for a Pope who will change the Church’s teaching, what we desire is a Pope who is faithful to the teaching of the Church because we believe that is how God loves us.” These young people aren’t exceptional in any way at all, they are in fact typical of the countless young Catholics in the UK who are proud to be part of “Generation Benedict” and who are striving to be saints fuelled by a love of Christ and planted in the heart of the Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict will be greatly missed by my generation. He has been a father to us, a man who deeply loved his young people and placed his full confidence in us to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Our continued response to his love will be our parting gift to him and the Church in England will be all the richer for it.

  • teigitur

    Lovely post. Thank you.

  • Guest

    You have expressed exactly how I feel. I am also a young(ish) female catholic. I thank God for Pope Benedict that he has brought me back to Him and made my faith strong. I unfortunatley did not get to see him personally in the UK in 2010. I did watch it on TV and sat up and listened. I then read his many wonderful books and that’s why I’m now here instead of floating through life as I was doing a few years ago.

  • Arthur Rusdell-Wilson

    Wonderful. Although not young, I too am of ‘generation Benedict’, because I was received into the Catholic Church at Easter 2011. Without Pope Benedict, I might have been received one day, but not then. Although many Bishops of Rome have held office for longer, I feel sure that history will regard him as a truly great pope. God bless our pope!

  • Don Camillo

    I wish we could not use the term “abdicate”, as if the Pope were a secular monarch. He is Bishop of Rome, and while as such he has a universal pastorate, he is still simply a bishop, and can resign his see just as any other bishop can. While his priesthood is indelible, his jurisdiction is tied to his office, not his person. After prayer and heart-searching, he has felt it time to pass the responsibility on to another. If only we could all have the grace to realise that we are not indispensable!

  • Nat_ons

    Splendid witness. Of course his earthly cross has not ceased to weigh on his shoulders, simply by dint of abdicating a formal teaching role; his monarchic sovereignty shall end, but his loving care toward us all cannot. If anything, I suspect, his tormentors will find – or at least look for – newer and keener methods of attack; in fact it has already started with the revival of the notion of having an arrest warrant issued (for the torture, assault and killing of 50,000 native Canadians between 1830 and 1990 – in state boarding schools, no less).

    God bless our Pope, even in his well earned (yet all too soon) retirement!

  • Londonistar

    Not just the young…the young at heart mid to late thirty somethings too. Thanks for encapsulating how I (and my family – husband and baby son) made our way back too. Great stuff.

  • Gordis85

    Greetings from California! I was made very happy upon reading this article. Your words are comforting in this time as we all prepare to say goodbye to our beloved Papa Benedicto. I know he will still be untied to all of us with his prayer and his love…let us be of one mind and one heart as we, from the world over unite ourselves with him to pray for the coming conclave and for the new pope to come. 
    May he follow in the footsteps of Papa Benedicto in bring the truth of our faith in Christ Jesus to the world and to the hearts of all who listen. 
    God bless the Catholic Church in England! I love you all and look forward to one day visiting your fine country. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the faith and all of you have proven it!

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal

    BEAUTIFUL! thank you.

  • sandygrounder

    An excellent article. The Pope’s address at Bellhaouston was indeed wonderful.

  • Nat_ons

    Actually ‘abdicate’ is the correct term in relation to the sovereign head of the Vatican State .. as it is of any prince of the Church who freely renounces the authority to rule/ teach/ approve. hence, a bishop – under a cloud – may be asked to resign .. that is, give up his role (unwilling though he may be). Most bishops today retire, they do not resign, at a given canonically approved age; a sovereign prince of the church (the popes being among the last) neither retires (according to age) nor resigns (due to external pressure); therefore he abdicates freely, with good will, and in full knowledge.

    It is – properly understood – to divest oneself of an office, not giving up on control, nor a release of authority: abdicare magistratu. 

  • chris

    No other Popes in recent memory or rather in the last few hundred years have left such an indelible mark on the life of the Church as Benedict XVI. Brief though as his reign may be, but he has imparted his crysal-clear teaching on the message of Christ since the first day he became the Prefect of the doctrinal office (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – CDF). The pronouncements from the CDF (Liberation Theology, sexual ethics, ecumenism, all-male priesthood, role of theologian, eucharist, Christology) spanning over a period of more than 2 decades have touched on virtually all aspects of the Church life. More importantly, he rightly disciplined errant and unrepentent theologians by stripping them of them of their licentiate to teach Catholic theology. His unforgetable Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus, has paved a way for many Anglicans to reunite with the See of Peter. In a mere 8 years of his pontificate, Benedict has done more than any other Popes for the cause of Christian Unity. May the next successor of St Peter continue and expand on the foot-prints of Benedict in serving the Holy Mother Church of Christ. AMDG.

