Today, in the Church’s calendar, we celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, marking the time when the Mother of God appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in the village of Lourdes, in France, in the Pyrenees mountains. It is a day of Faith, when once more the Mother of Jesus leads us to her Son, and points out to us once more His healing power, so evident in the Gospels.
Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation
This day is a day of Faith for us in another way, because it is the day when Pope Benedict XVI has announced his decision to step down as the Bishop of Rome, and thus the successor of St. Peter as of February 28th. I heard about this early this morning from one of my brothers, and to me I was surprised, but not yet surprised by this decision. I was not surprised, because in the long history of the Body of Christ there is precedent for this. Not surprised as well, because the Holy Father , even as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger had speculated on this possibility. Like all of us, I was surprised because I was not expecting this at this moment in history. The demands on the Office of the successor of St. Peter are tremendous in the world of today. His decision is a sign of great courage and love for the Body of Christ that the occupant of the Chair of Peter has the physical stamina for this role.
The Holy Father has taught us repeatedly about the importance of Faith – hence the year of Faith – and of our relationship with Jesus Christ. His three books on the life of Christ are but one example of this. His concern for the communion of the Church, for example, is shown by the promulgation of “Anglicaorum Coetibus” for groups of Anglicans with their priests who wish to enter full communion is but one example of this. That is just one example.
I have very good memories of several meetings that I have had with him over the years: as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and as Pope Benedict XVI, and of his kindness and attentiveness that he has shown over the years in his meetings with individuals and groups all over the world.
As the newly installed Bishop of our Diocese, I ask all of us together – Catholics and all people of Faith and of good will, to celebrate the legacy of Pope Benedict XVI. On this day of Our Lady of Lourdes, also known as the “World Day of the Sick” let us pray for his health. Let us also pray for the entire Church, that the example of the Mother of God, who “trusted that God’s word to her would be fulfilled,” will pray together and trust in the spirit of the Lord in the days ahead to guide the entire Church – and especially the College of Cardinals – in the election of the next Bishop of Rome.
God bless you always.
+Kevin W. Vann