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Ciao Santo Padre – My Favorite Memories of the Papacy of Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI

Ciao Santo Padre – My Favorite Memories of the Papacy of Benedict XVI

I will never forget the feeling of when I read the text alert that Pope Benedict XVI would resign. Even though I trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church, I was instantly filled with a very deep sadness.

I am a part of the JP2 Generation, but I have to admit that I feel a stronger connection with Papa Benny than I ever felt with John Paul the Great. To some people, even faithful Catholics, it seems odd that I would prefer the more introverted personality, but his charisma is simply more subtle and gentle.

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI was the one that played a much larger role in my formation. His writings, speeches, homilies, and teaching style deeply resonates with my heart. In my faith journey, John Paul II pointed me to Jesus, but Benedict XVI helped me know Jesus better than just a casual relationship. He made Jesus a concrete reality in my life.

To this day, the former Cardinal Ratzinger is one of my favorite authors. I have read so many of his books that all that I ever teach in the faith is heavily influenced by what he taught me.

Looking back at the past 8 years, I consider myself blessed to have gone to many events with him. I will forever have a place for him in my heart. Even though, I have never officially met him, I cannot explain the intense closeness I feel with him as my spiritual father. Hearing his German accented Italian will forever remind me of “… and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice..” (John 10:5)

Sede Vecante Seal

I know that once the Cardinals have come out of the conclave, I will join the church in celebration of receiving a new Bishop of Rome. Until that day comes, let me be sad and mourn the loss of the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI

Join me in prayer to the Holy Spirit for guidance of the church during this time of Sede Vecante and the Conclave.

My favorite personal memories with Benedict XVI

Canonization

My first papal experience was at the canonization’s in St Peter’s square on October 15, 2006. It was from a distance, but I was very excited to be there. That day  Mother Theodore Guerin, Rafael Guízar, Filippo Smaldone, and Rose Venerini were raised on the altar to official sainthood. At the end of the mass, the crowd yelled “Viva il Papa!” My friend jokingly asked, “What is this, a revolution?” “In a way it is ” I responded.

Canonizations 2006

Canonizations 2006

Pope Benedict 2006 Canonization

Pope Benedict XVI from a distance

Close Encounter

One of the most influential talks in my life was as at a gathering of those in theological formation in 2006. It was also my first time to be close to him as he greeting people walking up the aisle. I was hanging out with 2 seminarians from Spain when they got the Pope to wave at them.

Then this happened. I was so overwhelmed I was shaking.

Angelus

I was once giving some friends from London a tour of Rome, and they had a hard time believing how accessible the Holy Father can be. Even the non-Catholics felt blessed to spent time listening to inspiring words from the Holy Father.

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A Sunday Angelus

Vespers

I really liked some of the small touches he did in his liturgical celebrations. At this vespers he really emphasized the need for pauses of silence in between different parts to focus on the mystery.

Versps with the Pope

Vespers with Holy Father

At the Altar

Another very memorable night was when I was at a gathering for Catholic university students in Advent of 2006. His peace and joy from this night really left an impression on me.

Marriage Blessing

When my wife and I got married, we made a quick stop in Rome to get our marriage blessed by him. This is probably my favorite memory of him because I got to share it with her. These pictures are from the general audience.

Papal General Audience

Praying the Our Father before the blessing

Marriage Blessing of couple in front of us

The pope greeting a couple in front of us

After the marriage blesing

After the audience

Ciao Santo Padre. May God bless you.

1280 1600 Cristóbal Almanza
The Feast of St Justin Martyr

The Feast of St Justin Martyr

June 1st if the feast day of St Justin Martyr in the Roman Catholic Church. It saddens me that many people don’t know who he is. I have a personal mission to make sure more people get to know him, and I hope he can be knows as more than just one of the early, obscure Church martyrs.

St Justin is considered the first great apologist of the Church. He was a pagan philosopher that converted to Christianity after he could not find satisfaction in other philosophies and traditions. In his heart of hearts, he knew that all his studies in Rome would lead him nowhere, even when he didn’t know of God. Through conversations with a Christian, he came to discover Jesus and sacred scripture. It was then that the Truth spoke to him so clearly, and he knew that it was undeniable. After his conversion, he used his love of reason to teach a pagan world about the Truth that lives in Christianity.

It was his writings on the Eucharist that touched my heart the most when I began to do research on why he was a saint. In the second century, he brought light to the Truth in a world full of darkness, and he did it all as a layman. He fell in love so deeply with The Logos, Jesus, that he willingly died defending it. Although, he did not die before converting many hearts through his preaching, writing, personal conversations, and simply sharing the love of Christ.

St Justin is also very special to me because he is my patron saint from confirmation. There were many reasons why we connected, but it was his unwavering passion for Truth that really inspired me. At the time, I wasn’t sure that I could truly believe in something so deeply that I would tell the world and even die for its sake. It was his testament that inflamed my desire to love the faith as much as he did.

In September 2006, I was on a private tour of  Immaculate Conception Church in Rome with some seminarian friends. This church is famous for a crypt-ossarium that consists of bones from 4,000 different Capuchin friars that died in the 16th-19th centuries. It a little odd, but it has really interesting art and powerful message for our mortal bodies and imminent end. I recommend reading this interesting post from Cardinal O’Malley’s blog about his visit there (half-way into the post). He also has some good pictures of the site.

When the Capuchin Friar leading the tour got to the altar of the back chapel, I read the Latin wording on the altar that indicated it was the tomb St Justin, and I fell to my knees. It felt like suddenly running into a long lost friend. It was a moment of pure joy and thanksgiving.

The power of the communion of saints hit me at that moment, and I was deeply touched at the blessing of visiting where his relics lay. To this day, it is one of the most beautiful blessings that I have personally experienced – to visit an old friend and thank him for his prayers for me during some of the most pivotal points in my life.

Some may find it weird, even down right morbid, that I would kneel in prayer in the place of where a man’s remains are stored. It may be even harder for some to understand that I feel such a deep and personal friendship with a man that died over a millennium before I was even born.

This mystery is the beauty of the communion of saints. It is the mystical body of Christ that unites us all beyond our current state and surpasses all space and time. I will come back to this point at a later post and expand upon it, but currently I don’t have the time to do so here.

In the meantime, I will leave you with the video featuring some texts from St Justin.

St Justin, Ora pro nobis.

900 600 Cristóbal Almanza

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