Campus Mass goers reflect on Pope Benedict’s resignation

By Rita Buettner  |  Photos by Rita Buettner

When the first pope in 600 years announces his decision to step down, where do you go to find out how members of the Loyola community are reacting?

Loyola magazine went to Loyola’s Alumni Memorial Chapel to talk with some of the people who were praying at today’s mid-day Mass.

This Is a Big Deal

Wearing a green Red Sox cap and carrying books from a full morning of classes, Patrick O’Connor was on his way to Mass when he stopped to talk.

“Some of my friends weren’t that surprised,” said the first-year student. “I don’t think they realize what a big deal this is.”

Even so, O’Connor could understand why Pope Benedict XVI made his decision. “It must have been very hard for him, but he must have been guided by the Holy Spirit.”

O’Connor remembers when Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005—even though he was a bit young to understand everything that was happening at the time.

“It was taking over Price is Right, so I knew it must be a big deal,” he said with a smile.

O’Connor, who lives in Dedham, Mass., saw the pope when he traveled to Madrid for World Youth Day last summer. “It was incredible,” he said. “Most of my pictures didn’t turn out, but I still have them in my brain.”

Still Getting to Know Him

When Jesi Gonzales, ’13, heard the news this morning, she called home.

“I never really call my mom, so she was really taken aback,” said Gonzales, who lives in Reading, Pa. But she wanted to talk with her mother about the pope’s decision.

Her parents were the ones, after all, who invited Gonzales to join them for a family trip to Madrid for World Youth Day last summer, where they saw Pope Benedict. Although she was at a difficult place on her faith journey at the time, she enjoyed meeting people from around the world.

“I am at a better place now,” said the engineering sciences major who was on her way to Mass.

Reflecting on what she knows of Pope Benedict, Gonzales said, “I felt more connected to John Paul the second because he wrote more for young people.” She has, however, read some of Benedict’s writings, she said, “and I want to get to know him better.”

A Legacy of Brilliant Writing

As the Rev. Frank Haig, S.J., looked back over the recent days of the pope’s tenure, including how he brought together all of the cardinals for two consistories, today’s announcement made sense.

“He had done a number of obvious things to prepare for it very quietly,” said Fr. Haig, professor emeritus of physics. “He was getting ready.”

What surprised Fr. Haig was that the pope will remain at the Vatican in his retirement, rather than returning home to his native Germany.

When the retired pope is residing in the Vatican, “I bet you won’t hear a word out of him,” Fr. Haig said, adding that Benedict will likely continue to write and publish. “He’s a brilliant theologian, and his legacy will be his three books about Jesus.”

Although longevity runs in the pope’s family, Fr. Haig appreciates that the leadership role requires a great deal.

“Times have changed. Medicine has changed,” Fr. Haig said. “They can keep us alive, but they can’t keep us young.”

Fr. Haig has lived through the papacies of Pope Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and now Benedict XVI.

Now he’s preparing to get to know a new pope.

“It’s important,” he said, “but we have to remember that the head of the Church is Jesus Christ. The pope is just his vicar.”

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