Joseph Ratzinger was born in Marktl am Inn, Germany on April 16, 1927 and ordained a priest on June 29, 1951 at the age of 24. An exemplary student during his minor and major seminary days, he showed from the beginning of his priestly life the great mind God had gifted him with. This first came to light during his post-graduate studies in Rome with his thesis "People and House of God in Saint Augustine's Doctrine of the Church" which drew raves from professors and students alike in 1953.
He became an even more familiar name in Vatican circles when, at only 35 years-old, he was appointed advisor for Cardinal Joseph Frings from Cologne at Vatican II. His involvement in the Council gave him new insight as to what the Council Fathers were really trying to do compared to the abuses that evolved after the Council. After the Second Vatican Council concluded he returned to Germany where he resumed teaching at several German universities, being named a member of the International Theological Commission by Paul VI and accepting a position at the University of Regensburg as Professor of Dogmatic Theology in 1969.
One of his students was a young American Jesuit priest whom he was quite impressed with during his tenure there. The young priest was Father Joseph Fessio, S.J., the 18th selection of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY. Father Fessio went on to establish Ignatius Press and publish the highly popular The Ratzinger Report. There were many others who have risen to prominence in the Church who were taught by Monsignor Ratzinger and his orthodoxy has stood as a tribute to the traditions of Holy Mother Church and helped prevent a further deterioration in the Church by the liberal element that tried to outlast the conservatives and con the faithful.
On March 24, 1977 Pope Paul VI elevated him to the episcopal ranks, making him Archbishop of Munich-Freising. Many believe Cardinal Frings had a great influence on the Holy Father's appointment and subsequent red-hat. He was installed two months later on May 28, 1977. A month later he was honored again by the Holy Father when Paul VI named him in his final Consistory of June 27, 1977. Receiving the cardinalate, Cardinal Ratzinger was given the titular church of St. Mary of Consolation in Tiburtina.
One of Cardinal Ratzinger's friends in the episcopate and Sacred Conclave was another university professor, not from the University of Regensburg but as chairman of the Philosophy Department at the University of Lublin behind the iron curtain in Poland. That friend was, of course, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla whose thinking went hand in hand with Cardinal Ratzinger. So much so that the two collaborated in the preparation of various documents while serving membership in the Curia and, when the Polish cardinal became the 264th successor of Peter in 1978, he called often on his friend. They spent many hours discussing problems and solutions of the Church when Cardinal Ratzinger was able to be in Rome on various occasions.
Therefore it had to surprise no one when, on November 25, 1981, Pope John Paul II summoned Cardinal Ratzinger to the Vatican where he announced that he would become the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, probably the one Sacred Congregation closest and dearest to this Pope's heart. Cardinal Ratzinger resigned his position as Archbishop on February 15, 1982 and returned permanently to the Holy See where he took up residence and set about supervising this most important curial office. He was named President of the Biblical and Theological Commission shortly thereafter and has had his pulse on a plethora of congregations and Pontifical Councils with membership in the Second Section of the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for Oriental Churches, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and the Congregation for Catholic Education as well as the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Culture plus the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's duties were clearly defined in John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus on June 28, 1988 when he wrote, "the duty proper to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to promote and safeguard the doctrine of the Faith and morals throughout the Catholic world: for this reason everything which in any way touches such matters falls within its competence." That broad responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of Cardinal Ratzinger who has been very much up to the task at hand. He has exceeded the Holy Father's highest expectations of him and, in so doing, cemented an orthodox program throughout the Church that will pay even great dividends in the new millennium.
