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Day 33: Meeting Benedict on the train to Dublin

Rev Paul MurphyRev. Paul Murphy, 29, is deacon of the Archdiocese of Armagh.  He will be ordained to the priesthood in June.

When Cardinal Ratzinger was elected to the papacy I was an Art History student at Trinity College, Dublin. I had come across the Cardinal’s name in newspaper articles and knew precious little else about him. Contrary to everything that was said at that time about the papacy being “irrelevant”, the name of this quiet, unassuming scholar priest from Bavaria was enunciated by many in the Buttery Bar and Arts block with great authority.

I took the train to university every day and as such had two hours of spare time, usually allocated for sleeping, or day-dreaming while listening to music. In the wake of the election I took a copy of one of the Cardinal’s interviews with Peter Seewald, Salt of the Earth, with me so as to acquaint myself properly with the thought of our new Holy Father. There was also a biography, which I had finished in a week or so and had dutifully reread so as not to have missed anything important. What a life he had led! I could empathise with this young seminarian who preferred study to sport, who had a soft spot for Mozart, who came from a close knit family deeply rooted in its Faith, in its love of Jesus Christ. I found myself defending him in coffee shop debates between lectures.

I began my studies for the priesthood in 2007 in Belfast and from there was sent to Rome to study theology at the Gregorian University. Benedict had made quite an impression on us all by then. We attended his audiences, we read his books, his encyclicals, and in 2011 had the privilege of serving for him at the Chrism Mass in St Peter’s. That will remain one of the most moving experiences of my life because it was from Benedict that we had learned of the timeless power of the Roman Rite. By his example Benedict demonstrated so eloquently that the liturgy is not something we should try to personalise, but rather is to be entered into with awe and humble deference. It is the prayer of our local parishes and also of the Church Universal. The Church spread across the world has its own language to bind us together so that we can pray with one voice.

Benedict taught me that liturgical reform is at the heart of safeguarding the mission and purity of the Church, because the liturgy and our prayerful participation within its order reflects our relationship and rapport with each other, and most importantly, with the Lord. May God grant Pope Benedict the retirement he truly deserves. May the prayers of all the faithful console Pope Francis, and may God give him the strength and stamina necessary to continue his good work.

Oremus pro invicem!

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