Sunday, March 24, 2013

Our Lady is the Instructress through the Paschal Mystery during Holy Week and Easter Triduum

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Mass Readings for the day

Friday, March 15, 2013

Knowledge of Abba Father Puts an End to Cowardice of Professing our Faith Publicly

Listen to my homily for Friday of the 4th Week of Lent:

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There is a Cancer of Unbelief in Catholic Education

This homily was given at St Anselm's Secondary School in Canterbury:

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Parable of Three Sons and the Mother: the Prodigal, the Unforgiving, the Beloved Son, and the Mother who Prepares the Feast

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Mass Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday

The following is an excerpt from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's book, Jesus of Nazareth:

The Parable of the Two Brothers (the Prodigal Son and the Son Who Remained at Home) and the Good Father (Luke 15:11–32)
Perhaps the most beautiful of Jesus’ parables, this story is also known as the parable of the prodigal son. It is true that the figure of the prodigal son is so vividly drawn and his destiny, both in good and in evil, is so heart-rending that he inevitably appears to be the real center of the story. In reality, though, the parable has three protagonists. Jeremias and others have suggested that it would actually be better to call it the parable of the good father—that he is the true center of the text.
Pierre Grelot, on the other hand, has pointed out that the figure of the second brother is quite crucial, and he is therefore of the opinion—rightly, in my judgment—that the most accurate designation would be the parable of the two brothers. This relates directly to the situation which prompted the parable, which Luke 15:1f. presents as follows: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’” Here we meet two groups, two “brothers”: tax collectors and sinners on one hand, Pharisees and scribes on the other. Jesus responds with three parables: the parable of the lost sheep and the ninety-nine who remained at home; the parable of the lost drachma; and finally he begins anew, saying: “A man had two sons” (15:11). The story is about both sons.
In recounting this parable, the Lord is invoking a tradition that reaches way back into the past, for the motif of the two brothers runs through the entire Old Testament. Beginning with Cain and Abel, it continues down through Ishmael and Isaac to Esau and Jacob, only to be reflected once more in a modified form in the behavior of the eleven sons of Jacob toward Joseph. The history of those chosen by God is governed by a remarkable dialectic between pairs of brothers, and it remains as an unresolved question in the Old Testament. In a new hour of God’s dealings in history, Jesus took up this motif again and gave it a new twist. In Matthew there is a text about two brothers that is related to our parable: one brother says he wants to do the father’s will, but does not actually carry it out; the second says no to the father’s will, but afterward he repents
Pharisees that is at issue; here too the text is ultimately an appeal to say Yes once more to the God who calls us. 
Let us now attempt to follow the parable step by step. The first figure we meet is that of the prodigal son, but right at the beginning we also see the magnanimity of the father. He complies with the younger son’s wish for his share of the property and divides up the inheritance. He gives freedom. He can imagine what the younger son is going to do, but he lets him go his way. 
The son journeys “into a far country.” The Church Fathers read this above all as interior estrangement from the world of the father—the world of God—as interior rupture of relation, as the great abandonment of all that is authentically one’s own. The son squanders his inheritance. He just wants to enjoy himself. He wants to scoop life out till there is nothing left. He wants to have “life in abundance” as he understands it. He no longer wants to be subject to any commandment, any authority. He seeks radical freedom. He wants to live only for himself, free of any other claim. He enjoys life; he feels that he is completely autonomous. 
Is it difficult for us to see clearly reflected here the spirit of the modern rebellion against God and God’s law? The leaving behind of everything we once depended on and the will to a freedom without limits? The Greek word used in the parable for the property that the son dissipates means “essence” in the vocabulary of Greek philosophy. The prodigal dissipates “his essence,” himself. 
At the end it is all gone. He who was once completely free is now truly a slave—a swineherd, who would be happy to be given pig feed to eat. Those who understand freedom as the radically arbitrary license to do just what they want and to have their own way are living in a lie, for by his very nature man is part of a shared existence and his freedom is shared freedom. His very nature contains direction and norm, and becoming inwardly one with this direction and norm is what freedom is all about. A false autonomy thus leads to slavery: In the meantime history has taught us this all too clearly. For Jews the pig is an unclean animal, which means that the swineherd is the expression of man’s most extreme alienation and destitution. The totally free man has become a wretched slave. 
At this point the “conversion” takes place. The prodigal son realizes that he is lost—that at home he was free and that his father’s servants are freer than he now is, who had once considered himself completely free. “He went into himself,” the Gospel says (Lk 15:17). As with the passage about the “far country,” these words set the Church Fathers thinking philosophically: Living far away from home, from his origin, this man had also strayed far away from himself. He lived away from the truth of his existence. 