When he received his red-hat he was only 50 years-old and still a relatively young 54 years-old when promoted to Prefect. Many considered him papal material but he has grown older along with the Pope who is only seven years older than Cardinal Ratzinger. It would seem this "second Pope" as many have termed Cardinal Ratzinger was the perfect choice by John Paul II to perpetuate his strong catechetical teaching and policies that fry liberals because of the staunch conservative element at the top in the Holy Father and Cardinal Ratzinger, the man entrusted with enforcing the Dogmas and Doctrines of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Cardinal Ratzinger has waged a worthy war against dissidents who have sought to water-down the Faith with their own agendas. Rather than compromising as many misunderstood he would, he further echoed the Holy Father's resolve to tighten the traditions and populate the College of Cardinals and episcopal ranks with conservative prelates. He issued numerous documents solidifying Sacred Doctrine and addressing abuses, including spearheading the document signed by several other congregations on the Role of the Laity in respect to the Clergy. Sadly, it has not been followed in many dioceses in the United States but in time it should sink in. He also gave tremendous input into various encyclicals where his stamp is highly noticeable. This includes the strict compliance with Rome to curb theologians who would dissent or speak on matters that may confuse the faithful. It has to be painful the problems in Germany and Austria with the bishops and Catholic population there. Just this past weekend the Holy Father exhibited a sterner than usual stance with the German bishops during their ad limina visits, demanding allegiance to Rome in the face of dissidence that has permeated the northern regions of Europe. The same with Austria where the Pope put in place another man the calibre of Cardinal Ratzinger in Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn to quell the unrest and, as a loving shepherd, bring dissident, liberal and unhappy Catholics back into the fold. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is intricately involved in all of these dealings with the German and Austrian bishops as well as all bishops in the world for part of their ad limina tour includes a visit with Cardinal Ratzinger.
No one has served longer as head of a curial post during John Paul II's pontificate than this conservative German cardinal. At 72 years-old the Church is relatively assured he will still be going strong during the first decade of the new millennium. In fact, if God chose to call the Holy Father home within the next few years, there are those who believe Cardinal Ratzinger would be selected to succeed him, even if, because of his age, he would be an interim Pope. The main reason for this thinking is that the Conclave would want to continue the policies begun and nurtured by John Paul II. No matter what the future holds in store, John Paul II's pontificate has already been marked with greatness and stability. Contributing to that stature has been his able right-hand man and close friend for the past eighteen years, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the German prelate who long before the cold war ended and the Berlin wall fell, came in from the cold.
The Holy Eucharist is a gift God gives freely to us each and every day and yet, so few take advantage of this wondrous prize. We're either too busy, or too tired, or too wrapped up in our own schedules to make the effort to make Daily Mass a habit. In fairness, however, not every parish is accommodating the cultures of our busy, varied schedule today. Why can't more parishes offer Holy Mass at noon or in the evening after work? We understand priests are allowed to say only so many Masses a day, but with most parishes having at least two priests, that could translate to at least four Masses daily. That means two in the morning, one for the early bird - say around 6:30 or 7:00 and another at 8:00 or 9:00 for stay-at-homers; then noon for workers during their lunch break and to cater to those who work evenings. After all, what's more important: nourishment of the body or nourishment for the soul? To their credit many downtown parishes in cities across the country offer a noon Mass for office workers. But why not also offer an evening Mass around 6:30 or 7 p.m. when, quite possibly the whole family can attend. School's out, work is over, and television programs can wait. For those who don't agree, ever heard of a VCR? We're amazed how many church-related activities go on in every parish in the evenings, and yet the focal point of their whole Faith - the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is absent. The sanctuaries are dark, sometimes locked, so social activities take precedence. While some of these parish programs are important to the life of the Church, many are excessive and liberal in content and should be pared back. The best replacement: a daily evening Mass and, in lieu of that, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. There is no restriction on priests exposing Our Lord in the Monstrance even for a few hours, capped by Benediction. The only problem is finding enough souls to stay with Our Lord during this time.
We have become active in our parish on the Adoration committee and are startled by how hard it is to recruit worshippers on First Fridays when our pastor allows 24 hour adoration from after morning Mass on First Friday until Benediction the following morning just before First Saturday Mass. The committee begins recruiting two weeks beforehand at each Sunday Mass and the response is apathetic at best. Near the sign-up board for Adoration are other parish groups soliciting for attention for raffles, products such as tickets for this event or that event which mostly are secular in nature, and other assorted distractions which garner more attention than spending at least one hour a month with Our Lord. They forget His words in Matthew 26: 40, "Could you not, then, watch one hour with Me?" What's even sadder is that we do not have the Tabernacle in the main body of the church. Our Lord is in a small, reverent chapel just to the right of the altar. In all fairness, our parish, which had been a mission church and now expanded to a full-fledged parish, is in a storefront configuration while the new church is being built. Nevertheless, you can count on one hand the number of people who take the time to walk a few steps to the chapel and say "hi" to Jesus in the Tabernacle. And every Sunday Mass is packed. But so many are more interested in socializing than remembering why they are there. Before the Offertory, at the petition so many have petitions to offer. Yet how many return to give thanks for petitions answered? If you think it's frustrating to us, imagine how frustrating it is to Jesus and His Blessed Mother Mary! Here we have the greatest gift in the Holy Eucharist, one with everlasting rewards and we're more concerned with temporal things. That's like opting for spam and vinegar at a lavish, gourmet meal! It just doesn't make sense.
