Pope: a Model Witness
Regarding the Pope’s resignation ("Benedict to End His Papacy Feb. 28," page one, Feb. 24 issue):
Ecce homo (Behold the man): These were the words spoken by Pontius Pilate when he presented a scourged Jesus Christ to a hostile mob shortly before his crucifixion. The same words aptly apply today to Pope Benedict XVI, as he is being held up to unprecedented ridicule and scorn by a hateful press and a world so out of touch with its spiritual nature and moral being.
One can almost hear Jesus saying to the peaceful and benevolent Pope: "If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first" (John 15:18).
The world wants to see the death of the Church because it knows the Church is the mother of all saints. It knows that the Catholic Church is the last bastion of hope against a materialistic world that craves immorality at every step, including homosexuality, same-sex "marriage," easy divorce, abortion, radical feminism, contraception, embryonic stem-cell research and cloning.
Contrary to his critics, Pope Benedict will be remembered not for the scandals of a few priests, but for his intense suffering in protecting the faith from wolves in sheep’s clothing. He will be known as one of the greatest Catholic martyrs.
The Holy Father was an inspiration and a model witness to the life of Christ — a shepherd of truth constantly guarding his flock, so that Christ might find faith on earth when he returns.
Immersed in profound humility and immense love for both God and man, he has always been a source of strength, encouragement, confidence, optimism and enlightenment, not only to Catholics, but to all men of good will.
A champion of the poor and ardent exponent of Christian unity, the German Pontiff was, in such capacities as teaching, governing and sanctifying, both a beacon of light and salt of the earth. He has never ceased to offer fresh hope for defeating the forces of tyranny, cynicism and moral relativism hovering like a dark cloud on the horizon.
As successor of Peter and vicar of Christ, he was the world’s most influential and uncompromising defender of the dignity of human life. His tenacious pleas for the development of a "culture of life" and parallel denunciations of the "culture of death" have been instrumental in rallying opposition to the immorality of war, terrorism, abortion, euthanasia, divorce, contraception, homosexuality and embryonic-tissue research.
May the Lord of all graces and giver of every gift bless Pope Benedict XVI.
When Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, we all knew that his papacy would not last as long as some of his predecessors, so his resignation should not be a complete surprise, and we ought to praise God for the eight years that Pope Benedict has been able to serve and lead the Catholic Church.
Still, even though I am not Catholic, I was saddened to read of his resignation. I have known this humble man personally for the last 18 years, and through personal encounters and correspondence, I have developed a deep respect for him. Already as a cardinal, and then as pope, he has been a tireless advocate for the true values of Christianity — values which are sadly being lost and attacked all over the world. Pope Benedict is one of the few voices that have had the courage to speak out for true Christlike discipleship and for traditional family values. With his resignation, we are losing a voice of conscience that we can ill afford to lose, even as it has been rejected and criticized.
I am going to miss brother Benedict very much and will have him in my prayers. And I pray that the Catholic Church will be led and guided in appointing his successor.
Johann Christoph Arnold
Rifton, New York
Renewal on the March
Regarding your March for Life coverage: For many years, I have been attending the March for Life in Washington to prayerfully protest the legalized slaughter of the unborn in our country. During the early years, I believed I was there to change the minds and hearts of judges and legislators who hold that abortion is a right. However, I have come to appreciate the march as being important for my own spiritual growth.
I have had, in recent years, the luxury of arriving a day before the event. I make sure I always stay nearby the Catholic Information Center. The center is run by Opus Dei. It has a chapel. The director of the chapel offers confession, spiritual direction and sometimes an evening of recollection. The Blessed Sacrament is also exposed for adoration during the day. Going to the center allows me to frame my pro-life activities in prayer. It also reminds me that we pro-lifers are engaged in a spiritual battle which only holiness will conquer. This centering opportunity has made me realize the importance of prayer for all involved in the cause of life.