His change of heart, his “conversion,” consists in his recognition of this, his realization that he has become alienated and wandered into truly “alien lands,” and his return to himself. What he finds in himself, though, is the compass pointing toward the father, toward the true freedom of a “son.” The speech he prepares for his homecoming reveals to us the full extent of the inner pilgrimage he is now making. His words show that his whole life is now a steady progress leading “home”—through so many deserts—to himself and to the father. He is on a pilgrimage toward the truth of his existence, and that means “homeward.” When the Church Fathers offer us this “existential” exposition of the son’s journey home, they are also explaining to us what “conversion” is, what sort of sufferings and inner purifications it involves, and we may safely say that they have understood the essence of the parable correctly and help us to realize its relevance for today. 
The father “sees the son from far off” and goes out to meet him. He listens to the son’s confession and perceives in it the interior journey that he has made; he perceives that the son has found the way to true freedom. So he does not even let him finish, but embraces and kisses him and orders a great feast of joy to be prepared. The cause of this joy is that the son, who was already “dead” when he departed with his share of the property, is now alive again, has risen from the dead; “he was lost, and is found” (Lk 15:32). 
The Church Fathers put all their love into their exposition of this scene. The lost son they take as an image of man as such, of “Adam,” who all of us are—of Adam whom God has gone out to meet and whom he has received anew into his house. In the parable, the father orders the servants to bring quickly “the first robe.” For the Fathers, this “first robe” is a reference to the lost robe of grace with which man had been originally clothed, but which he forfeited by sin. But now this “first robe” is given back to him—the robe of the son. The feast that is now made ready they read as an image of the feast of faith, the festive Eucharist, in which the eternal festal banquet is anticipated. To cite the Greek text literally, what the first brother hears when he comes home is “symphony and choirs”—again for the Fathers an image for the symphony of the faith, which makes being a Christian a joy and a feast. 
But the kernel of the text surely does not lie in these details; the kernel is now unmistakably the figure of the father. Can we understand him? Can a father, may a father act like this? Pierre Grelot has drawn attention to the fact that Jesus is speaking here on a solidly Old Testament basis: The archetype of this vision of God the Father is found in Hosea 11:1–9. First the text speaks of Israel’s election and subsequent infidelity: “My people abides in infidelity; they call upon Baal, but he does not help them” (Hos 11:2). But God also sees that this people is broken and that the sword rages in its cities (cf. Hos 11:6). And now the very thing that is described in our parable happens to the people: “How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel!…My heart turns itself against me, my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst” (Hos 11:8f.). Because God is God, the Holy One, he acts as no man could act. God has a heart, and this heart turns, so to speak, against God himself: Here in Hosea, as in the Gospel, we encounter once again the word compassion, which is expressed by means of the image of the maternal womb. God’s heart transforms wrath and turns punishment into forgiveness. 
For the Christian, the question now arises: Where does Jesus Christ fit into all this? Only the Father figures in the parable. Is there no Christology in it? Augustine tried to work Christology in where the text says that the father embraced the son (cf. Lk 15:20). “The arm of the Father is the Son,” he writes. He could have appealed here to Irenaeus, who referred to the Son and the Spirit as the two hands of the Father. “The arm of the Father is the Son.” When he lays this arm on our shoulders as “his light yoke,” then that is precisely not a burden he is loading onto us, but rather the gesture of receiving us in love. The “yoke” of this arm is not a burden that we must carry, but a gift of love that carries us and makes us sons. This is a very evocative exposition, but it is still an “allegory” that clearly goes beyond the text. 
Pierre Grelot has discovered an interpretation that accords with the text and goes even deeper. He draws attention to the fact that Jesus uses this parable, along with the two preceding ones, to justify his own goodness toward sinners; he uses the behavior of the father in the parable to justify the fact that he too welcomes sinners. By the way he acts, then, Jesus himself becomes “the revelation of the one he called his Father.” 
Attention to the historical context of the parable thus yields by itself an “implicit Christology.” “His Passion and his Resurrection reinforce this point still further: How did God show his merciful love for sinners? In that ‘while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’ (Rom 5:8).” “Jesus cannot enter into the narrative framework of the parable because he lives in identification with the heavenly Father and bases his conduct on the Father’s. The risen Christ remains today, in this point, in the same situation as Jesus of Nazareth during the time of his earthly ministry” (pp. 228f.). Indeed: In this parable, Jesus justifies his own conduct by relating it to, and identifying it with, the Father’s. It is in the figure of the father, then, that Christ—the concrete realization of the father’s action—is placed right at the heart of the parable. 
