Benedict XVI often spoke of the nearness of Christ. It is therefore to be expected that his teachings will be an integral part of my everyday life.
I love Pope Benedict XVI. Reading it makes you think better and see more deeply. Here are 10 things he said that really changed my life.
First: Benedikt named my fear and helped me to overcome it.
At his inauguration as Pope, what Benedict said about John Paul II expressed something I had never recognized before:
“His words keep ringing in my ears: ‘Fear not! Open the doors wide to Christ!’ … Aren’t we all scared in some way? . . . When we let Christ fully into our lives, when we fully open ourselves to him, are we not afraid that he might take something away from us? Aren’t we afraid of giving up something important, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? …
“No! When we let Christ into our lives, we don’t lose anything, nothing, absolutely nothing that makes life free, beautiful and great. No!…Based on many years of personal life experience, I’m telling you…Don’t fear Christ! He takes nothing from you and gives you everything.”
Second: I have adopted Benedict’s liturgical philosophy.
In his first message as pope, Benedict said he considered it providential that John Paul died in the middle of the year of the Eucharist, and he had this directive:
“I ask everyone, in the coming months, to intensify love and devotion to the Eucharistic Jesus and to express the real presence of the Lord with courage and clarity, especially through the solemnity and correctness of the celebrations.”
This is a great way of unity for the Church to this day.
Third, Benedict taught me to love God because God loves me.
Many quote the opening words of Benedict XVI. from his first encyclical: Deus Caritas Est about how “Christianity is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but an encounter…”
I really like that. But I like even better the “second element” he mentions later: “God loves man. … His love is also a love of choice. … God loves, and while his love may be called eros, it is also totally agape.” God loves us so passionately, he said, that the prophets “have described God’s passion for his people in boldly erotic imagery.”
Fourth, Pope Benedict showed me what Pope Francis wants.
The idea for my book What Pope Francis really saidwhen people complained about it in his 2013 America In an interview, Francis called certain teachings of the Church “petty rules,” and my friend Rebecca Teti, a lover of Benedict’s, brought these Francis-like words from Benedict to my attention:
“We should not let our faith be exhausted by too much discussion of many small details, but always keep in mind the greatness of Christianity first. … I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and similar recurring problems. When we engage in these discussions… we give the impression that we are moralists with some somewhat antiquated beliefs, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith emerges.”
Fifth, for 13 years I have been sharing Benedict’s definition of “friendship with Jesus” with students.
“The Lord defines friendship in two ways,” he said. First communication – prayer – because “among friends there are no secrets”. Second, the Roman definition of friendship is: “dem velle — idem nolle(same likes, same dislikes); Being his friend means following his will.
Benedict later put it more lovingly: Jesus “is not only a teacher, but a friend, but even more a brother. How can we recognize him if we keep our distance from him? Intimacy, familiarity, and knowledge help us discover the true identity of Jesus Christ.”
Sixth, Pope Benedict has changed my understanding of the abuse crisis.
Much has been written about Benedict’s strong record as a watchdog in the abuse crisis, a record that has not been perfect but has been unjustly maligned. However, I reported on his visit to the United States in 2008 when he said something during his meeting with bishops that changed my entire understanding of the matter:
“What does it mean to talk about child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through today’s ubiquitous media?”
The abuse crisis by priests and ministers is real and still needs attention. But Benedict helped me see that the crisis of lay abuse — destroying the innocence of children, slandering women and enabling the sex trade — is a widespread crisis that requires a far more vigorous response from everyone.
Seventh: He changed my relationship with my Guardian Angel when he broke his wrist in 2009.
I had an intellectual belief in guardian angels, but was struck by the way Benedict pointed out that his guardian angel must have had “orders from above” to allow the Pope to have a broken wrist.
“Perhaps the Lord wanted to teach me more patience and humility and give me more time for prayer and meditation,” he said.
I love that.
Eighth, after his encyclical Spe Salvi, I enthusiastically “offered things”.
“There used to be a form of devotion,” he wrote, “which involved the idea of ’sacrificing’ and giving meaning to the little daily needs that keep hitting us like irritating ‘bumps.’ … What does it mean to offer something? [To] Insert these little annoyances into the great ‘compassion’ of Christ so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so desperately needed by mankind.”
Ninth: Speaking of Spe Salvi, Benedict helped me to understand heaven.
Benedict complained that the sky “sounds infinite, and that scares us,” like “an endless series of days on the calendar.” Instead he said heaven is:
“More like the supreme moment of contentment, where totality embraces us and we embrace totality. … like diving into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time – the before and the after – no longer exists … diving again and again into the vastness of being, in which joy simply overwhelms us.”
Tenth, I loved it when he told kids to let their parents go to Mass.
Lastly, I have to remember the great meeting between Pope Benedict XVI. and mention the First Communicant. He taught children how to get their parents to go to Mass and suggested they say:
“Dear Mom, dear Dad, it is so important for all of us, including you, to encounter Jesus. This encounter enriches us. It is an important element in our life. Let’s find some time together. We’ll find an opportunity! Maybe there’s also a possibility where Grandma lives…”
The granny part is brilliant. Thank you Pope Benedict!