Tired Benedict Needs our Prayers

(photo source)

“Benedict turns 85 in the new year, so a slowdown is only natural. Expected. And given his age and continued rigorous work schedule, it’s remarkable he does as much as he does and is in such good health overall: Just this past week he confirmed he would travel to Mexico and Cuba next spring.

But a decline has been noted as Benedict prepares for next weekend’s grueling Christmas celebrations, which kick off two weeks of intense public appearances. [...] Back at home, however, it seems the daily grind of being pope — the audiences with visiting heads of state, the weekly public catechism lessons, the sessions with visiting bishops — has taken its toll. A spark is gone. He doesn’t elaborate off-the-cuff much anymore, and some days he just seems wiped out.

Take for example his recent visit to Assisi, where he traveled by train with dozens of religious leaders from around the world for a daylong peace pilgrimage. For anyone participating it was a tough, long day; for the aging pope it was even more so.

“Indeed I was struck by what appeared to me as the decline in Benedict’s strength and health over the last half year,” said Rabbi David Rosen, who had a place of honor next to the pope at the Assisi event as head of interfaith relations at the American Jewish Committee.

“He looks thinner and weaker … which made the effort he put into the Assisi shindig with the extraordinary degree of personal attention to the attendees (especially the next day in Rome) all the more remarkable,” Rosen said in an email.

That Benedict is tired would be a perfectly normal diagnosis for an 84-year-old, even someone with no known health ailments and a still-agile mind. He has acknowledged having suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in 1991 that temporarily affected his vision. And his older brother, who has a pacemaker for an irregular heartbeat, has expressed concern about Benedict’s own heart.

But Benedict is not a normal 84-year-old, both in what he is called to do and the implications if he were to stop.”

Our dear Papa is old and has more than earned his rest. But he has important work to do — miles to go before he sleeps. Pray for this transparently holy and humble servant of Christ, that he finds truly restorative rest, comfort and consolation when he needs it, and vigor when he needs that, too.

This seems a sudden and troubling decline. Of course he cannot live forever — and what a remarkable life he has had, lived entirely for Christ — but I pray we get to have him among us for a while, yet! Not as glamorous as his predecessor, but nevertheless, a punch-packer, a quiet riot; I do dearly love this pope, whom I believe we will someday call a saint.

My husband and I were privileged to be at this audience wherein he discussed Hildegard of Bingen, whom Benedict will canonize and name a Doctor of the Church. He looked perfectly hale and hearty last year, and my husband and I both marveled at his energy and steady step.

We are coming into the last week of Advent. With Vespers, tonight, we begin to chant the gorgeous O Antiphons. Today, O Spaientia!

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.

My evening prayer tonight will remember the intentions of Benedict, who even as a young Joseph Ratzinger, had been imbued with a certain wisdom:

Günter Grass, in his memoirs, recalls an encounter with the young Joseph Ratzinger while both were held in an American prisoner-of-war camp in 1945. The young Grass, a Nazi who had been proud to serve in the Waffen-SS, was taken aback by this soft-spoken, gentle young Catholic. Unlike God, the future pope played dice, quoting St. Augustine in the original while he did so; he even dreamt in Latin. His only desire was to return to the seminary from which he had been drafted. “I said, there are many truths,” wrote Grass. “He said, there is only one.”

He was 16, at the time.

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About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Oregon Catholic

    I’ve noticed the difference in his appearance in recent pictures, about the time he visited Germany it was obvious his vigor was declining. I hope he will pull back on the public doings, which seem to take their toll on him, so he can have the time and energy he needs for prayer and writing and leading the Church.

  • http://www.savkobabe.blogspot.com Gayle Miller

    His Holiness is so beloved by so many and needed by so many more that we really all need to join in prayers for his continued good health.

  • Matthew the Wayfarer

    My great fear is that he will depart this mortal coil before he has completed his work. I also worry about who might follow in the Fisherman’s Sandals.
    I was born in 1947 and Pope John XXIII was the one who moved me closer to Rome. Paul VI, John-Paul I, were no influence after I became Catholic, John-Paul II was an inspiration in the political and sexual realms but his comments on science fell short. Benedict XVI has re-invigorated and re-inspired my Faith. To me he is already ‘Blessed’ and I refer to him as Benedict the Magnificent. My Pope, my Papa.
    I truly pray he is able to finish the Liturgical Reform and lead the Church in the Worship of the Angels not only in the Roman Rites but the Eastern Rites as well.