  • Sirjohnswinburne6thbaronet

    The Pope of recent memory who left the most indelible mark on the Church was Paul VI because he’s the one who pushed through the changes that altered Catholic life so dramatically.  Benedict’s well-meaning but timid moves to restore Catholic liturgy, for instance, pale in comparison with the effects of Paul VI’s promulgation of a New Mass.  Let’s not forget that Paul VI changed what it meant to be Catholic more than anyone in modern times.

  • chris

    I wish I could share your sentiment regarding the late Paul VI. However, I cannot. This is because Paul VI literally lost control of the Church. Star theologians (Kung and Schillebeeckx) of the Vatican II became belligerent and got out of control. Central teachings of the Church were spat at. Yet, Paul VI did nothing to rein them in the name of collegiality. Paul VI tolerated them at the expense of Church of God. Lord knows what mental anguish Paul VI suffered, if any.

    This is bewildering considering that Paul VI is considered by many Vatican watchers to be the most well-groomed Pope in recent memory. John XXIII was elected Pope as Paul VI was deemed not experienced to ascend the Papal throne then. At the sight of dissent, Paul VI winched in fear of offending dissenters.

    By the late 1960s, the rot that started almost from day 1 following the closure of Vatican II inched its way to the core. When Paul VI died in 1978, the reckless interpretations of Vatican II by liberal clergymen and theologians had put the Church in a state of crisis; there was no sense of spiritual direction at where the Church was heading.

    John Paul II lost no effort in ridding these sniper theologians from their posts. When Cardinal Ratzinger became his doctrinal head, more rebellious theologians lost their licentiates. Recall how Liberation Theology exponent, Franciscan Leonardo Boff and New-Age Creation Spirituality expert, Dominican Matthew Fox, were driven out of their religious orders as a result of constant hounding by Ratzinger. If a theologian cannot teach what the Mother Church teaches, he/she should not be given the respect and privilege to teach. Period. I firmly applaud this move. Afterall, which living institution as in the Church of God will allow herself to be undermined from within?

    The new Mass, Novus Ordo, as promulgated by Paul VI pales in comparison to what the Tridentine Rite offers and radiates. There is nothing spectacular in the use of the vernacular for praise and worship. Archbishop Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church has said that the Novus Ordo Mass lacks sanctity and reverence and the Tridentine Rite is the best manifestation of the beauty of Catholicism.

    I do not think Benedict’s move to restore the use of the Tridentine Mass is timid as he went against the wishes of the left-wing liberal Catholics. It was a right move as Tridentine Masses are drawing more woshippers than the Novus Ordo Mass. In fact, word has it that the Novus Ordo Mass will be reformed further along the Tridentine tradition in the coming years. Praise the Lord.

    A few days ago, Benedict alluded to the use of the modern vernacular language in celebrating the Mass: he said that celebrating the Mass in a modern language does not suffice to make its mysteries intelligible and an external participation by the laity in worship does not necessarily produce “communion with the Church and thus fellowship with Christ.”

  • Sirjohnswinburne6thbaronet

    “Tridentine Masses are drawing more woshippers than the Novus Ordo Mass.”  Last time I checked, 99.9%+ of Catholic worshipers attend the New Mass.  If you project present trends out into the future, that doesn’t change much.  Methinks you’re being a tad myopic here.
    Benedict does not get credit for rumored future reforms of the liturgy along Tirdentine lines until said changes actually come to pass and are traceable to his actions.  Given the recent track record of Popes on this issue, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    By your own confession, Paul VI did promulgate a New Mass and unleashed the forces, sometimes because of his direct decisions, sometimes because of weakness, that dramatically reshaped Catholic worship, among other things.  Two long pontificates focussed on restoring the sacred in the liturgy did not reverse this reality.  Just go check out any average Catholic parish or the new church building the bishop just put in down the block.  Benedict’s actions were indeed relatively timid because all he did was extend toleration to the Tridentine Mass while facing some criticism – not restore mainstream Catholic worship to tradition.  That’s still in concept, my friend.  Paul VI, in the face of opposition from conservative and traditional Catholics, did succeed in changing mainstream worship in a way that has endured.  It sucks but there it is.

    You seem like a clever and energetic chap, but I think if you dig a little deeper beneath your own rhetoric, you may see that you are missing some important realities.

