So today, the Pope steps down.
I'm completely in favor. The Papacy isn't the cushy job it once was in the Middle Ages, where the Church did just fine if the Holy Father decided to just nap for five years. Now it requires transatlantic flights, frequent public appearances, managing schismatics, investigating scandals, keeping up with the Vatican Bank (or trying to), and keeping a constant finger on the pulse of the entire world. The Pope is tired. He has earned this.
But I am sad. I feel Pope Benedict was my Pope.
When every Catholic I knew was saying "How dare anyone criticize a holy man like Fr. Maciel?" he had the courage to discipline him. Some say he didn't go far enough. All I know is he went far enough to convince me that there might be something to it ... which got me out of Regnum Christi. I'll never forget that. He personally changed my life just with that one little thing.
And when every Catholic I know keeps going on about small points of doctrine, about punishment, about Jerk-God, Benedict really seems to know the real God. He knows the doctrine, sure, but he keeps bringing it back to simple things like faith and love. Everyone expected deep theology from him, or maybe a new social encyclical. He wrote one called "God Is Love." It wasn't because he was vague on theology, or because he was scared of being controversial. He wrote it because people honestly still don't know, after all this time, that this is what God's about. That every point of doctrine stems from the love God has for us. The Holy Father never talked about Christianity as an unpleasant duty. He talked about it as an incomparable joy, to have the privilege of knowing Jesus.
And he was right. When I'm all fed up to here with Catholics-in-general, he still seems real to me. He reminds me again and again that despite all the messed-up human beings, the bad decisions, the scandals, the false doctrine preached by this or that Catholic, that God is here. That He is the only thing we're doing it for.
The name Benedict means "blessing." He has been a blessing to me, and I thank him for it all.
I do wonder what comes after this. Will we get yet another holy Pope with a servant's heart? It's no guarantee. We are guaranteed one that will preserve the true Catholic doctrine. If we got one who drove the Church to worldly ruin because of bad decisions, he would be by far from the first. I won't lie and say I'm not a little worried.
But good pope or bad pope, God is here. Benedict taught me that, and I won't forget it.