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Welcome to GenerationBenedict

Pope Benedict has been responsible for the conversion, reversion, vocation and the deepening of faith of many young Catholics. At the time of his visit to the UK, many Catholics were luke-warm, even living their lives completely at odds to the Church. During this visit, and also World Youth Days in Sydney and Madrid, he has connected with them through his eloquence, his love and genuine concern. Who is God calling you to be?

Pope Benedict will be truly missed by our generation. Those who have met him look upon him fondly as a gentle grandfatherly figure, as he has pointed us towards Christ, at a point in time when many of us were at a crossroads, telling us not to settle for second best, but to strive for sainthood.

Over the next 40 days of Lent, 40 young people from Generation Benedict will each be sharing how he has touched their hearts and changed their lives.

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Easter Sunday

Te Deum

The Te Deum is a traditional prayer of joy and thanksgiving.

Resurrection by Raffaelino del Garbo

Resurrection by Raffaelino del Garbo

O God, we praise Thee, and acknowledge Thee to be the supreme Lord.
Everlasting Father, all the earth worships Thee.
All the Angels, the heavens and all angelic powers,
All the Cherubim and Seraphim, continuously cry to Thee:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious choir of the Apostles,
The wonderful company of Prophets,
The white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.
Holy Church throughout the world acknowledges Thee:
The Father of infinite Majesty;
Thy adorable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
O Christ, Thou art the King of glory!
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When Thou tookest it upon Thyself to deliver man,
Thou didst not disdain the Virgin’s womb.
Having overcome the sting of death, Thou opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all
believers.
Thou sitest at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou willst come to be our Judge.
We, therefore, beg Thee to help Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy
Precious Blood.
Let them be numbered with Thy Saints in everlasting glory.

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Day 40: Generation Benedict, Looking Forward

Collette is a Law student from Birmingham.  She helps lead 2nd Friday, an informal movement for young adults which focuses on discipleship and evangelisation. With Lisette Carr, she is co-editrix of the GenerationBenedict blog.

St Therese of Lisieux

St Therese of Lisieux

I had no idea what would become of the #generationbenedict blog when I sent a message to Lise on the eve of Ash Wednesday about this idea I had.  I just thought this could be a great way to remember our beloved Pope Benedict.  I take very seriously the challenge of Pope Emeritus Benedict to take responsibility for evangelising the digital continent. Imagine what the likes of St Therese of Lisieux and St Francis Xavier could have done with social media? Older generations were very quick to speak on behalf of my generation in the media after the abdication of Pope Benedict and this didn’t sit right with me.  The stories these older Catholics told, had no resonance with the Pope Benedict I had come to know and love.  Our stories needed to be told, in our own words and on a platform which Pope Benedict described us as having a natural affinity for.

I don’t want to say too much here and simply put, this blog has blown away all expectations.  The number of hits and the media coverage has been phenomenal, totally unexpected.  For this all glory must be given the Lord who has fuelled our passion and love for His radiant bride the Church and for Peter’s successor.
The testimonies and response of the young people involved has humbled and amazed me.  Every time another blog post came my way, I felt as though I was in possession of a precious jewel as I read of how the Lord had moved in a person’s life through his humble worker: Pope Benedict.  With each new testimony I thought surely they don’t get better than this?? Then the next one appeared and my heart was moved once more.  Each testimony speaks of a generation striving for greatness, looking for clear leadership, seeking Truth and in need of a gentle helping hand to become the saints of the 21st Century.  One question that has been posed to me has been “what does an 80 something year old man have in common with your generation?”  This is a fair question and this blog answers that question, age is irrelevant this is a living example of heart speaks unto heart.   The Church and her pastors in knowing Christ is ever new, ever young.  Truth doesn’t age. The noble ideals of young people do not change. The bonds of our baptism run deep, much deeper than the modern world can comprehend- this is reflected in the deep familial love and respect shown to Pope Benedict by my generation.
Once these testimonies had been published, giving the feedback to our young contributors was a special moment for me.  Letting a person know that their post had X amount of hits, had been picked up by this blog or covered here was really beautiful. There was surprise and shock as these young people realised how many people had read and shared their stories, that people we actually bothered about what they had to say about their faith.  I hope all those who have contributed are encouraged and continue to be inspired by this.
The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God.

