Summary of today’s show: In his last public appearance before a large crowd, Pope Benedict XVI shared some heartfelt, moving, and deeply personal words in his Wednesday general audience with 200,000 in attendance. Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams read the Holy Father’s words and contemplate his message of trust in the Lord, discernment, and staying rooted in hope and joy.
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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams
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Today’s topics: Pope Benedict XVI’s last general audience
1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show and said that today is the last full day of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. Today we will share the parting message of Pope Benedict to the faithful in his last Wednesday general audience. Scot said tomorrow that the Holy Father will leave Rome and at 8pm Rome time he will be at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. Fr. Matt noted that the Swiss Guard, at the stroke of 8pm, will leave their posts at his side because their sole responsibility is the protection of the Supreme Pontiff. His security will be taken up by the Vatican Gendarmerie.
Scot said more than 200,000 people came out in what was not great weather in Rome for this audience. He read from the text:
Thank you for coming in such large numbers to this last General Audience of my pontificate.
Like the Apostle Paul in the biblical text that we have heard, I feel in my heart the paramount duty to thank God, who guides the Church and makes her grow: who sows His Word and thus nourishes the faith in His people. At this moment my spirit reaches out to embrace the whole Church throughout the world, and I thank God for the “news” that in these years of Petrine ministry I have been able to receive regarding the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the charity that circulates in the body of the Church – charity that makes the Church to live in love – and of the hope that opens for us the way towards the fullness of life, and directs us towards the heavenly homeland.
I feel I [ought to] carry everyone in prayer, in a present that is God’s, where I recall every meeting, every voyage, every pastoral visit. I gather everyone and every thing in prayerful recollection, in order to entrust them to the Lord: in order that we might have full knowledge of His will, with every wisdom and spiritual understanding, and in order that we might comport ourselves in a manner that is worthy of Him, of His, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9-10).
Scot recalled the times he saw Pope Benedict, during the papal Mass at Yankee Stadium. Fr. Matt also saw the Holy Father at World Youth Days in Cologne and Madrid. He noted the humility and sincerity in how much he cares for and loves. He literally commends us to the Lord and teaches us the importance of intercessory prayer.
Scot said the Pope prayed for a specific thing in that part of the text: that we might have full knowledge of the Lord’s will, and that’s precisely what he discerned last week. Fr. Matt said we should pray, “Lord, what is the plan that you have for me?”
At this time, I have within myself a great trust [in God], because I know – all of us know – that the Gospel’s word of truth is the strength of the Church: it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews: it bears fruit wherever the community of believers hears and welcomes the grace of God in truth and lives in charity. This is my faith, this is my joy.
Scot said the Holy Father is saying our trust and joy should be there as well as we say goodbye and prepare for the next Holy Father. Fr. Matt said the Word the Holy Father speaks of is Christ Himself.
When, almost eight years ago, on April 19th, , I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry, I held steadfast in this certainty, which has always accompanied me. In that moment, as I have already stated several times, the words that resounded in my heart were: “Lord, what do you ask of me? It a great weight that You place on my shoulders, but, if You ask me, at your word I will throw out the nets, sure that you will guide me” – and the Lord really has guided me. He has been close to me: daily could I feel His presence. [These years] have been a stretch of the Church’s pilgrim way, which has seen moments joy and light, but also difficult moments. I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea ofGalilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been – and the Lord seemed to sleep. Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His – and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He desired that it be so. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.
Fr. Matt said Pope Benedict shares with us this beautiful reflection on what it was like to be elected pope. He had turned to the Lord to ask Him why He was asking it of him and what was being asked. It is a burden to shepherd the people of God because we are sheep that go astray, not to mention the shepherds who go astray. The Holy Father knew he wasn’t doing it all by himself. The Lord who entrusts us with much equips us with much to make us equal to the task. Scot said it would be great for any of us to say we felt the Lord’s presence every day because we asked Him each day, “What do you want me to do today?”
