Pope Benedict XVI has written and spoken countless words of wisdom during his eight years as Pope as well as during the prior decades when he served as a priest, a bishop, and a cardinal. His keen intellect repeatedly elucidates the reasonableness of faith. True to his scholarly roots, he always proclaims the faith down a path of logic. For years I have devoured this clear and unambiguous teaching.
Yet, while speaking at the close of the Lenten spiritual exercises, he uttered a sentence that surpassed his intellectual exegesis and reduced me to tears because of its sheer beauty:
Believing is nothing other than touching the hand of God in the darkness of the world and thus, in silence, to hear the Word, to see Love.
As we near the end of Benedict’s papacy, the world is indeed very dark. The culture of death seems to be gaining ground everywhere. Once the supporters of abortion tried to couch their advocacy in a veneer of compassion, arguing that abortion was a regrettable choice that should be made in only exceptional circumstances; now they proudly claim that they have the right to kill their unborn child and do so without apology.
Our secular culture views the elderly and the disabled as disposable human beings. State health care programs in the United States, Canada, and Europe recommend withholding treatment or even utilizing euthanasia for those deemed by the state to be unworthy of life. The family, already reeling from sky high divorce rates and infidelity, is under further assault by those who want to redefine marriage. By removing procreation as a primary purpose of marriage, the complementary of one man and one woman becomes seen as unnecessary. Children can be manufactured in fertility clinics and sold as commodities to anyone willing to pay the price. The Washington Post recently even featured a story about a homosexual couple that held an online bake sale to cover the costs of an egg donor, a surrogate, and in vitro fertilization.
This dark culture is not content to coexist with those who disagree. It aggressively seeks to marginalize and silence dissent. There are countless instances of government entities forcing citizens and institutions to accept the normalization of immoral and deviant lifestyles. The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate as part of the Affordable Care Act, forces Catholic institutions and business owners to violate their religious principles and provide morally objectionable services like sterilization, contraception, and abortion inducing drugs to their employees. Catholic adoption agencies have been closed because they refuse to place children with gay couples. The HHS has defunded an exemplary Catholic Charities migration and refugee services program because the Church will not provide or refer for contraception and abortion services. As if to emphasize the point, the Obama administration no longer speaks of the free exercise of religion, but only of the freedom to worship.
Yes, it is a very dark world. But amidst the darkness, Pope Benedict XVI has given us the Year of Faith. The Holy Father has called all Catholics to devote themselves to rediscovering and relearning their faith. From October 11, 2012 through November 24, 2013 we are exhorted to renew our relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. Equipped with the reason and rationality of our faith we will reflect the Light of Christ and illuminate the shadows. Pope Benedict anticipated the fruits of the Year of Faith and closed his Lenten remarks with the hopeful words:
In this certainty we go forward, certain of God’s victory, certain of the truth of beauty and love.
As both a mother and a grandmother I have felt the soft touch of a child’s palm as she slips her hand into mine for comfort and protection. There is an unshakeable confidence that as long as she clutches my hand all will be right with the world. That is what Pope Benedict is asking us to do.
Hold on tightly to the guidance of Christ and His Church. Do not cower before the darkness. With the humility and trust of a child, slip your hand into God’s and boldly step forward. The darkness will ebb and you will bathe in His light and His love. You will revel in the beauty of His truth.