Benedict, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, eyed the cult of personality in the Catholic Church (including the cult surrounding John Paul II) with a hairy eyeball. He did not want a cult of personality when he became Pope, and his sometimes unconsidered remarks and actions have guaranteed that there is no cult of personality for Papa Benedetto.

In Africa, Benedict, according to CNA, gave an address to priests and made two important points:

He continued speaking to the priests saying they “cannot occupy center stage; [they are] a servant, a humble instrument pointing to Christ, who offers himself in sacrifice for the salvation of the world.” This, Benedict taught, is how Origen understood Joseph and Jesus’ relationship to be, “Joseph understood that Jesus was superior to him even as he submitted to him, and, knowing the superiority of his charge, he commanded him with respect and moderation.”

That is, the priest (and the bishops and the pope) are not supposed to attract attention to themselves, but be mere pointers to the true Savior, Jesus Christ. Would that pompous ritualists and would-be Las Vegas comedians who use the Mass as their stage would follow his advice! They won’t.

Priests should realize they are often in the position of Joseph who had fatherly authority over Jesus. In the flock committed to them there are often people far, far superior to the priest in holiness of life and growth in spirituality. The priest (and bishop and the pope), because of his office, has an essential role in governing the Church, but he is almost always governing people often far better than he is. This humbling thought should cause church authorities to exercise their office with care and discretion, in a spirit of service. One can always hope.

Leave a Comment