Pope Benedict, World Youth Day Madrid

Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis 2It was with great distress that I watched the video of Pope Francis meeting with Pope Emeritus Benedict.  His frailty and weakness was painful to behold, it helped me make more sense of his decision to abdicate.  If there is a reason he came back to the faith or why I lapped up so much of his teaching it is because in Pope Benedict I could say with confidence “Here is a man who knows the Lord”.  As I reflect on my personal apostolate now, I pray for the courage to follow his example to give my whole life to the service of the gospel, in humble obedience and confident trust right to the very end.
I’m looking forward to the pontificate of Pope Francis, it is fresh wind in our sails and I’m following it with an open and faithful heart.  It is important to look at the two pontificates together.  Pope Benedict taught us that our faith is reasonable, he gave us the great gift of the YouCat and challenged us to know what we believe, he restored a sense of wonder, awe and reverence in the way in which we celebrate the Sacraments opening up a stunning chest of beautiful treasure previously hidden from my generation, he encouraged us to build our lives upon the rock that is Christ and to find our home in the Church.  I know there has been much opinion over Pope Francis, the media are doing a very good job of using him as stick to beat Pope Benedict with.  We as young Catholics must not get caught up in these silly debates.  There is a whole world dying for love of Christ, it is falling apart before our very eyes and we cannot afford to spend time debating what colour shoes the Pope wears or whose feet he washes and comparing it with times gone by.  Pope Benedict wouldn’t want this and it is no good for the Church. 
We have been privileged to be formed by an incredible Pope in Benedict and we disregard none of this as we whole-heartedly embrace Pope Francis.  Let us continue the good work which the Lord has begun in us through Pope Benedict and may it find it’s fullness through his new instrument: Francis.
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Day 39: Good Friday

The address by Pope Benedict XVI after the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, 22/04/11

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This evening, in faith, we have accompanied Jesus as he takes the final steps of his earthly journey, the most painful steps, the steps that lead to Calvary. We have heard the cries of the crowd, the words of condemnation, the insults of the soldiers, the lamentation of the Virgin Mary and of the women. Now we are immersed in the silence of this night, in the silence of the cross, the silence of death. It is a silence pregnant with the burden of pain borne by a man rejected, oppressed, downtrodden, the burden of sin that mars his face, the burden of evil. Tonight we have relived, deep within our hearts, the drama of Jesus, weighed down by pain, by evil, by human sin.

 
What remains now before our eyes? It is a crucified man, a cross raised on Golgotha, a cross which seems a sign of the final defeat of the One who brought light to those immersed in darkness, the One who spoke of the power of forgiveness and of mercy, the One who asked us to believe in God’s infinite love for each human person. Despised and rejected by men, there stands before us “a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity, one from whom others hide their faces” (Is 53:3).

 
crucifixion-of-jesus-247x300But let us look more closely at that man crucified between earth and heaven. Let us contemplate him more intently, and we will realize that the cross is not the banner of the victory of death, sin and evil, but rather the luminous sign of love, of God’s immense love, of something that we could never have asked, imagined or expected: God bent down over us, he lowered himself, even to the darkest corner of our lives, in order to stretch out his hand and draw us to himself, to bring us all the way to himself. The cross speaks to us of the supreme love of God and invites, today, to renew our faith in the power of that love, and to believe that in every situation of our lives, our history and our world, God is able to vanquish death, sin and evil, and to give us new, risen life. In the Son of God’s death on the cross, we find the seed of new hope for life, like the seed which dies within the earth.