Speaking of not making sense, the whole Y2K nonsense falls into that category. Our response to all the hubbub is to have our lamps lit, definitely, but the lamps of our souls first, then we can take care of the physical if necessary. One way to prepare is with Thanksgiving Mass Thursday morning, the final Thanksgiving of the millennium. We have so much to give thanks for. Another way is to prepare for the new millennium and whatever it holds in store by using that special crib sheet the Church provides for us - Advent, which is a time of preparation. If any liturgical season is Y2K ready it is Advent for it is millennium tested, with the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas representing the four millenniums before the coming of Christ.
Everyone seems to be making plans for New Year's Eve. The Church's New Year's Eve is this Saturday, November 27th for the First Sunday of Advent represents the first day of the Liturgical Year, this year utilizing Cycle B in the readings which recycles every three years. We'll be celebrating Saturday's "New Year's Eve" at Holy Mass and we'll do the same for the beginning of the official Jubilee Year on Christmas Eve, and a week later on the night we all usher in the new millennium. But Mass doesn't last more than an hour or so. And so, what is everyone to do for the next few hours before midnight? We have an excellent suggestion: If your parish doesn't have a special Adoration period scheduled in your parish for New Year's Eve, now is a good time to approach your pastor and ask if you can help organize enough faithful to spend some time with Jesus in thanks, praise, and adoration for all the wonderful gifts He has bestowed on each and everyone of us. We can't think of a better way to spend New Year's Eve. After all, with the spiraling cost of celebrations for this unique upcoming New Year's Eve, think of the money you'll save on food, drink, babysitting and favors! Ah, back to favors, as in Eucharist - the greatest favor of them all! And the real reason for Thanksgiving!
We all need to take special time to consider ALL of those things for which we can and should be grateful. No matter what our crosses are; no matter what hard luck we have had; no matter what loved ones we have lost, or health conditions we possess, we all have much for which to be grateful to God.
At Medjugorje Our Blessed Mother said: "Everything you have is a gift from God."
I think of that many times in even very ordinary actions of the day. Whether I am driving a car, paying bills, putting on a coat in cold weather, I remember, by the grace of God, that I have everything because God has given them as gifts.
I am grateful to God for the sufferings of my life, as well, because there are some graces we would never receive, if it were not for suffering. Suffering molds us; it teaches us to be kinder to others and more patient. Suffering makes us more like Our Lord and shortens our purgatory. Suffering is redemptive. We actually participate with Jesus in saving souls, when we unite our sufferings with His.
These are truths that Dr. Kervorkian has never understood. With humility as the foundation of our gratitude, we can acknowledge that all good things come to us from God. It would follow, then, that joy would well up in our hearts. God has done so many good things for us! Thank you, God! A grateful heart is a happy heart. Real and sincere joy is ours when we are grateful to God for what we have.
We cannot express our gratitude enough. Surely to do so only on Thanksgiving Day is to waste so many other days in thoughtlessness. Every day we should express our gratitude to God. But Thanksgiving Day should be a special time to do so.
Going to Mass is not a requirement on Thanksgiving Day, but it would be a perfect way to thank God for all of His gifts. If that is not possible, then we can at least take a few separate moments to heartfeltly express our gratitude to our Eternal Father.
Let's be like the one person cured of leprosy that came back to say "Thank you!" to Jesus for curing Him. God knows who the grateful are. Remember He said: "Were not ten cured? Where are the other nine?"
For all that God has given me and done for me, I publicly and heartfeltly thank Him. I thank Him for you, also. For without you, dear reader, there would be no one to read what God has given me to write.
Have a holy, happy, and very grateful Thanksgiving Day! God bless you and yours!