  • fiestamom

    Thanks for the reminder to pray for our beloved Papa BXVI.

  • Barbara P

    He has had a lot to deal with during his Pontificate – including the child abuse scandals, a global financial meltdown and catastrophic natural disasters. I wonder if in addition to feeling his own fatigue he is also feeling the world’s weariness.

  • http://www.myspace.com/peterriedesel Pete in Mpls.

    Some one get that man – that Angel – some Mozart, on the double!

  • taad

    Read his announcement for the trip to Cuba. He is entrusting it all to Divine Providence. He is following the lead of JPII, going forward, not knowing how far you can go, dragging an old body along the path of Calvary. What an inspiration.

  • Casey

    I have been worried about him too. God please grant him a few more years to complete the greats tasks he has begun. I just love this man. Our Papa.

  • Bill Daugherty

    Pray Psalm 92:14-15 over him:
    They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,
    to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

  • David Nicoll

    The Holy Father is a true great in the history of the Church, and we need him so much.

  • http://www.bedlamorparnassus.blogspot.com Magister Christianus

    I have a picture of Pope Benedict XVI on my blog, which links to a Latin prayer. Although I am still a Protestant, I have been moving closer to Rome for several years. It is a process I will not bore people with here, but I had always hoped that if I were to swim the Tiber, it would be during Pope Benedict’s pontificate. He represents the best of the command to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. I pray the selfish prayer that he will be with us much longer.

  • http://kingandqueenrosaries.yolasite.com michael jaffray king

    I pray for him in the rosary prayer every day. At 73 which is my age he is a great inspiration and he is a great Pope and is doing a marvellous job. God bless you Papa Benedito. I love you and will continue to keep you in my prayers.

  • Mack Hall

    God bless our dear Karl / Benedict XVI. Even if he were not the Bishop of Rome we would love and honor him.

    I will always wonder if my father, who ended the war in southern Germany, ever met young Karl Ratzinger, perhaps telling him and other prisoners to to “Move along, bud.”

  • http://www.arsvivendiblog.com Inge

    Karl who?

    The pope also goes by the name Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger. Kind of wondering how you came up with the name Karl? Unless you’re mixing up Karol Josef Woytila with him, who is better known as Pope John Paul II.

  • francisca


  • http://www.annkissaneengelhart.com Annie

    The Pope does appear older, thinner and less vigorous, but I disagree with some of Ms. Winfield’s overly dramatic conclusions…
    Benedict XVI himself seems to have answered this impression this morning while visiting prisoners at a jail in Rome. He joyfully shook hands with over 100 men and beautifully answered their questions with great emotion and pastoral care, speaking off-the-cuff.

    Watch even just the first few minutes of this touching meeting and you will see that despite the AP’s characterization, the “spark” is most definitely still there!


    [Thank you for this! -admin]

  • Ak

    God bless our papa, and keep him for us

  • james hughes

    Reply to; Matthew the wayfarer.
    I too was born in 1947 ,a cradle catholic so not much of a trek to Rome, but I feel that Benedict has a lot to do before the church can be rescued from the modernist crowd so we need him to last about another 15/20 years by which time I will be dead and not have to endure the agonies which the church has had to endure subsequent to VII. I will remember him in my prayers and hope that god will spare him and also prepare for a replacement as holy and learned as papa Benedict. AMDG

  • http://www.bede.org Stefanie

    Well said, Elizabeth. I saw the AP report on Drudge this morning and it made me laugh, actually. I sent the link to our liturgy director with my email entitled, “Look at this — you have something else in common with our pope!” Let me tell you — for everyone who is involved at Mass ‘behind-the-scenes’ as well as bishops, priests, deacons, lectors, altar servers, ushers, etc. –at this point in the Season of Advent, after all the hoopla for the New Translation of the Missal, …this is a bone-wearing yet joyful time as we prepare to receive our always-parishioners and our ‘occasional’ ones.

    The pressure for all to be ‘perfect’ when our “occasionals” visit – so they will be moved to return with both feet within the nave — is great. I can only imagine our Papa’s perspective. Sleep is brief. So much to do! And if one doesn’t respond to the challenges of spiritual leadership with a smile, the word gets out that we are grumpy, ill, wearing out, etc. I find this amusing — because our Source of Energy is our Lord.