This night full of silence, full of hope, echoes God’s call to us as found in the words of Saint Augustine: “Have faith! You will come to me and you will taste the good things of my table, even as I did not disdain to taste the evil things of your table… I have promised you my own life. As a pledge of this, I have given you my death, as if to say: Look! I am inviting you to share in my life. It is a life where no one dies, a life which is truly blessed, which offers an incorruptible food, the food which refreshes and never fails. The goal to which I invite you … is friendship with the Father and the Holy Spirit, it is the eternal supper, it is communion with me … It is a share in my own life (cf. Sermon 231, 5).

Let us gaze on the crucified Jesus, and let us ask in prayer: Enlighten our hearts, Lord, that we may follow you along the way of the cross. Put to death in us the “old man” bound by selfishness, evil and sin. Make us “new men”, men and women of holiness, transformed and enlivened by your love.

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Day 38: Letters from Prison

This post is taken from the Vatican Radio website.

Juvenile

Los Angeles County has one of the highest youth incarceration rates in the country. Up to 90% of the county’s juvenile justice youth are Latino or African American, and up to 70% of incarcerated youth nationally are said to have some kind of disability.


After witnessing the tragic lives of so many young people facing life without parole in a juvenile justice system where little rehabilitation takes place and with frighteningly high recidivism rates that continue into adulthood, Jesuit Father Mike Kennedy decided to set up the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative (JRJI) to provide support and hope to juveniles with life sentences.

Through the Spiritual Exercise of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a series of meditative prayers helping people find God in their everyday experiences, the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative provides tools that allow prisoners to find healing and forgiveness and to recognize their lives have meaning and purpose.

Pope Francis washing the feet of young offenders today in Rome

Pope Francis washing the feet of young offenders today in Rome

When the young boys at the juvenile detention facility in LA heard of Pope Francis’ wish to celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at Rome’s Casal del Marmo prison with the young inmates there, many of them expressed their desire to participate from afar and in close solidarity to what the Pope was going to do in another juvenile hall.

To do this they have written letters to Pope Francis, thanking him for his gesture of love and service, praying for him – as he has asked all of us to do, describing the sadness of their lives in detention, and asking for prayers to help them endure the darkness and hopelessness of their situations… As father Kennedy points out, some of these youngsters will spend the rest of their lives in prison.

We welcome their voices and publish the letters that will be read at a service Thursday evening with the Director of Novices and 11 Jesuit novices, each one washing the feet of an inmate at the juvenile hall where kids are sentenced as adults.

Dear Pope Francis,
Thank you for washing the feet of youth like us in Italy.
We also are young and made mistakes.
Society has given up on us, thank you
that you have not given up on us.

Dear Pope Francis,
I think you are a humble man.
When you read this letter you will have washed the feet of other kids like.
I am writing this letter because you give me hope.
I know one day with people like you us kids
won’t be given sentences that will keep us in prison
for the rest of our lives.
I pray for you. Dont forget us.

Dear Pope Francis,
I don’t know if you have ever been to where I live.
I have grown up in a jungle of gangs and drugs and violence.
I have seen people killed. I have been hurt.
We have been victims of violence.
It is hard to be young and surrounded by darkness.
Pray for me that one day I will be free
and be able to help other youth like you do.

Dear Pope Francis,
Tonight we pray for all victims of violence.
The families of people we have hurt need healing.
Our families need healing.
We are all in pain.
Let us feel Jesus’ healing tonight.

Dear Pope Francis,
I know the same youth feet that you wash
are like me.
Drugs have been part of me life for so long.
We all struggle to be sober.
But you inspire me and I promise to be sober
and help others with the cruel addiction of crystal meth.

Dear Pope Francis,
My many friends are in two different maximum security
prisons in one of our states 33 state prisons.Calif. I am writing to tell you that I feel bad
that more youth of color are in prison in our state
than any other place in the world. I am inviting you to come
here next year to wash our feet, many of who have been sentences to die in prison.
God bless you.

