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Encounters with a Pope: Idahoans share memories of Benedict XVI

The Idaho Catholic Register invited readers, both lay and religious, to tell us about the influence Pope Benedict had on their lives. These are excerpted from what readers sent us:

The coffin of Benedict XVI is carried into St. Peter’s Basilica before his funeral Mass. The Vatican said 125 cardinals, 200 bishops and more than 3,700 priests concelebrated at the Mass. The pope emeritus wrote more than 60 books and numerous documents, influencing both Catholic and Protestant theologians.

As a young religious, I discovered the writings of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Since then he has been a profound teacher for me. The first books I remember learning from were, “Introduction to Christianity,” and “The Spirit of the Liturgy.”

I was always struck with the clarity and cogency of his writings and his profound explanations of the faith. I looked to him as a spiritual mentor during the 25 years he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. My memories of Cardinal Ratzinger as main celebrant and homilist at the funeral Mass for Pope John Paul II are still vivid. When he himself was elected Pope, I was thrilled. I have a subscription to L’Osservatore Romano (the Vatican newspaper) and my spiritual reading each morning was from the writings, homilies and speeches of Pope Benedict XVI published in that paper. I always found his writings to be inspiring, enlightening and nourishing He made history and headlines with the publication of the three-volume set of books, “Jesus of Nazareth.” They are still a reference point for me. Finally when he resigned

(after eight fruitful years as Pope), I felt even closer to Pope Emeritus Benedict because he was living a life of prayer, silence, solitude, sacrifice and seclusion, like me as a hermit. I loved him deeply, and I will miss him very much. Holy Father, pray for us still from your great heart!

Sister Mary Beverly

HSM Marymount Hermitage

The spiritual patrimony of Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger, forms an essential part of my life as a Christian and as a priest of God. His writings, preaching, books, and encyclicals formed me in how to love and worship God.

Pope Benedict XVI taught and modeled for me how to love and serve God in the Holy Mass, and to never forget the purpose of our faith, which is relationship with our God of Love. His work reveals Jesus as a friend and loving savior, the great purpose and meaning of our life.

Pope Benedict XVI authentically delighted in God’s love and ardently desired for all to be in relationship with love. I know how to pray the Holy Mass because of Pope Benedict XVI. His witness constantly reminded me to turn to God’s loving face and respond to the gift of the Lord’s kindness.

May eternal light shine upon you my dearest spiritual father, my brother priest and coheir of the treasure of heaven. Requiescat in pace.

Father Justin Brady

Pastor, St. Paul’s, Nampa

Lucas and Emily Brown of Coeur d’Alene shake hands with Pope Benedict XVI at a blessing for newlyweds in 2006. (Courtesy photo/Emily Brown)

My husband, Lucas, and I received the Sposi Noveli Blessing (a blessing for newlyweds) from Pope Benedict XVI in June, 2006. He was so quiet and gentle. His hands were so soft, and he stayed with us much longer than we expected. In fact, we didn’t expect him to stop and talk to us, so when he asked us where we were from, I responded, “Idaho, you know, potatoes?” I will forever be the girl who said, ‘potatoes to the pope!

The other beautiful thing about this experience was everyone was trying to help us get closer to him. We were in the second row, despite having showed up to the papal audience two hours early. The man in front of us crouched down behind the wall so that we could get to him.

We were living in Moscow at the time. A couple right next to us was from Spokane! I’ll never forget that we were there together, from all the way across the world. I hope to meet them again someday and find out how God has worked that blessing into their life! We know He’s created an abundance of love and blessing (7 beautiful children in that time!) for us. The words of the blessing, inscribed on the photo frame are: “And may you, dear newlyweds, be able to draw from this Sacrament the spiritual energy to live the great love of which Christ gave us proof in offering us his Body and his Blood.”

Emily Brown

St Thomas the Apostle, Coeur d’Alene

Pope Benedict was dear to my heart and important to my own vocation and growth in the faith.

