A Valentine to Pope Benedict XVI
The pope is resigning! This is a big deal: the first time in 600 years that a pope has resigned. As soon as I heard, questions started swirling through my head.
Logistical questions like: Does he get to vote at the conclave for the next pope? (Answer: No, he is over the age of voting cardinals.) Where will he live? (Answer: first at the papal villa outside Rome and then in a cloistered monastery in the Vatican once the renovation is completed).
Then my thoughts shifted to the beginning of his papacy and his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love). I realized what a fitting reflection it provides in this very peculiar week where we begin to say good-bye to a pope, start our Lenten journey, and celebrate St. Valentine’s Day.
Benedict XVI writes:
“Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage. Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love.”
He goes on to write about the self-sacrificing gift of Christ as “love in its most radical form.”
In marriage we attempt to live this out as we follow that self-sacrificing model. It shows us that through death to self, God gives us new and abundant life. And that new life brings us into deeper communion with our spouse, our family, and our God.
Benedict transitions to a discussion of charity as an expression of love. But he also cautions us about the intentionality of that self-sacrificing activity, quoting 1Corinthians 13:
“St. Paul, in his hymn to charity, teaches us that it is always more than activity alone: ‘If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing.’”
“Practical activity will always be insufficient, unless it visibly expresses a love for others, a love nourished by an encounter with Christ.”
I find no more intimate encounter with Christ than in marriage and family life. It is a school of love, both in activity and intention. Joshua and the children are my instructors, but so too are the men who have loved us and the Church as pastors and wise teachers, such as our beloved Servant of the Servants of God.