The older brother now makes his appearance. He comes home from working in the fields, hears feasting at home, finds out why, and becomes angry. He finds it simply unfair that this good-for-nothing, who has squandered his entire fortune—the father’s property—with prostitutes, should now be given a splendid feast straightaway without any period of probation, without any time of penance. That contradicts his sense of justice: The life he has spent working is made to look of no account in comparison to the dissolute past of the other. Bitterness arises in him: “Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed one of your commands,” he says to his father, “yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends” (Lk 15:29). The father goes out to meet the older brother, too, and now he speaks kindly to his son. The older brother knows nothing of the inner transformations and wanderings experienced by the younger brother, of his journey into distant parts, of his fall and his new self-discovery. He sees only injustice. And this betrays the fact that he too had secretly dreamed of a freedom without limits, that his obedience has made him inwardly bitter, and that he has no awareness of the grace of being at home, of the true freedom that he enjoys as a son. “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Lk 15:31). The father explains to him the great value of sonship with these words—the same words that Jesus uses in his high-priestly prayer to describe his relationship to the Father: “All that is mine is thine, and all that is thine is mine” (Jn 17:10). 
The parable breaks off here; it tells us nothing about the older brother’s reaction. Nor can it, because at this point the parable immediately passes over into reality. Jesus is using these words of the father to speak to the heart of the murmuring Pharisees and scribes who have grown indignant at his goodness to sinners (cf. Lk 15:2). It now becomes fully clear that Jesus identifies his goodness to sinners with the goodness of the father in the parable and that all the words attributed to the father are the words that he himself addresses to the righteous. The parable does not tell the story of some distant affair, but is about what is happening here and now through him. He is wooing the heart of his adversaries. He begs them to come in and to share his joy at this hour of homecoming and reconciliation. These words remain in the Gospel as a pleading invitation. Paul takes up this pleading invitation when he writes: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). 
On one hand, then, the parable is located quite realistically at the moment in history when Christ recounted it. At the same time, however, it points beyond the historical moment, for God’s wooing and pleading continues. But to whom is the parable now addressed? The Church Fathers generally applied the two-brothers motif to the relation between Jews and Gentiles. It was not hard for them to recognize in the dissolute son who had strayed far from God and from himself an image of the pagan world, to which Jesus had now opened the door for communion with God in grace and for which he now celebrates the feast of his love. By the same token, neither was it hard for them to recognize in the brother who remained at home an image of the people of Israel, who could legitimately say: “Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed one of your commands.” Israel’s fidelity and image of God are clearly revealed in such fidelity to the Torah. 
This application to the Jews is not illegitimate so long as we respect the form in which we have found it in the text: as God’s delicate attempt to talk Israel around, which remains entirely God’s initiative. We should note that the father in the parable not only does not dispute the older brother’s fidelity, but explicitly confirms his sonship: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” It would be a false interpretation to read this as a condemnation of the Jews, for which there is no support in the text.
While we may regard this application of the parable of the two brothers to Israel and the Gentiles as one dimension of the text, there are other dimensions as well. After all, what Jesus says about the older brother is aimed not simply at Israel (the sinners who came to him were Jews, too), but at the specific temptation of the righteous, of those who are “en r├Ęgle,” at rights with God, as Grelot puts it (p. 229). In this connection, Grelot places emphasis on the sentence “I never disobeyed one of your commandments.” For them, more than anything else God is Law; they see themselves in a juridical relationship with God and in that relationship they are at rights with him. But God is greater: They need to convert from the Law-God to the greater God, the God of love. This will not mean giving up their obedience, but rather that this obedience will flow from deeper wellsprings and will therefore be bigger, more open, and purer, but above all more humble. 
Let us add a further aspect that has already been touched upon: Their bitterness toward God’s goodness reveals an inward bitterness regarding their own obedience, a bitterness that indicates the limitations of this obedience. In their heart of hearts, they would have gladly journeyed out into that great “freedom” as well. There is an unspoken envy of what others have been able to get away with. They have not gone through the pilgrimage that purified the younger brother and made him realize what it means to be free and what it means to be a son. They actually carry their freedom as if it were slavery and they have not matured to real sonship. They, too, are still in need of
a path; they can find it if they simply admit that God is right and accept his feast as their own. In this parable, then, the Father through Christ is addressing us, the ones who never left home, encouraging us too to convert truly and to find joy in our faith.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Scrubbing Behind the Ears: An Examination of Conscience and the End to the Fundamental Option

