Today, April 19, is the fourth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's election to the Chair of St. Peter. Where were you and what were you doing on this day four years ago? Back then I had been a formal member of the Catholic Church for only a few weeks. Pope John Paul II died only a few days after Easter that year. I didn't know very much about the inner workings of the Church back then so I was endlessly fascinated by the media coverage and the documentaries about previous papal conclaves (looking back on them now, I want to groan about some of the things the media got wrong.) Imagine that: most of the seminarians for our diocese can only remember two popes in their lifetimes. It was darn near impossible not to know who John Paul II was even for non-Catholics like me.
I remember I was attending class at Sacramento State that day. I had just gotten out of the morning lecture on US history and went to the library to check my email before lunch. I first learned about Benedict's election from a fairly jokey entry on someone else's personal blog. He wasn't a Catholic himself, and when I told him his blog was how I first learned about Benedict's election he sheepishly said he would have been more serious about it if he had known I would be reading.
I didn't know very much about the man who was Cardinal Ratzinger back then either. I knew he was feared and/or derided in some circles as the reactionary Grand Inquisitor. But much like my experience with the Church as a whole, the more I learned about him the more I liked him. Everything that Pope Benedict has done in his papacy thus far is in accord with the ideas he has explicated in countless writings over many decades as a theology professor and prefect for the CDF. One of Benedict's goals is to reinvigorate Catholic identity, particularly through the liturgy.
Heavenly Father, we humbly beseech thee to grant thy servant, Pope Benedict XVI, good health and length of days. We pray for all of his intentions, and we beg that Mary, the Mother of thy only begotten Son, and St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, may pray with us for our beloved Pontiff. We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.