Dear Pope Francis,
I read that the harshest sentence that a youth
can receive in Italy is 20 years. I wish this was true here.
I hope I hear back from you. I have been catholic and glad I am catholic
because I have a pope like you.
I will pray for you every day because we need examples of God like you are
in this violent world.

Dear Pope Francis,
I am glad you picked the name Francis. When I was little I read about St.Francis. He is a cool saint. He was a man of peace and simplicity. I am praying to you that you pray that we have peace in our gang filled neighborhoods.

Dear Pope Francis,
When Jesus washed the feet of his friends he gave an example of humility. I have been raised to believe that it is only with respect in hurting your enemy that you are a man. Tonight you and Jesus show me something in this washing of the feet something very different. I hope we kids learn from this.

Dear Pope Francis,
I have never been to Rome. I do not know if it is near Los Angeles
because all my youth I have only known my neighborhood. I hope one
day I will be given a second chance and receive a blessing from you
and maybe even have my feet washed on Holy Thursday.

Dear Pope Francis,
I know you have a good family. I am writing this letter to you because I know
that my family is suffering because of me. I know have done some bad things but I am not a bad kid and when last year in our big state we not a new law called SB9 this made me family happy because this is a beautiful message that we kids deserve a second chance.

Dear Pope Francis,
From reading I know that us kids are capable of making decisions like older people do. I have seen pictures of brains of kids and adults. I am asking you as Pope to help us and
help other people understand we can change and want to change.

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Day 37: Generation Benedict, Looking Back

Lisette Carr is a French teacher, youth worker living in Dublin. She is currently studying for an MA in Marriage and Family at Maryvale Institute. She writes a blog about good things happening in the Catholic world at www.catholicismrocks.wordpress.com. With Collette, she is co-editrix of the GenerationBenedict blog.

 

On Shrove Tuesday, Collette and I had the idea for this blog. I remembered the ‘joyful noise’ that was made on social media about the Pope’s 2010 visit to the UK. I hoped that the GenerationBenedict blog would make more ‘joyful noise’ for Benedict, especially at a time when the media spotlight was on the Catholic Church.

In his 2009 World Communications Day message, Pope Benedict said;

It falls, in particular, to young people, who have an almost spontaneous affinity for the new means of communication, to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this “digital continent”.

The GenerationBenedict blog has been a platform for young Catholics to share their witness. They have written about how Benedict inspired them and pointed them to Jesus Christ. When I have been talking about the blog, ‘inspirational’ is a word that, even though I have used it carefully, I have used it a lot, to describe the reflections from our contributors. In our culture of aggressive secularism and increasing hostility to religion, our contributors have bravely stood up and shared a part of their faith journey with the world. This can be quite daunting. I remember on Ash Wednesday, hovering over the ‘publish’ button as I published the first reflection, my own.

Through the gift of our Baptism, we become lights of the world. In his last World Youth Day message, Benedict acknowledges it can be a challenge to bear witness to our faith;

I imagine that you have at times found it difficult to invite your contemporaries to an experience of faith…

He tells young people that their witness will itself be a way in which God can touch the hearts of others. Over these weeks of Lent, our contributors have touched hearts by courageously sharing glimpses of their faith journeys with the world.

 

Jennifer Baugh, who founded Young Catholic Professionals

Jennifer Baugh, who founded Young Catholic Professionals

Michaela, a student in Birmingham, wrote about the counter-cultural challenge of living the Faith at university. Jenn, from Texas, responded to Benedict’s call to follow Christ by founding the ministry, Young Catholic Professionals. Majella, from Limerick, shared how Pope Benedict has inspired her to reach out to non-believers and people of other faiths.

Ben and Sarah honestly shared their struggle with infertility, and how Church teaching, and in particular Benedict’s articulation of this, gave them strength, courage and understanding, strengthening their marriage and deepening their love.

