There is a silly story going on in Italy brought to my attention by John Allen’s Boston Globe article here. Skim toward the end of the article.
I think this is silly. Yes, Benedict is still spiritually connected but there are not two popes. “Pope” is not an office or vocation, it is a description for a person holding an office. Emeritus is used as an honorary title – nothing more – basically it means the former person was once Pope-Father…. Benedict did not choose the emeritus Bishop of Rome title. I’m sure it is for the very reason we are reading today – so that authority and mission rests in one person. There is no controversy here – any ex-Pope who did not give himself any title would probably be doing the same thing as Benedict – praying and living in the Vatican grounds…. To go home would mean dislocation for all the neighbors – something that a thoughtful person would not do…. To not pray would be a rejection of his consecration as a priest and bishop. Silliness….
The benefit of this article is that prayer as a powerful weapon is brought to the world’s attention. No one should ever underestimate the power of prayer whether it is from the lowliest sinner to the greatest of the saints. Benedict did a whole catechesis on prayer. This is something from his first one worth pondering (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2011/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20110504_en.html):
“Dear friends, in these examples of prayer of different epochs and civilizations emerge the human being’s awareness of his creatural condition and of his dependence on Another superior to him and the source of every good. The human being of all times prays because he cannot fail to wonder about the meaning of his life, which remains obscure and discomforting of it is not put in relations to the mystery of God and if his plan for the world.
Human life is a fabric woven of good and of evil, of undeserved suffering and of joy and beauty that spontaneously and irresistibly impel us to ask God for that light and that inner strength which support us on earth and reveal a hope beyond the boundaries of death.”
Months later and more apropos to our current liturgical season is this gem:
“Furthermore, to learn to live more intensely our personal relationship with God, we have learned to invoke the Holy Spirit, the first gift of the Risen One to believers, because it is he who “helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom 8:26), St Paul says, and we know how right he is.
At this point, after a long series of Catecheses on prayer in Scripture, we can ask ourselves; how can I let myself be formed by the Holy Spirit and thereby become able to enter into the atmosphere of God, of prayer with God? What is this school in which he teaches me to pray, comes to help me in my attempts to speak to God correctly? The first school of prayer — as we have seen in these weeks — is the Word of God, Sacred Scripture. Sacred Scripture is an ongoing dialogue between God and man, a progressive dialogue in which God shows himself ever closer, in which we can become ever better acquainted with his face, his voice, his being; and man learns to accept to know God and to talk to God. Therefore, in these weeks, in reading Sacred Scripture we have sought to learn from Scripture, from this ongoing dialogue, how we may enter into contact with God.“
And so, at this time of year when we ask – Come Holy Spirit, Come, I offer Benedict’s prayer at the end of that first catechesis as my prayer for this evening – a prayer asking the Lord to teach us to pray. I ask the Lord to make my prayer worthy, I ask Him to hear my prayer and to hear the prayers of my brothers and sisters as we journey though joy and sorrow in this life. Help us to be closer to You, Oh Lord. And here is Benedict’s prayer from May 4, 2011:
“At the beginning of our journey in the “school of prayer” let us now ask the Lord to illumine our minds and hearts so that the relationship with him in prayer may be ever more intense, affectionate and constant. Once again, let us say to him: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1).”