I am open to the idea that I am completely and utterly wrong about this and there is 'no problem' here, but it seems to me that there is a genuine disconnect between how we relate to other Catholics - and 'the other' online and how we would behave if we were in the same room as them. There is then, of course, the scandal that with some Catholics, we would not wish to be seen dead in the same room as them. The ease with which the internet allows words to be so easily used or thrown about, without face-to-face contact, gives us plenty more temptations than normal custom would permit to indulge our anger, frustration and even our hatred of an opponent. There are things we say online that we would never dream of saying to someone's face - no matter how much we disagreed with them, or thought their opinion to be entirely false and wrong.
Yet, love of and adherence to the Truth was not the only reason that Benedict XVI was admired. There was a gentleness and holiness to the personality of Benedict that remains deeply attractive to those who lived through his reign. The depth of his knowledge of the Scriptures, his personal humility, his gentle manner, his courtesy and respect for others, his fervent life of prayer, his prudence, his wisdom, his obedience to the Church's holy tradition, his self-effacing manner and penetrating spiritual insights. Benedict XVI was - and is - graced by many heavenly virtues for which we may earnestly thank the Lord. His pontificate was marked by the building of bridges towards those who had strayed from or who were placed outside of the path leading to Salvation. Benedict XVI's liturgical vision was about manifesting, showing forth - the beauty and attractiveness of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. For him, everything was - is - centred on Christ. Contrary to popular belief, Benedict XVI was not about expelling those in the centre to the peripheries, or pushing those on the peripheries out of the Church, but was about bringing those on the margins into the centre to discover the joy of the worship of God and the discovery of His mercy and truth.
|Benedict XVI: Not a liberal, but a Pope, a scholar and a gentleman|
The readings that have just been proclaimed offer us ideas which, by the grace of God, we are called to transform into a concrete attitude and behaviour during Lent. First of all the Church proposes the powerful appeal which the prophet Joel addresses to the people of Israel, "Thus says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning" (2.12).
Please note the phrase "with all your heart," which means from the very core of our thoughts and feelings, from the roots of our decisions, choices and actions, with a gesture of total and radical freedom. But is this return to God possible? Yes, because there is a force that does not reside in our hearts, but that emanates from the heart of God and the power of His mercy. The prophet says: "return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment" (v. 13).
It is possible to return to the Lord, it is a 'grace', because it is the work of God and the fruit of faith that we entrust to His mercy. But this return to God becomes a reality in our lives only when the grace of God penetrates and moves our innermost core, gifting us the power that "rends the heart".
Once again the prophet proclaims these words from God: "Rend your hearts and not your garments" (v. 13). Today, in fact, many are ready to "rend their garments" over scandals and injustices – which are of course caused by others - but few seem willing to act according to their own "heart", their own conscience and their own intentions, by allowing the Lord transform, renew and convert them.
As a blogger, and from my experience of social media, I know that I am more zealous for the conversion of others than I am of myself. I know that I am guilty of various offenses against charity on social media. Sometimes it is a 'heat of the moment' thing. I am glad I am off Twitter - that is a blessing from God after I received a 'virus' that blocked me out. Many of us Catholic bloggers would say we loved Benedict XVI and his message, but perhaps, now that he is out of the 'limelight' we forget that the example that he gave us was not only one that spoke of the truth of the Gospel reflected in each every teaching of the Church, but of the gentleness, humility and quiet courage with which it can be communicated.
We love Bishop Philip Egan, but we don't like it when he tells us to love
our enemies and to exercise charity on the internet. We know better!
It is worthy of note that upon leaving the Office of the Papacy, Benedict XVI identified 'sin' as the cause of the disunity within the Church, where we would perhaps imagine he would use the word 'error'. I wonder whether we have really accepted the Benedictine message in its fullness, since it seems clear to me now that Pope Benedict XVI did not consider only error to be a threat to the Church, but sin itself, which can manifest itself in so many different ways, in such sins as pride, lust, envy, malice, greed, slander, detraction, and the loss of our inability to 'love tenderly, act justly and walk humbly with our God'. I ask the question - and I ask it of myself - did we who claimed to be the loyal spiritual sons and daughters of this holy Pope really accept the full message of Benedict XVI or did we, too, reject him?