A cracking homily!

During my recent trip to the Holy Land I was fortunate to make many new friends. One such friend, Monsignor Philip Halfacre, (below)  has been in touch and sent me the text of his wonderful homily, given on the evening of the departure of his holiness Benedict XVI from the Chair of Peter.
Reproduced with thanks from the Catholic Post, the Diocesan Newspaper of Peoria, Illinois.

Msgr. Philip Halfacre was homilist at a Holy Hour in Thanksgiving for the Minsitry of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria on Feb. 28. 

Msgr. Halfacre's reflection on Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

 Following are reflections given by Msgr. Philip D. Halfacre given at a Holy Hour in thanksgiving for the Ministry of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria on Thursday evening, Feb. 28.
Msgr. Halfacre is the vicar forane of the Ottawa vicariate and the pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Streator and St. Patrick's Parish in Seneca.
We are gathered here this evening to give thanks to God. To thank God for the gift of Joseph Ratzinger who today, just a few hours ago, concluded his tenure as the Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome. We are grateful to God for his Pontificate. But like many of the good things we receive in this life, we are left wishing we had more.
Many across the globe today -- indeed, many right here in this Cathedral --wish Benedict had been our pope for many more years. But we are grateful to God for the gift we have received p– grateful for his 8 years as the Vicar of Christ.
Perhaps you can recall where you were and what you were doing when you received the news that Pope John Paul II had died. And you can perhaps recall where you were -- and what you were doing -- when Pope Benedict was elected. Perhaps you were glued to the television as I was. I clearly recall the Cardinal Protodeacon, Jorge Medina Estévez, stepping out onto the loggia and proclaiming the familiar, “Habemus papem.” He then announced the name of the one whom they had just elected.
When he said, “Eminentissium ac Reverendissium Dominum, Dominum Josephum -- I can recall at that moment thinking to myself -- "I hope he is going to say, 'RATZINGER.'”
The reactions to his election covered every point along the spectrum. Many of us greeted the news with delight. I can recall the news clips from St. Peter’s Square featuring people -- especially young people -– literally jumping up and down with joy. They called him “Papa Ratzi,” and venders soon began selling, among other things, tee shirts featuring his picture and the words, “The cafeteria is closed.”
But his election was not met with delight in every corner. In his tenure as the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- which had formerly been called the “Holy Office,” and sometime before that, “The Office of the Inquisition” -- he was widely vilified in the popular media and even by some in the Church. Shortly after his election, one Italian newspaper dubbed him, Il pastore Tedesco -- the German Shepherd. Another called him, “God’s Rottweiler.”
How wrong they were about the kind and gentle Bavarian.
It is nearly impossible to sum up his papacy any more than we can sum up our priesthood or for a married person to sum up his or her marriage. But I think it’s fair to say that besides being an authentic man of God, Pope Benedict was a shepherd and a father -- and he was the shepherd and father that we needed at the time. If what the Church needed, if what the world needed, was a pope who could engage the modern mindset -- with its penchant for relativism and self-absorption -- with cogent arguments for the things of God and for the existence of an objective reality that we discover but that we do not create -- then God certainly gave us the right man for the job.
Now while we have the right to expect the pope to be an authentic man of God -- we cannot rightly expect that he be a man with a world-class intellect. Pope Benedict was both. Besides being a man who seeks the Face of the Lord, he is at heart an intellectual whose teaching is both clear and profound. He has a gift for communicating difficult things.
The esteemed author, John Allen, noted that after the conclave that elected Pope Benedict, one of the Cardinal Electors observed -- that if Ratzinger’s election had no other effect than convincing the world to read his theology, that alone would be worth it. And his theology is born out in his day-to-day life. It didn’t take long for fair-minded people to see the warmth and sensitivity of one who is genuinely interested in people.
I never had the good fortune to meet the Holy Father while he was pope. I did, however, meet him once before his election. It was 1990 and I was visiting Rome after having just been ordained a deacon. I spotted him one afternoon walking through the streets of Rome and I called out to him. He was gracious. And spoke with me for a few moments and allowed the two of us to be photographed together.
In these days since his announcement of his intention to resign, many have recalled similar moments when they saw the personal interest he takes in people. Cardinal Rigali recently recalled such a moment. On the day Benedict was elected, within moments of his election, each of the cardinals -- according to ancient custom -- would come forward to greet the newly elected Pontiff. Now with all that must have been going through Benedict’s mind at that moment -- having just been elected pope -- when Cardinal Rigali approached him, the new pope looked at him and said, “Happy Birthday” -- remembering that his birthday was that day.
Pope Benedict is a theologian who is devoted to the Fathers -- especially to St. Augustine and St. Bonaventure. As such, intellectual framework is a theology of the heart more than a theology of the head. Perhaps this came as a surprise to some people. But all of his teaching is grounded on the fundamental idea the believer must be in an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ and that charity is at the heart of our religion.
If a central theme in the Pontificate of Blessed John Paul II was “gift of self” . . . perhaps it is fair to say that the central theme in the Pontificate of Benedict was the “hermeneutic of continuity.” The Holy Father understood clearly that an authentic reading of the Second Vatican Council must not be understood as some sort of rupture in the life of the Church or an overturning of all that came before. Rather, Pope Benedict cogently articulated how and why legitimate development -- be it in doctrine or liturgy -- does not contradict what has come before. Sacred Tradition, he would insist, is an organic unity.
During his tenure, the Holy Father extended an olive branch to many who were -- for one reason or another -- estranged from the Church. Most recently, he made it possible for members of the Anglican Communion to make their way back home to the Church of Rome.
In one of his book-length interviews, Peter Seewald commented to the Holy Father that people have the impression that since becoming pope he seems more mysterious, more mystical. The Holy Father responded by saying, “I’m no mystic.” To the very end of his papacy, he remained the man that he described himself as being on the day he was elected: “A simple, humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord.” And it took both humility and courage to acknowledge that his strengths, as he put it, “are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
It is a somber day, but we trust his judgment and we support his decision.
Yes, we have many reasons to give thanks to God for giving us Pope Benedict. Though he was the Bishop of Rome for only 8 years, Benedict has left a great mark on the Church. And we entrust the Holy Church to our Lord, confident that in God’s providential care for us, He will give us a worthy successor. Amen. 


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