  • chris

    Sirjohnswinburne6thbaronet, I appreciate your thoughtful reply. Perhaps, Benedict should have been more forceful in restoring the Tridentine Mass.
    I have every reason to believe that our Novus Ordo Mass will undergo further refinements in the coming years. The New Novus Ordo Mass is not a done deal yet.
    Restoration of the sacred liturgy takes time. Change cannot come about overnight considering the sacrilegious damage done by reckless interpretations of Vatican II.
    Personally, I have attended Masses of the Tridentine Rite as well as the Masses of our Eastern-Rite Catholic brothers (Ukrianian, Melkite, Ethiopian). The Eastern-Rite Catholics have held onto their traditions including the ancient forms of worship without sacrificing much while wholeheartedly embracing the teachings of Vatican II. Their worship is just beautiful. This is sharp contrast to the Latin-rite Mass. Surely, we must have missed out something along the way of reform.
    We must stay hopeful and pray.
    May Our Blessed Mother protect the Church against her foes.

  • Sirjohnswinburne6thbaronet

    Did Paul VI misinterpret Vatican II?  Did JPII?  For these are among the individuals most responsible for the present state of Catholic liturgy.  Actually, it was during the long pontificate of JPII that many of the innovations introduced in Paul VI’s time established themselves as the new norms and became almost universal.

    I do not see this process of slow change that eventually restores Catholic worship or church design and architecture to its former glory in the Roman Catholic Church.  I see the counsel to accept slow change being used to comfort and mollify those who do not see any real progress in the right direction or prospect thereof.  This is true whether one is telling the story for one’s own benefit or that of others.

    The new ways in liturgy and church design are now entrenched almost everywhere, and what is interesting is how little effect the existence of the Eastern Rite churches and the Tridentine chapels have on anything else in Catholic life. It is almost as if they do not exist for the regular church.   From the perspective of the mainstream parish or Cathedral, one would not even know we just finished with a Pope dedicated, we are told, to restoring traditional liturgy in Catholicism.  Moreover, most the growth in the church today is in the third world, and that’s all new rite stuff.

    I see no reason to suppose a reversal in these trends, even a slow one, because I just don’t see the trends heading in that direction at all.  Sure, there’s a smattering of tolerated Tridentine masses in Catholicism now and there wasn’t twenty years ago, but so what?  That’s just one piece of data that has to be taken in account alongside others in reaching a sound judgment about overall trends.  There is no widespread appetite for this “return” in the church, so far as I can tell, and the church officials have other priorities.  Plus, there is always the problem in Catholicism that the leaders are reluctant, to say the least, to admit that those of their class made serious mistakes in doctrine and practice.  This will weigh heavily against concrete reversals such as: restoring the eastward facing position of the priest, the sanctuary, communion on the tongue, etc.  Maybe there’ll be some tinkering with the new rite.  Who knows?  Anything could happen.  What I don’t see is a solid ground for your predictions.

  • chris

    Hello Sirjohnswinburne6thbaronet, please stay positive and hopeful. More importantly, believe in the power of prayers to our Lord and Our Blessed Mother.

  • Sirjohnswinburne6thbaronet

    Thanks, Chris.  I find that this is how these conversations usually go.  At first, one is confident that x,y,and z positive changes will soon come about.  Then it is admitted that they may come about only slowly and probably after one’s own lifetime (clever move, that, since in this way one’s belief can never be falsified to oneself).  Finally, it is conceded that in human terms these hopes may not be well-founded at all but we must believe in prayer, and God, Mary, and the saints can do anything, etc.

    I do believe it is important to be positive and hopeful in life.  I have found that one way for me to stay positive is to attach my hopes to causes that I can believe in without have to lie to myself to keep going.  This is why I eventually dropped concern that Catholic liturgy and architecture return to tradition from the issues central to my existence.  I now focus on other things in this world, but the Pope’s resignation has sparked a little revival of interest in these topics.  It’s amusing to see how not much has changed in the years since I made my exit from the church.

    Some Catholic conservatives seem to be happy enough to have their Oxford Oratories and their Ratzinger liturgies without having to believe the whole church will follow suit.  This is a sound approach inasmuch as it is realistic.  But many seem to believe, not without warrant, that there would be something wrong with their theory of the church if traditional Catholicism were to remain forever just one, small social group within the whole.  Characteristically, they make a leap of faith that what they hope for, someday, really will be so.  Indeed, it seems that each group in the church today nails its colors to some leap of faith of this kind.  They cluster in little groups of like-minded people ant tell themselves stories about how things are going their way to buck one another up.

    But when I became a man, I put away childish things.  kisses!