Scot said the Holy Father was honest about having easier days than others and described it as the Lord giving him days of sunshine and gentle breeze and other days when the waters were rough and it seemed the Lord was asleep. The Lord doesn’t respond on our timetable.
We are in the Year of Faith, which I desired in order to strengthen our own faith in God in a context that seems to push faith more and more toward the margins of life. I would like to invite everyone to renew firm trust in the Lord. I would like that we all, entrust ourselves as children to the arms of God, and rest assured that those arms support us and us to walk every day, even in times of struggle. I would like everyone to feel loved by the God who gave His Son for us and showed us His boundless love. I want everyone to feel the joy of being Christian. In a beautiful prayer to be recited daily in the morning says, “I adore you, my God, I love you with all my heart. I thank You for having created me, for having made me a Christian.” Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith: it is the most precious good, that no one can take from us! Let us thank God for this every day, with prayer and with a coherent Christian life. God loves us, but He also expects that we love Him!
He wanted us to trust in God like young children trust in their parents. Fr. Matt talks about young children who trust implicitly in you that you won’t drop them. Scot talked about the holy Father as having been one of the world’s leading theologians but he is very down to earth in how he addresses us and teaches in very simple, heartfelt terms. The prayer he offers is so accessible that even children can pray it. Fr. Matt said a priest-friend studied in Rome and he attended a conference with then-Cardinal Ratzinger. During the question period, he asked for all the questions first, then on-the-fly arranged them and answered them in a seamless and articulate way. He is one of the most brilliant men to be the Holy Father. But he also demonstrates that theology is something to be done on our knees. He doesn’t just speak about God, but you know he’s knows God in prayer.
2nd segment: This week’s benefactor card raffle winner is Marion LeBlanc from Lynn
He wins Family Matters
If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit WQOM.org. For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for WQOM’s weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.
At this time, however, it is not only God, whom I desire to thank. A Pope is not alone in guiding St. Peter’s barque, even if it is his first responsibility – and I have not ever felt myself alone in bearing either the joys or the weight of the Petrine ministry. The Lord has placed next to me many people, who, with generosity and love for God and the Church, have helped me and been close to me. First of all you, dear Brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your counsels, your friendship, were all precious to me. My collaborators, starting with my Secretary of State, who accompanied me faithfully over the years, the Secretariat of State and the whole Roman Curia, as well as all those who, in various areas, give their service to the Holy See: the many faces which never emerge, but remain in the background, in silence, in their daily commitment, with a spirit of faith and humility. They have been for me a sure and reliable support. A special thought [goes] to the Church of Rome, my diocese! I can not forget the Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, the consecrated persons and the entire People of God: in pastoral visits, in public encounters, at Audiences, in traveling, I have always received great care and deep affection; I also loved each and every one, without exception, with that pastoral charity which is the heart of every shepherd, especially the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I carried each of you in my prayers, with the father’s heart.
I wish my greetings and my thanks to reach everyone: the heart of a Pope expands to [embrace] the whole world. I would like to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, which makes present the great family of nations. Here I also think of all those who work for good communication, whom I thank for their important service.
At this point I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many people throughout the whole world, who, in recent weeks have sent me moving tokens of concern, friendship and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone: now I experience this [truth] again in a way so great as to touch my very heart. The Pope belongs to everyone, and so many people feel very close to him. It’s true that I receive letters from the world’s greatest figures – from the Heads of State, religious leaders, representatives of the world of culture and so on. I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their heart and let me feel their affection, which is born of our being together in Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write me as one might write, for example, to a prince or a great figure one does not know. They write as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, with the sense of very affectionate family ties. Here, one can touch what the Church is – not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian purposes, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. To experience the Church in this way and almost be able to touch with one’s hands the power of His truth and His love, is a source of joy, in a time in which many speak of its decline.
In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God with insistence in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me take the right decision – not for my sake, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also its novelty, but with a deep peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own.
