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Pope reflects on his birthday, his baptism, and his 'final stage of life's journey'

April 17, 2012

As he celebrated Mass on his 85th birthday, Pope Benedict XVI said that three feasts on the liturgical calendar for that day have influenced his life: the feasts of St. Bernadette, the feast of St. Benedict Joseph Labre, and Easter Sunday, which fell on April 17 in the year that he was born.

Pope Benedict celebrated Mass in the Pauline chapel of the apostolic palace on his birthday, with members of the College of Cardinals and visiting bishops from his native Bavaria as concelebrants. In his homily he remarked, “I am in the final stage of my life’s journey and I do not know what awaits me.” But he affirmed that his faith in God gives him confidence for whatever lies in store.

April 16, his birthday, was the feast of St. Bernadette Soubirous, to whom the Virgin Mary revealed the miraculous waters of Lourdes, the Pope said. “This little saint has always been a sign for me, showing me where the living water we need comes from, the water which purifies and gives life,” he said.

St. Benedict Joseph Labre was also on the liturgical calendar that day, the Pope continued. This unusual saint, he said, “wandered as a mendicant from one shrine to another, wishing to do nothing put pray and so bear witness to what is important in this life: God.”

Finally, in 1927, when Joseph Ratzinger was born, April 16 was Holy Saturday. His mother brought the newborn to the Easter Vigil. “On the day I was born, thanks to my parents, I was also reborn with the water of the Spirit,” the Holy Father remarked. He went on:

Biological life is in itself a gift, yet it begs an important question. It becomes a true gift only if, together with that life, we are given a promise stronger than any misfortune that may threaten us, if life is immersed in a power which guarantees that it is a good thing to be a man, and that the person is a benefit whatever the future may bring. In this way rebirth is associated with birth, the certainty that it is good to exist because the promise is greater than the threat.


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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Apr. 17, 2012 1:34 PM ET USA

    On his election to the papacy, Dr. Mirus pointed out that not only was Cardinal Ratzinger perhaps the top theologian in the Church, but that he was by far the holiest man. His holiness once again shines in the quoted paragraph above.