In an interview with Peter Sewald, our father, Benedict XVI, said humbly that there was a place for small Popes. Whilst he visibly tried to make a bridge between the past of the Church and its continuous, ever-changing present he was and will always be the prophetic theologian of the second Vatican Council in his ‘Introducing Christianity’ and the great harmoniser of her teaching in the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’.
Vatican II has been called the Council of St Francis, it is the herald of the return to the simplicity of the Gospel of Pope Francis, the first Pope in eight centuries to take the name of the Poor Man of Assisi, despite belonging to the Jesuit Order!
Joseph Ratzinger took name of Benedict, the founder of Europe, but he gave Franciscan theology back to the Church. John Paul II had invited the Church to breath with both lungs - taking in both eastern and western spirituality. Benedict XVI, whilst deeply respecting the contribution of St Thomas to the rational elucidation and defence of the faith, gave back to the universal Church the approach of St Bonaventure to love and truth - to the God who is and who is good.
That Benedict XVI felt very close to us Franciscans, in his writings on Francis, Clare, Anthony and Bonaventure. And his spirit of povert and non ownership led him to freely give up his authority as Bishop of Rome, even as Francis gave up the government his brothers.
Our life is at the heart of the Church
It is part of our charism as Poor Clare Colettines to pray for the successor of Peter the fisherman. In the thirteenth century, Pope Gregory IX wrote to St Clare:
"You are our one consolation amongst the innumerable, bitter and endless trials by which we are constantly being afflicted .... we put our arms around you in intimate love as our special daughters, and - and it is right so to address you, as you are the spouses of the Lord - our Ladies. Because we are confident you have been made one spirit with Christ, we ask you to remember us always in your prayers...."
In the fifteenth century, at the very centre of the Council of Basle is the image of our mother, St Colette, praying for the healing and renewal of the Church. As she prayed for the fulfillment of hers, we pray for our own II Vatican Council.
Praying for the Successor of St Peter is part of our daily life. But it is more than that. With Pope John Paul, Pope Benedict is the father of the civilization of love; a whole new attitude to life and a culture of truth and joy of which we want very much to be part.
Benedict XVI is perhaps the greatest theologian the church has produced in the last two centuries if you want to know what Christianity is; he has defined it in his book Introducing Christianity which he wrote when he was a university professor!
We have added short versions of his encyclicals Deus Caritas est and Spe salvi. We did these for our own use. They are all invitations to read the full texts!