St Joan of Arc's response to her persecutors asking if she was in a state of grace: "If I am, may it please God to keep me in it, and if I am not may it please God to bring me there."

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Examination of Conscience by Human Life International:

Did I deny or doubt God’s existence? Did I refuse to believe God’s revelation?
Have I gone to a fortune teller, used good luck charms or practices any other form of the Occult? Did I deny that I was a Catholic? Did I leave the Catholic faith?

Did I despair of or presume on God’s mercy? Did I neglect prayer for a long time?
Did I blaspheme God or take God’s name in vain, curse or break an oath or vow?

Did I miss Mass on Sunday or a holy day of obligation through my own fault?
Am I always reverent in the presence of Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament?
Was I inattentive at Mass? Did I come to Mass late? How late? Did I leave Mass early?
Did I do unnecessary physical work on Sunday?

Did I disobey or disrespect my parents or legiti- mate superior?
Did I neglect my duties to my husband, wife, chil- dren or parents?

Did I fail to actively take an interest in the reli- gious education and formation of my children? Have I failed to educate myself on the true teach- ings of the Church?

Did I give a full day’s work in return for my full day’s pay?
Did I give a fair wage to my employee?
Did I give scandal by what I said or did, especial- ly to the young? Was I the cause of anyone leav- ing the Faith?

Was I impatient, angry, envious, unkind, proud, jealous, revengeful, hateful toward others, lazy? Did I give bad example, abuse drugs, drink alcohol to excess, fight or quarrel?
Did I physically injure or kill anyone? Have or advise for an abortion? Procuring an abortion some- times incurs the penalty of excommunication. This should be addressed with your priest during confession. (Canon 1398) Did I participate in or approve of the grave evil known as “mercy killing?” Did I attempt suicide? NOTE: Sexual sins are always grave and are mor- tal if combined with full knowledge and deliber- ate consent of the will.

Did I willfully entertain impure thoughts and desires? Did I dress immodestly?
Did I use impure or suggestive words? Tell impure stories? Or listen to them?

Did I deliberately look at impure things, TV, videos, plays, pictures or movies? Or deliberately read impure material?
Did I commit an impure act by myself or with another? Which acts?

Did I marry or advise another to marry outside the Church?
Did I abuse my marriage rights? Was I unfaithful to my marriage vows?

Have I kept company with someone else’s spouse?

Did I practice artificial birth control or was I or my spouse sterilized?
Did I practice in vitro fertilization?
Did I steal, cheat, help or encourage others to steal, or keep stolen goods? Have I made restitution for stolen goods?

Did I fulfill my contracts, give or accept bribes, pay my bills, rashly gamble or speculate, deprive my family of necessities of life?
Did I tell lies? Deliberately to deceive? Or injure others by lies? Did I commit perjury? Was I unchar- itable in word or deed, gossip or reveal others’ faults and sins? Fail to keep secrets I should have?

Did I eat meat on Fridays of Lent or Ash Wednesday? Did I fast as required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday?
Did I fail to receive Holy Communion during Easter time? Fail to confess at least once a year? Did I go to Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin? Without fasting (water and medicine permit- ted) for one hour from food and drink?

Did I make a bad confession?
Did I fail to contribute to the support of the Church? 

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Church is Now Popeless but Never Hopeless

You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

Listen to my homily at a Mass in Thanksgiving for the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI:

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When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"  Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.  And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Here is the text of Pope Benedict XVI's last Wednesday audience as Pope:

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood!

Distinguished Authorities!Dear brothers and sisters!

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).

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.

When, almost eight years ago, on April 19th, [2005], 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 of ​​Galilee: 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.

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!

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.

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.

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!