Thursday, August 25, 2011

Trying to catch Benedict XVI's personality and effect in a single phrase.

During WYD some loyal Catholic journalists and bloggers have attempted to do this. Were there a prize for the best effort, it would surely have to go to Madeleine Teahan of the UK Catholic Herald who described him as a 'meek man of mighty action'. Even so it  would be just as true if the words were reordered to read, 'a mighty man of meek action'. But as Damian Thompson said on Holy Smoke, she is definitely a young writer to watch. Trying to explain Pope Benedict's success with the young, Damian also said he thought it was due to his 'grandfatherly charm' and 'spiritual message'. The young Ordinariate Deacon Bradley who sang the Gospel at the opening liturgy, described Benedict XVI as 'truly a shepherd and pastor and his very person emphasises that'. These three quotes are all true, but somehow none of them  completely encapsulates the loving humility and greatness of our present Pope. The one person whom I would have hoped to be able to do this is the frequently excellent Elizabeth Scalia,, aka The Anchoress. But she disappointed me, writing that she felt that 'our introverted little professor pope is starting to enjoy these large gatherings'. I'm sure she meant it to be affectionate and there may even have been irony here, but the effect is to diminish the Holy Father. To start with, the word introverted according to my dictionary describes the psychological condition of a person 'who is interested chiefly in his own mental processes and his standing with other people, this making him shy and unsociable'. Pope Benedict may be shy, but certainly not for the reasons that the use of that word would suggest. And he is certainly not unsociable. He is deeply concerned about the individuality of each person who is presented to him, as is constantly attested to by those fortunate enough to have experienced such close encounter with him. His 'grandfatherly charm' is not something shallow, assumed or accidental. It is part of his nature. Young people recognise how genuine this is and that he is truly a profoundly  spiritual grandfather to them all. In an age when the family is so fragile and under attack from all sides, there could not be anyone better fitted than Benedict XVI to fill this role in our times. I am convinced that is a large part of the reason why the young flock to the shelter of his arms. He may be relatively little in physical stature. But he is a humble giant in his professorship, in his teaching of the Faith. But even that pales into insignificance when you are in his presence. Whatever your age, you become conscious of being blessed and drawn into  that special something that emanates from him in almost tangible waves, almost visible beams of light. It is, I believe a gift of the Holy Spirit. Its name is love, not just any old love, but the truest, soundest love we can ever know, namely the merciful and compassionate Love of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

As the seminarian said to him when welcoming our Holy Father to Madrid Cathedral before he offered Mass there, 'May God preserve you for the good of the Church'.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a beautifully expressed "summing up", Jane! I do wish you could collect all your posts into a book one day. One doesn't want them to disappear into cyberspace.

Mary Hoka