    I love as others have pointed out that Papa is quick to say, “if the Lord wills it”, he will arrive in Mexico, in Cuba, celebrate Easter with us, another Christmas. This should be our prayer as we sleep each night. “If the Lord will it”, we will be useful to Him for another day. Afterall, it is in Simeon’s prayer at Compline as he took our Lord into his arms, “Now, Master, You may let Your servant go in peace, according to Your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in sight of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

  • John

    I do recall his statement that his time as pope would not be long. John Paul II’s time must not be taken as normative. Let us hope that the next pope will not take the name of Peter. But then perhaps we are being vultures in speculating about Benedict’s remaining time

  • http://jscafenette.com/ Manny

    I’ve noticed a bit of a tired look in his face myself. The combination of JPII and Benedict has been great. I hope he has more years ahead. This is such a tenuous period in religious history and we need his brilliant brain. I hope the next Pope can continue this great leadership we’ve had for over thirty years.

  • Anna Pukatzki

    Thank you- blessings and prayers for our Holy Fther that he may continue his fabulous work

  • Ralphie

    Pope Benedict wanted to retire years ago. And yet he answered the call nonetheless. Sadly, he will not have his rest in this life. It must indeed be lonely and daunting to be Pope. You will never retire. You will never have your days free to just take walks and read and relax after 60 years of service without having the stress of shepherding 1 billion members of the flock, and the 6 billion others outside.

    The Pope has truly sacrificed such comforts for me. I am grateful, and hope his reward is great in heaven.

  • Greta

    We have been blessed with two saints in Popes JPII and Benedict XVI. both have slowly tried to move the Church to correct many of the errors that have crept into it and to try to stem the tide of the world with those who support abortion and the attack on the family. When Pope JPII was dying, everyone wondered how we could get along without this wonderful leader and inspiration and God gave us Benedict. I suspect it has always been true that people worried about what would come next. However, we have the promise of Christ to be with His Church until the end of time and faith gives us courage. I pray Benedict has many productive years in front of him and trust God will take him when the time is right. I saw someone speculating on the possibility of an American Pope in Cardinal Burke with his elevated positions in the Vatican and I understand he has gotten very close to the Italian Bishops as well as those in some of the third world nations.

    Had to laugh at this story on Pope Benedict speculating on when he might resign just like the did with Pope JPII until the very end.

  • fiestamom

    Stefanie, in the homily yesterday, the priest told us that our kindness and compassion (the parishioners) would matter far more to the Christmas visitors than any homily he gave. I never thought of it that way, I’m ashamed to admit.

    I laughed at the AP article when it speculated about Pope Benedict retiring. Please. They did that with JPII and it made me so mad. Yes they’re old, but their lives are valuable and God is the one who will decide. Whatever, AP!

  • Mack Hall

    Dear Inge,

    I haven’t yet taken my pills this morning.
    God bless Joseph / our Holy Father Benedict.

  • Tapestry

    The popes have never done this much traveling until JPII, I think
    the schedule they put upon our dear Pope Bendeict is way over the top!
    He doesn’t have to travel anywhere; there is television to enter every
    liviing room in the world. He is always so far away from the crowds anyways
    except for the few that are allowed to shake his hand or hand him the bread and wine at communion time.
    I really think that once a pope has passed those that set up these trips need to step back and look at the health, age and then decide its okay. Maybe the first couple of years there are obligations and plans set. But now he has been here awhile his agenda should be cut back, no more next year he will be here or there. Give the man a break even at Vatican City its non-stop except for a vacation in August and even then he is still on some agenda.
    We know he is there in Vatican City and we can read his words daily, let’s cut
    him some slack and let him have a week off every 4 weeks.. that could be a good start!

  • http://tonylayne.blogspot.com/ Anthony S. Layne

    While I rejoice that Papa Bene seems to have picked up a bit, the reminder that he’s well past others’ retirement age is still timely. I never appreciated Cdl. Ratzinger before I began my reversion from “cafeteria Catholicism”; since he became our Pope and I started with his encyclicals, I’ve become ever more impressed and delighted with the gift that was given us by his election. God’s will be done; but if it pleases Him to let Benedict be with us a while longer, it would please me as well. God bless him!