Today is the birthday of Joseph Ratzinger, sometime Bishop of Rome, and the anniversary of his rebirth in Baptism on the day when the Church was celebrating her Passover.
His pontificate was short, but what enrichment it brought us. The vetusta Novitas of the Bible, the Fathers, and the Liturgy; Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum coetibus; the beatification of Newman; how much grace we received in those years through his gentle and generous hands. It turned out to be a necessary stocking-up of the larder with good and nourishing food; food destined to be our rations during the winter and the ice and the time of tears and cruelty. As we warm ourselves at our hearths today, and hear the wolves still howling outside as they run licensed and unconfined, hungry and increasingly desperate, memories of the good times reassure us that, in the power of the Spirit, and if we keep faith, good times can return. Veni Sancte Spiritus ... flecte quod est rigidum, fove quod est frigidum, rege quod est devium. And there are at last sounds of the glaciers cracking, and of the trickle of tiny streams running out from beneath the compacted ice ... and the sight of little buds beginning to open beside the streams.
In a manner of speaking, we might say that Pope Benedict's glorious pontificate is still alive among us, since it is to the sinewy strength of his biblical and patristic teaching, and to the structures he left in place, that we continue to turn as we look to the return of the Maytime, when "The happy birds Te Deum sing, 'tis Mary's month of May."
In a justly famous sermon, Blessed John Henry Newman addressed to our Lady some words derived from the Song of Solomon:
"Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. For the winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land. ... The fig tree hath put forth her green figs; the vines in flower yield their sweet smell. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come. It is time for thy Visitation. Arise, Mary, and go forth in thy strength ..."
May the prayers of our Mother gain for us the grace of perseverance in this last dark hour of the apostasy. Was there ever a tyranny which lasted for ever, or an eternal winter?
She will go forth in her strength.
Her Immaculate Heart will prevail.