Charles Bradshaw is 21 years old and based in Oxford, Archdiocese of Birmingham. He is currently discerning a vocation to the priesthood.
“My heart desires to love Thee Lord”
It is early on a cool Palm Sunday morning back in 2008 that I find myself a few centimetres away from the High Altar on St Peter’s square ready for Mass with Pope Benedict XVI. I am on the sagrato or platform of the square and looking over the thousands of heads, the rays of the sun can be seen rising from the Tiber as Mass begins and our Holy Father enter the square. It is a day I’ll never forget. Being at touching distance from a man who truly prayed the Mass touched my heart and reduced me to tears. But more beautiful than that were the words he spoke which are etched into my very being:
“When we touch the Cross, or rather, when we carry it, we touch the mystery of God, the mystery of Jesus Christ… We touch the marvelous mystery of God’s love, the only genuinely redemptive truth. But we also touch the fundamental law, the constitutive norm of our lives, namely the fact that without this “yes” to the Cross, without walking in communion with Christ day by day, life cannot succeed. The more we can make some sacrifice, out of love for the great truth and the great love, out of love for the truth and for God’s love, the greater and richer life becomes. Anyone who wants to keep his life for himself loses it. Anyone who gives his life – day by day in small acts, which form part of the great decision – that person finds it.”
Pope Benedict XVI
It felt as though those words were spoken to me, and indeed those words have played out their part in my life: to love God, to carry the cross is to suffer, to suffer even at the hands of the Church Herself. Benedict has been an inspiration in my life, as a man called from a young age to be a priest, the holiness of his life is apparent and his beautiful priestly nature as Father is so near to us. As one too called to the priesthood, I looked to him to guide me, to guide me by his holiness, humility and love, to guide me to understand the Mass as key to my life, a Mass steeped in reverence and beauty, to find a future that is linked to the past not broken from it.
At a time when my own faith was in danger of schism, he was the light that guided me back on the right path, confirming my faith by acts that touched the world, in particular his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, a gift no one could ever have imagined, a faith that was similar to mine! He confirmed me and confirms me again and again never to give up but to fight for the Truth. From the bottom of my heart and for all my life, I know you, Benedict to be a powerful intercessor, and I am with you and pray for you as I know you are with me!