Young seminarians and priests have written about how Benedict gave them the insight to discern and, more importantly, the courage to answer God’s call.

We don’t know what, if any, impact the blog will have on the lives of other people. I hope it will be a lamp, a small island of light and hope on the digital continent. Of course, in all of this, the Holy Spirit blows where He wills, and we probably cannot imagine who will be inspired by these reflections, or how. In March, someone came upon the blog by typing “was pope benedict a aunt Christ?” Maybe that person will have learned that far from being the anti-Christ, Pope Benedict is a humble and inspiring successor of St. Peter, one of the first to recognise who Christ truly was. In case you’re wondering, the Google search result referred to a post by Dominic, whose aunt called him to inform that tickets were available to see Pope Benedict! By this one serendipitous typo, that Googler got to came across Dominic’s inspirational account of his journey back to the Catholic faith.

As this blog draws to a close, I thank God for all our contributors who have bravely shared their stories with us, and I pray that He may continue to guide and inspire them in their different vocations. I say a special prayer for the seminarians who will be ordained this summer. I continue to pray for Pope Emeritus Benedict, as he embarks on the “last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth”. And I pray for his successor, Pope Francis, that he will continue steer the Barque of Peter with strength, courage, hope and love.

Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis

Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict

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Day 36: Jesus Thou Art All Compassion

MadeleineMadeleine Teahan is Associate Editor of the Catholic Herald.

In June 1969 a man drove through the streets of Bradford. His wife had left him and he was driving to his death. The traffic lights turned red. As he paused and glared at the summer sun, soaking in despair, the music floating through the wide-open windows of the local school enveloped him:

 Love Divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven, to earth come down. Fix in us thy humble dwelling, all thy faithful mercies crown.

 Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure unbounded love thou art.
Visit us with thy salvation, 
enter every trembling heart.

The following week, the children of St Joseph’s College, Bradford, assembled again and their headmistress read them a letter of thanks she had received that morning. A man, who had paused outside their school the week before during their morning assembly, had written it. He wrote that he would have been dead by now but their voices raised in praise- “Jesus thou art all compassion. Pure unbounded love thou art”- had touched his heart and had saved him from despair.

41 years later, I too sang those uplifting words as I stood in Hyde Park waiting for Pope Benedict. I knew my mother was also standing somewhere among the tens of thousands and I remembered the story she told me as a child, about the desperate man and his letter of gratitude which astonished her and her peers and remained engraved in her memory.

I would always associate that hymn with motherly reassurance and child-like trust in God. But on the brink of turning 23 on that September evening, I had grown more aware than ever that faith was not a mere comfort blanket to numb the hardships of life, always securing a “happy ending.”

Waiting for this “controversial” Pope to appear, his visit so far had reinforced that the face of the wider world was not comprised of innocents with angelic voices. The weary human heart was prone to doubt and trepidation.

But Pope Benedict’s calm courage made him the loving father who encouraged his children simply through his own example. He spoke with a tender honesty that evening in Hyde Park about the realities of living one’s faith: “In our own time, the price to be paid for the fidelity to the Gospel is no longer being hanged, drawn and quartered but it often involves being dismissed out of hand, ridiculed or parodied. And yet, the Church cannot withdraw from the task of proclaiming Christ and his Gospel as saving truth, the source of our ultimate happiness as individuals and as the fountain of a just and humane society.”

With particular attention to the youth of the Church he implored us: “Dear young friends: only Jesus knows what “definite service” he has in mind for you. Be open to his voice resounding in the depths of your heart: even now his heart is speaking to your heart.”

Born into a Church while John Paul II was  its Pope, I was blessed. I was bereft on hearing the news of his death while studying for my A Levels. But Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate provided a sturdy bridge, over tumultuous waters, enabling me to continue my journey of faith into the first stage of adult life. Many of us still feel petrified, pause or give up altogether along the way. But Pope Benedict will remain for many, the Holy Father who emboldened the children of the Church to keep walking while daring to meet the gaze of the passer-by.

