A look at the life of St Benedict can tell us a lot about how Pope Benedict XVI viewed his pontificate
Giacomo della Chiesa. Indeed, Ratzinger nodded to Benedict XV in his first general audience in April 2005 by saying, “Filled with sentiments of awe and thanksgiving, I wish to speak of why I chose the name Benedict. Firstly, I remember Pope Benedict XV, that courageous prophet of peace, who guided the Church through turbulent times of war. In his footsteps, I place my ministry in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples.” He then went on to explain that he also wished to evoke the spirit of St. Benedict, the Patron of Europe.
Scholastica, established women’s communities) lived together in faith, hope, and charity. As the Roman Empire moved East and the Western Empire continued to disintegrate, Benedict’s communities became centers of safety, faith, and learning. Without trying, they became the beacon and hope for a new beginning. Eventually, they became the wellspring of the renaissance of European civilization we see as medieval Christendom.
St. Basil and
St. John Cassian in the East and
St. Antony of Egypt and the
Desert Fathers. St. Benedict understood that the present must be rooted in the past for the future to grow with strength and beauty. Likewise, Pope Benedict gave us the idea of the “hermeneutic of continuity” – his adoption of older forms of dress, his re-introduction of forgotten traditions in the liturgy, his treasuring the older customs of the Church, and his brilliance as a Biblical scholar all have meaning beyond the superficial reading that he was a ‘conservative’. To be a conservative means to conserve what is valuable from the past, not for its own sake, but because it is the capital on which one invests in the future.
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