A Former Pope’s Wonderful Example

By Kathryn Jean Lopez Published on January 9, 2023

“The one who has hope lives differently.” That comes from something Pope Benedict XVI wrote in 2007. He continued:

The Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known — it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.

If we only took that one lesson from the life of Pope Benedict XVI, who died on Dec. 31, it would be more than enough.

An Appropriate Homily

As people were paying their respect to him and Pope Francis celebrated his funeral Mass, the House of Representatives was trying and failing to elect a speaker. Some of the press coverage of the Church suggested a similar dysfunction. In the wee hours of the morning, Americans critiqued the length and the substance of the pope’s homily for his predecessor. Some apparently had high expectations for an effusive eulogy. Instead, the pope talked about Jesus Christ — just as Pope Benedict, I have no doubt, would have wanted.

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All too often we treat funeral Masses as consolations for those who are living. Which is fine, so long as it isn’t false consolation. Catholics believe in purgatory; we believe in purification. And so, to always assume everyone who has died has gone straight to heaven is a disservice. In this way, Pope Francis’ homily was a necessary reminder. Even holy Benedict can use prayers for his eternal rest.

Knowing the Will of God For You — And Following It

During the mourning days, I read about “bereft conservatives” who were supposedly lost without their leader. Here, too, is a misunderstanding. I’m a conservative. I loved Pope Benedict. I was sad when he resigned, but I was also in awe: Here’s a man who had worldly power — head of state, head of the Catholic Church — and walked away from it. And he did so because he believed this is what God was asking of him. This is what prayer is about. This is what the Christian life is about — spending time in prayer to know the will of God for you. And you follow that will, even if people will think you are crazy. And people were disappointed in Pope Benedict when he retired. But there we were, getting a window into the prayer life of a pope, and being shown a profoundly powerful example.

Go To Jesus

Just two months before Pope Benedict resigned, I was in a smallish audience with him, along with various Catholic leaders from throughout the Americas. I was a little surprised to have him tell us: If you are not encountering Jesus Christ daily in prayer, you are not living the Christian life.

You can be working for the Church, doing Christian, even charitable work, but if you do not go to Jesus, you are not going to bear the kind of fruit only Jesus can make manifest. The message of Christianity only truly makes sense if we work to know Jesus by spending time with him and with people who want to know him, and try to follow his teachings.

And that was the point of both Pope Benedict on hope and Pope Francis in his homily at Benedict’s funeral Mass. For the Christian, it is not about us, it is about God. I don’t know if politicians can ever learn that lesson, but could at least the Christians be Christian?


Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living. She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commission in New York, and is on the board of the University of Mary She can be contacted at [email protected].

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