We thank God for him.

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Day 35: I saw God’s Love in Pope Benedict’s Eyes

Paschal and the PopePaschal Uche, 23, is studying pharmacy. In September 2010, he addressed the Pope on behalf of the young people in Westminster Piazza.

People often joke about me having a personal friendship with the Pope after having met him some two years ago on his visit to the UK. In fact one priest friend sometimes calls me the only son of the Pope! Although this is not the case, Pope Benedict’s years in office were a real blessing to me and many young people and I believe as young people we also had a special place in his heart and ministry.

Pope Benedict began his dialogue with the youth at World Youth Day, Cologne with the theme “we have come to worship him”. If you have ever been to a World Youth Day you will appreciate that the vibrancy and joy of our coming together is itself a cause for celebration, but this theme was typical of our Holy Father’s attitude, putting Jesus Christ as the focus of his ministry and drawing us to make him the focus of our lives. As the successor of John Paul II, Pope Benedict conveyed a clear desire to connect with the youth. In his words and actions he expressed a deep and sincere happiness in being with us to “confirm our faith and, God willing enliven our hope”.

Pope in StormPersonally, I will always treasure that sunny summer day that turned in to a very wet and rainy night at World Youth Day in Madrid, 2011. As the Pope began to address us the heavens opened and the wind howled aggressively. I remember looking at the big screen and seeing that his notes where being blown away.  But he was resilient and continued to stand united with us in the rain. He then affirmed us saying: “Our faith is greater than the rain.” Later the next day we heard that the bishops had advised Pope Benedict to leave given the adverse weather conditions but his reply was, “how a shepherd can leave his sheep?”.

It would not be unreasonable to say that for Generation Benedict, we will remember how Pope Benedict led us not only in words of wisdom and exemplary deeds but he also led us in prayer. One of the most profound moments of the papal visit to the UK was the intense silence and peace during Eucharistic Adoration in Hyde Park. Some could have said that Adoration with so many people just won’t work but in Faith, the Pope led us in prayer. This brave move was a landmark moment for many- a display to the whole world of what we are really all about and what Benedict was really all about: a people humbled by the humble love of God.

 

I can’t finish without sharing a little about the brief encounter I was privileged to have with him on the steps of Westminster Cathedral. Thinking that he would be looking in to the crowd, I was moved by his sincerity as, when I addressed him, he looked at me with great fondness and genuine interest. After sharing a hug with him he asked me about myself and my background and, before turning to the young people on the other side, he assured me of his prayers. He was clearly a man saturated in hours of prayer gracious and gentle inside his elderly frame was- and I am sure is still- a lively spirit and passion for life and the God of love. I recall hearing that when Benedict met with some young people in Spain he spent most of the time listening and asking questions. I was taken back so often the most educated and informed feel the need to pass on as much as they can but in this Our Holy Father once again showed his pastoral heart and desire to connect with the lives of young people.

We will be the “Generation Benedict” as the Italians often chanted “the youth of the Pope.” Benedict challenged us to live a life of gift, a life that in his words would not be easy;

Christ did not promise an easy life. Those who desire comforts have dialled the wrong number. Rather, he shows us the way to great things, the good, towards an authentic human life

Address to German pilgrims who had come to Rome for the inauguration ceremony of Pope Benedict, 25/04/2005

Benedict was a gift to us: a Pope who dared us to love, stood with us in the rain, and brought us to our knees time and time again in prayer. Jesus said to Peter, our first Pope: “If you love me feed my sheep.” As a young person of Generation Benedict, I believe we have been shepherded well. In a time of challenges and constant change Pope Benedict has been a voice of God’s liberating and unchanging Truth. For this we are all grateful. May God bless him richly.

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