Fr. Matt emphasized the point that the Church is a community of brothers and sisters united in Christ. In the Mass, we pray that we confess to our brothers and sisters that we have sinned and ask their prayers before God for us. While we may not know each other that well, our prayer for one another is real and we can see each other in a new light.
Scot said that paragraph was profound. The Holy Father said he was persistent in prayer. Benedict got a different answer from God than John Paul. For John Paul, he received the answer that he was to stay until the end. Benedict heard from God that he would step down for the good of the Church.
Here allow me to return once again to April 19, 2005. The gravity of the decision was precisely in the fact that from that moment on I was committed always and forever by the Lord. Always – he, who assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and totally to everyone, to the whole Church. His life is, so to speak, totally deprived of the private sphere. I have felt, and I feel even in this very moment, that one receives one’s life precisely when he offers it as a gift. I said before that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and are fond of him, that the Pope has truly brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world, and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion, because he no longer belongs to himself, but he belongs to all and all are truly his own.
The “always” is also a “forever” – there is no returning to private life. My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry, does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences and so on. I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the Crucified Lord. I no longer wield the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s bounds. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, shall be a great example in this for me. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.
Scot said the Pope was an introvert who cherished his privacy who from April 19 has had no privacy. He belongs totally to everyone and even after tomorrow, he doesn’t expect to have a return to the privacy he used to have. It’s very open and heartfelt. Fr. Matt said it’s the idea that when you give your life to the Lord as a priest, your life is not your own and as you rise in responsibilities within the Church, there is further stripping of the self. But we never have to do this alone. God never asks us to do what he himself won’t do with us. Scot said St. Benedict was the founder of Western monasticism. Scot said Benedict will be working hard at the work of prayer. Fr. Matt said he is teaching us to pray.
I thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have welcomed this important decision. I continue to accompany the Church on her way through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and to His Bride, which I have hitherto tried to live daily and that I would live forever. I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so important a task, and for the new Successor of Peter, that the Lord might accompany him with the light and the power of His Spirit.
Let us invoke the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, that she might accompany each of us and the whole ecclesial community: to her we entrust ourselves, with deep trust.
Dear friends! God guides His Church, maintains her always, and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the way of the Church and the world. In our heart, in the heart of each of you, let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that He does not abandon us, that He is near to us and that He surrounds us with His love. Thank you!”
Scot said he asked specifically for prayers for the cardinals and his successor. Scot thinks that one of his biggest prayers after tomorrow is for that intention. He understands what his successor will feel that moment that in the Sistine Chapel that he is elected. Fr. Matt said the Holy Father shows us how God is the Supreme Pastor of the Church and that our prayers do matter.
To the English-speaking pilgrims, the Holy Father added:
The decision I have made, after much prayer, is the fruit of a serene trust in God’s will and a deep love of Christ’s Church. I will continue to accompany the Church with my prayers, and I ask each of you to pray for me and for the new Pope. In union with Mary and all the saints, let us entrust ourselves in faith and hope to God, who continues to watch over our lives and to guide the journey of the Church and our world along the paths of history. I commend all of you, with great affection, to his loving care, asking him to strengthen you in the hope which opens our hearts to the fullness of life that he alone can give. To you and your families, I impart my blessing. Thank you!
Scot noted that the words “joy” and “hope” were repeated throughout this address and despite the cross he bore over these eight years, he had hope and joy throughout. Fr. Matt said joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and the reality is that he freely said yes and united himself to the Word of God.
The Holy Father ended the audience by leading the crowd in a sung version of the Holy Father in Latin. We listened along.
Scot said the Holy Father imparted his last apostolic blessing. He said he was very moved hearing this.
Scot asked everyone to pray for the cardinals whose task it is now to choose Pope Benedict’s successor.
Tomorrow night, Bishop Robert Deeley will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for the ministry of Pope Benedict at 7:30pm at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and all are invited.