Ted, as one of those young people who has a very sensitive BS radar that I have used and continue to use repeatedly on peers, relatives, parents, students, teachers, and professors, I will say this about the Pope for actually having read him: all he needs to do is to be himself (and Mr. Warner’s suggestions are excellent ones so that they people get to know him better).
Any precocious and genuinely curious young person who wishes to engage the Pope on hard questions will find it a fruitful endeavor. Benedict XVI is intellectually and spiritually equipped to have these kinds of discussions with young people, and they will come away learning much. He also makes it look easy, which is something I admire greatly. The qualities that I describe that the Pope has—i.e. communicating and gently urging people to grapple with the Truth with humility and joy—are qualities that I have seen in the best students, teachers, parents, and professors, and are very rare among most people: the stuff and sinews of life involve grappling with the highest things, and many, many people can’t be bothered, in part because we live in a culture that tries to anesthetize us from dealing with those questions, lest they are inconvenient to us or make us feel uncomfortable. I note with wry amusement many a time that people claim to want a challenge, but complain that Christianity is “too hard,” whereupon they insist that its “hard teachings” be dumbed down so as to disregard them as of little consequence or importance in favor of the stuff they “like” while they “question authority”: the problem, though, is that the “hard stuff” is what defines and reinforces the stuff you “like.” Without it, the stuff you “like” will fall down. And if you don’t question *all* authority in humility and honesty, including yourself, then “questioning authority” merely becomes an excuse for self-indulgence.
You may be afraid of the future intellectual conversations and battles that you will have with your children, but I can assure you that the Pope is not, because he knows what is at stake. He is not some crusty old man in Rome who is out of touch, and he respects young people by not condescendingly insulting their intelligence in a way that I have seen and experienced many a parent, peer, teacher, and professor do when they dumb things down. I have studied and observed enough in both the secular sphere and now the Church to expect BS to arise wherever there are human beings, and know full well that not all BS and murky explanation comes from “the Vatican.” Such is the nature of concupiscence.
The Pope knows that young people hunger for Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, and he wants to enable them to seek it and live it. Furthermore, Benedict XVI is acutely aware of the authority that he has been given as the Successor of St. Peter, wherein he is to serve others as the Servant of the Servants of God. The Pope points them in the direction of the Truth, enabling them to want to engage in it and root themselves in it. He is also acutely aware of the authority that he himself submits to, and that he is only human—again something else that I find sorely lacking in the average person who likes to brag about “having a problem with authority,” wherein the authority they least question is themselves and their supposed right to do whatever the heck they like. The Pope urges young people to not be afraid of Christ, because Christ takes nothing away and gives one everything. And in the end, he respects their freedom to either choose for Christ or to reject Him, while knowing that no-one is beyond God’s love and mercy. He also has a far more nuanced sense of obedience than most people have, therefore: he knows that assent must be thoughtful, and that obedience in good faith is not the same as blind obedience, which really would be obedience in bad faith. I think that any young person who is honest with themselves and wants to get to know the Pope better will discover all these things: they will come to learn that he plays for keeps, and that he’s not just being faddy. He understands the nature of communication—not just message, but medium—having actually discussed it in his homilies from time to time. He understand how all of these things are connected, which should excite many a young person who is learning to think deeply about a reality that is bigger than themselves, perhaps for the first time.
As for a favorite priest being moved, perhaps this is an opportunity for us to be aware that our priests are a gift from God, and that we should be grateful for them. Furthermore, the moving of a favorite priest does remind us how much we are all dependent upon God. All priests, whether we like them or not, to say nothing of the fact that God’s gift is something that they, like the rest of us, hold in earthen vessels. Who are we to decide against the idea that since Father is such a good priest, the Holy Spirit might decide that another, more needy parish could benefit from him or that in the move, Father himself might be given a grace-filled opportunity to better become the priest that God calls him to be? Priests are here because God’s wills it, and not at the request or pleasure of the laity. Priests are priests for us, not themselves, but they do not “belong” to us. And perhaps any seemingly lackluster or jaded priest needs our prayers, for they struggle greatly, and do not need our condemnation or our reminders that we prefer his predecessor. Furthermore, perhaps a priest who shies away from the truth in the pulpit needs to know that his flock knows who and what a priest is and that they have his back. Lay Catholics are as responsible for learning more about the faith just as priests are responsible for preaching it, and should not put all of the burden of catechesis on the priest or the bishop, but to help them out by actually caring to learn it. That’s where our “power” lies, and I would also pose the following question to you: is this power of which you speak meant for God’s glory, or is this power meant to get us what we want, when we want? Perhaps the “power” of the laity lies in love: how can we help our priests be who they’re supposed to be for us? The new evangelization is one way, which of course must always complement evangelizing face to face.