A good shepherd: Pope Benedict XVI showed loving care for his flock Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

It doesn’t seem that long ago. On April 19, 2005, we heard the news that the cardinals had elected a new pope. Some of us had gathered around a television set at the Bishop O’Connor Center to watch the announcement. Who would it be, we wondered?

When I heard the name, “Joseph,” I knew the next pope would be Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Then I heard he took the name Benedict XVI.

Holy, gentle man

Our new Holy Father came from behind the curtains. His smile absolutely lit up St. Peter’s Square. I couldn’t help but be impressed by this holy, gentle man who called himself “a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.”

I have to admit that Pope Benedict XVI surprised me. His reputation as a tough watchdog of the faith and eminent theologian had me imagining an entirely different kind of person. Yet, here was Pope Benedict XVI, smiling and waving at the throngs of people in Rome and those watching on TV throughout the world.

As he gave his blessing, I felt filled with the presence of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I spontaneously made the Sign of the Cross in front of the television, feeling a sense of joy and peace.

Answer to our prayers

God had answered our prayers. We knew that Pope Benedict XVI would continue in the footsteps of St. Peter, our first pope, shepherding the people of God. He would carry on the traditions of our faith with strength, intelligence, and love for all.

Cardinal Ratzinger seemed to be the perfect person to succeed Blessed Pope John Paul II. With 24 years of service in the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he understood better than anyone else the inner workings of the Catholic Church. He knew the challenges the Church faced from within and from without.

Pope Benedict XVI said the greatest threat to the Church comes from moral relativism, the idea that there are no basic truths but that everything is up to the individual’s point of view. Instead, Pope Benedict XVI insisted that there are truths, taught by Christ and the Church.

The good shepherd

In his homily at his installation Mass, the pope discussed his role as a shepherd. “One of the basic characteristics of a shepherd must be to love the people entrusted to him, even as he loves Christ whom he serves,” he said.

A good shepherd — much like a good parent — must give the sheep good food, care, and guidance. As Pope Benedict XVI said, “Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of God’s truth, of God’s word, the nourishment of his presence which he gives us in the Blessed Sacrament.”

In his almost eight years as our shepherd, Pope Benedict XVI has done his best to lead us to Jesus: the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In his encyclicals and in his books on “Jesus of Nazareth,” the pope has urged us to discover the essential connections between sacrificial love, works of charity, a dedication to the truth, and the Gospel of Christ.

Although he did not expect to travel as much as his predecessor, he ended up making 24 trips to six continents and presided over three World Youth Day gatherings.

Stepping down

Now at age 85, Pope Benedict has made the decision to step down, to allow someone else to carry out the mission of shepherding the Church. We will indeed miss him, but we have to admire his decision to leave the Church in younger, stronger hands.

Let us pray for Pope Benedict, the cardinal-electors, and the entire Church at this time of change. May God bless us with another good shepherd to lead us in the future.