The time afforded to me before the Eucharist and the graces of penance prepare me for the Mass to be celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception the evening before the march. The large turnout of cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians and laity — young and old — is inspiring. Often, priests feel alone in their ministry. And sometimes a sense of hopelessness can creep into a priest’s life because of the seemingly overwhelming odds that we face. To witness the faith and enthusiasm of so many young people at the Mass is a source of joy and renewal for me. It is so important for priests to join together with the bishops at these events. It reminds us that we are not alone and that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.
Of course, there is the march itself. The weather always turns out to be frigid. But this does not stop the marchers. I am annually accompanied by students from Ave Maria School of Law. This year, I had 75 of them with me. Their presence boosts my spirit. They remind me that my work on their behalf is important. Because of them and so many other like-minded young people, the future bodes well. I never fail to realize during this yearly event how much God has blessed me.
I know that it is not always easy for priests to attend the March for Life, but the spiritual and emotional uplift it provides is worth the time, effort and expense. I encourage parishioners to sponsor their priests for this renewing opportunity. A few days of prayer, the Mass at the National Shrine, the camaraderie and the exhilaration of the march itself will benefit them and the whole parish.
Father Michael Orsi
Ave Maria School of Law
Newman’s Wise Words
We Catholics face an unprecedented three-pronged attack by our government on three vital tenets of the faith: the inviolability of the institution of marriage between one man and one woman; the sacredness of human life in all stages of its biological development, from the moment of conception to natural death; and the right freely to exercise our religion.
Our main defense lies in prayer and in writing protest letters to politicians and the media, donating to like-minded organizations, voting and, when necessary, engaging in civil disobedience. To that partial end, we can find comfort in the following prayer composed by the 19th-century English intellectual and spiritual giant, Blessed John Henry Newman: "May almighty God, for his dear Son’s sake, lead us safely through these dangerous times; so that, while we never lay aside our zeal for his honor, we may sanctify it by faith and charity, neither staining our garments by wrath or violence, nor soiling them with the dust of a turbulent world" (Parochial and Plain Sermons).
I have added this appeal to my arsenal of prayers.
Roger W. Smith
Japan’s ‘Death Spiral’
Relative to your consistent coverage of the culture of life: Japan’s finance minister, Taro Aso, recently made an astonishing statement — to the effect that Japan’s elderly, infirm and others financially dependent on the government should "hurry up and die" (UPI, Jan. 23). This was prompted by the rising cost of care for the elderly, the aging population and a very low birthrate in the country. With little or no immigration, and having fully embraced the Western contraceptive culture, Japan, many analysts say, is a nation in an irrecoverable "death spiral" facing extinction. The average age of citizens is already in the mid-40s, compared to, say, Arab countries, where it’s the mid-20s. This hostility to the old, weak and vulnerable members of society represents a massive shift in Japanese culture over only a few decades.
While it never embraced Christianity in the mainstream, the values of the Japanese were always transcendent. Their code of honor (Bushido) was one of respect for their elderly parents and ancestors, a sense of duty to protect the weak and helpless, self-discipline and a focus on the higher values and virtues. In the pre-war and ancient times, traders and merchants were the least regarded in society.
Post-World War II, Western ideas were embraced, led by industrialists, who enshrined profit, production, technological achievement and economic might as the new values. Now, as one of the most developed, richest and advanced nations, it is coming to realize that it sowed the seeds of its own destruction in its choices. The contraceptive culture contains within itself the subtle command to "empty the earth" in opposition to God’s command to Adam and Eve to "fill the earth" (Genesis 1:28). Now, in a panic to save itself, the nation turns in on itself all the more, willing to sacrifice its old and helpless on the altar of the yen, to postpone its inevitable fall.
Truly, the only remnant of Bushido in Japan resides, paradoxically, in the hearts of the country’s Christians. They alone will fight for life, for the weak and vulnerable, and hold fast to the integrity and honor that once made Japan the cradle of Eastern civilization.