Compared to other pontificates, it wasn’t an exceptionally long reign. But what an impact he had on my life spiritually during that time. In his teaching, in his books, and in his preaching, Pope Benedict affected me in a deeply personal way. After all, he is the one who appointed me archbishop of New York. He is the one who made me a cardinal. And I had come to depend on Pope Benedict’s presence. Every Wednesday I found myself reading Benedict’s audience addresses. Every Sunday I wanted to see what he said at the window, because all of his statements were moving.
And while my admiration for Pope Benedict XVI was already sky-high, it was only enhanced with his resignation. He had such a realistic assessment of the rigors of the office of the Successor of St. Peter that, to use his words, after a careful examination of his conscience, he felt Jesus was saying that it might be time to go. He was no longer able to serve our Lord, His Church, and His people with the strength that is required.
While I trusted 100 percent the wisdom of his discernment, just on a personal level I wondered how he had come to his decision. I could only speculate, but I would say there must have been a lot of peace after his resolution. St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, was a master of discernment, and that’s what he says about the topic. He taught that, if you trust the Holy Spirit, and if you put a lot of thought, time, and prayer into making a decision, once you make it—tough as it is—you’ll sense some interior serenity and peace. I believed the Holy Father felt that way.
I also began to wonder who the Holy Father could talk to as he was deciding. Certainly he talked to God. He does that a lot every day. But most of the time, God doesn’t answer audibly. When people say they actually hear God’s voice, we usually call Bellevue Hospital and ask if they’ve got room for another patient.
Instead, God usually speaks to us in a very gentle way. It seems to me this was an intensely private decision between two people: Pope Benedict XVI and Almighty God. — from Praying in Rome: Reflections on the Conclave and Electing Pope Francis
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