Dcn. Tom Hunt, Bishop Richard J. Sklba, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, Bishop Jeffrey R. Haines and Bishop James T. Schuerman during the consecration of the Eucharist at the Mass for the Dead for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Tuesday, Jan. 10. (Photo by David Bernacchi)
One of the impressive gifts of Pope Benedict XVI was his ability to take complex theological concepts and distill them into easily digested, bite-sized pieces.
The words he reportedly said right before passing away Saturday, Dec. 31 — “Jesus, I love you” — basically boiled down the Catholic faith to its essence in just four words.
Fr. John LoCoco highlighted that in his homily Tuesday, Jan. 10, during a Mass for the Dead for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The former Joseph Ratzinger became pope in 2005 and retired in 2013.
“If you think of the great teachers, preachers and apologists of our time, ultimately they’re able to look at you across the table and communicate the Gospel to you,” Fr. LoCoco said. “You can’t give what you don’t have. He had a relationship with Jesus, and it was borne out in his writing, and it was borne out in his life.”
Fr. LoCoco was chosen to give the homily because he came of age during Benedict’s pontificate and also earned a master’s certificate in Ratzinger studies and spirituality in Rome. He said his first reaction was he hoped he had enough time to write the homily.
“To be able to memorialize some of (what I learned about Pope Benedict’s teachings) was a really great honor,” Fr. LoCoco said.
Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, who was appointed to lead the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Pope Benedict, was the celebrant for the Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.
“The influence of words, works and witness of that man that will continue on,” Archbishop Listecki said.
The archbishop noted Pope Benedict would have been happy to live a quiet life in a monastery, saying his prayers, researching his theology and doing God’s will.
However, it turned out that wasn’t God’s will for the life of the former German cardinal.
“Pope Benedict will be remembered for how he bravely stood against the relativism of our time and held to objective truth,” Archbishop Listecki said. “You cannot deny (objective truth): You do a disservice to our society. He will be remembered as one who introduced many to the person of Jesus Christ.”
“He unreservedly accepted the Lord’s invitation, time and again, over and over,” Fr. LoCoco said.
Fr. LoCoco said among people he had talked to since Benedict’s death, some of the prevailing sentiments that had been shared with him had been loss, grief and sadness. He noted, however, that many had gone through those phases back in 2013. He learned of Benedict’s resignation during his first year in seminary, as he slid into a pew right before Mass and a classmate told him the news.
When asked for a takeaway on Pope Benedict, Fr. LoCoco said the words that came to mind immediately were humble service.
“(He also had) a really beautiful understanding of the Church and our participation in the Church as the Body of Christ,” Fr. LoCoco said. “That’s always struck me in his work.”