Dearest Papa Bene-
It’s with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to you as our Pontiff. I was so blessed to watch your final papal mass on Ash Wednesday. How lovely a gesture that people stood and cheered for you. As something we don’t do, it spoke volumes to my heart and I hope to you, for they were clapping and cheering for us all.
I want you to know that my fondness for you has grown immensly. And when I say that it’s with no small amount of love or pride for my faith that this is true. You see, I used to be an anti-Catholic leftist who bought the media’s garbage that you were a Nazi and power hungry prying your way to St. Peter’s seat in Rome. I used to think that the Catholic Church was only a place for the depraved and of the oppressed. Especially women. I thought that God would never deign to love me enough to want me as a part of His church on Earth. My spirit, as you can tell, had been crushed and dismantled through years of not knowing God, of denying Jesus Christ and so denying any pontiff and his message.
When I met my to-be husband, he was going to enter the Catholic Church and I just thought he was crazy. I was a professed Buddhist, having completely scrubbed Chrisianity(a four letter word to me then) from my life. I had coworkers who were Christians and decidedly didn’t like them, I even told them how offensive their “God Bless you” was to me. But, my boyfriend was a kind person and was going through RCIA. He kept inviting me to go and I would drop him off for a few weeks thinking there’s no way I am going into a room with a bunch of Catholics who will hate me and whom I will surely hate and disagree with. I finally decided that if I was going to really invest in this guy I had to find out what on earth he was doing entering the Church. So I went to an RCIA thinking I was the cool buddhist in the room. One of the cathecists was telling her story after we saw Dr. Hahn’s conversion disscussion video. It was that night that I really decided that I could try to open my heart. When I finally capitulated to the terrifying Candlelight Mass invitation from my husband, we walked into St. Thomas and it was just so beautiful, so mystifying.
Christ’s beauty encompassed me, us. And “Where have I been that I wasn’t Here all this time?”, was all I could think and feel. I wept on my knees what seemed for a lifetime. It all fell out, all the sorrow, all the sin, all the fear, just left in His presence.
The things I did not know about you were inumerable. I did not know your love and capacity to love. Your incredible love of our Mother Mary has taught me so much. How to humble oneself before God.
Papa Bene- thank you for teaching me, for leading the way for me and for Christ’s Church on Earth how to love God and our Mother Church.