What can I say about Pope Benedict that would do justice to his legacy? I remember learning about this gifted theologian shortly after I returned to the Catholic faith, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger and the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Before I started hearing about this alleged “arch-conservative” and “God’s Rottweiler,” I had already begun reading his work, notably “Spirit of the Liturgy” and “Introduction to Christianity.” I found a kindred spirit immediately, and I knew the name-calling was not only inaccurate but also motivated by a spirit antithetical to Christian charity. While

I loved Pope St. John Paul II (the pope I’d known since I was 13), I found John Paul’s writing to be much more circuitous and prone to abstraction and complexity (which I guess is fitting for a student of phenomenology). It served John Paul well and contributed to his thought, but it often made for difficult reading. In Cardinal Ratzinger, I found a much more lucid and direct voice, one that conveyed a complex faith with evangelical simplicity. His “Jesus of Nazareth” books are great examples of this.

When Pope John Paul II passed away on the eve of the feast day he promulgated (Divine Mercy Sunday), I could only hope to have another good shepherd who would continue his legacy and continue to roll out an authentic interpretation of Vatican II. I remember the day that the announcement came. I work from home, so I have the luxury of being able to stream live video on my personal computer while I work on my business laptop. I remember Cardinal Eduardo Somalo’s announcement well. … I was stunned but overjoyed, and the joy in St. Peter’s square was obvious. I heard that our parochial vicar at the time im-mediately ran over to the Cathedral to ring the bells. I don’t deny that the day he announced his abdication was a sad one for me.

Pope Benedict showed during his time as the Holy Father that he was not the harsh personality many made him out to be. Apparently, that news was lost on the Italian press, who are currently gobsmacked at the outpouring of love they’re seeing for him. To me, he showed himself to be charitable, gracious, and compassionate, not least of which was in his outreach to victims of clerical sexual abuse. Many people are unaware of just how much he did to address that matter. I’m hoping that his legacy will become better known with his passing. I believe when the time is right, he will not only be canonized but will be declared a Doctor of the Church, a title he well deserves from his many volumes of published works.

Deacon Bill Burns


The first time I saw Pope Benedict XVI was during World Youth Day

in Sydney in 2008. During the day, Pope Benedict had a private meeting with all the seminarians in the world. I was a seminarian from India and I participated in this meeting. I remember that Pope Benedict XVI invited us to continue on, not to give up or get discouraged.

The second time I saw him was at the World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011 in Cuatro Vientos. At this time, I felt more mature in my vocation, and I enjoyed this encounter with him more. It was a very nice meeting with many personal stories from the Pope. The weather was difficult but despite this, the Pope came out and thanked us for not having gone home, despite the wind and rain. We also had a meeting with him in the Cathedral in Madrid. He encouraged us to continue in our vocation. I admired him for his mettle, for his theology, but, above all, for his coherence. He preached what he believed and what he put into practice.

Father Robert Méndez (Toto)

Parochial Vicar, St. Paul’s, Nampa

Pope Benedict was my teacher, a man who taught me and challenged me to be better. His writings on Scripture are academically advanced. One could read his work and gain additional insight into the depths of scriptural re-search. He combined the rich tradition of the Church with modern research. He wrote with clarity and humbleness. He taught us the Mercy of God, contained within the living Word for us. We were blessed to have him, if only for a short time.

Father Tom Loucks

Diocese of Boise

In 2011, I attended World Youth Day in Madrid with Pope Benedict. In the closing Mass he said to us: “Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which he asked the Apostles: ‘Who do you say that I am?’ Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own. Say to him: ‘Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who has given your life for me. I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word. You know me, and you love me. I place my trust in you, and I put my whole life into your hands. I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me.’ ”

I accepted his invitation and made those words my own and so began my life as an intentional disciple.

He continued: “Friendship with Jesus will also lead you to bear wit-ness to the faith wherever you are, even when it meets with rejection or indifference. We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make him known to others. So do not keep Christ to yourselves! Share with others the joy of your faith. The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God. I think that the presence here of so many young people, coming from all over the world, is a wonderful proof of the fruitfulness of Christ’s command to the Church: Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation. (Mk 16:15). You too have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries filled with young people who are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God.”

Two years later I came across his short book on the priesthood, which helped solidify a desire that had been steadily growing in my heart.

Requiescat in pace, Your Holiness. Thank you for your witness to Christ.

Deacon Nelson Cintra

Seminarian, Diocese of Boise

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