By Father Clinton Sensat
(Translated into Norwegian down under this original text. The headline here is written by the translater, because the original text did not have a headline.)
When Thomas Beckett died, most of his contemporaries thought he got what he deserved.
The common view was that he was arrogant, stubborn, ambitious, and silly to match wills against a king who held all the cards – and all the swords.
And then his relics started working miracles.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: people in general are really very poor at recognizing holiness in their midst.
Pope Benedict XVI seems to be entering his final days on earth. He is, I think, a holy man – and most people don’t recognize it.
Despite being the gentlest of souls, who loves cats, Fanta, and classical piano, he is viewed by the world as a harsh and terrifying dogmatic Inquisitor.
Despite doing more than anyone in the Vatican – including Pope St. John Paul II – to end the child abuse crisis, the world tries to lay it at his doorstep.
Despite being an open-minded and warm scholar with magnificent erudition, despite being one of the Young Turks of the Council who led the revolt against the hidebound theology of the manuals, he is widely depicted as a close-minded conservative of the worst sort, who refuses to allow any thought after 1500 room to play.
Despite his family being vehemently opposed to the Nazis, despite he himself going AWOL from the Nazi army when forcibly conscripted into it, despite his strong writings against corrupt government, he is still regularly accused of being a Nazi.
It is amazing, in this case, how very little the reputation has to do with the man. If you ever want to know why calumny can be a mortal sin, look to Thomas Beckett, and look to Benedict XVI.
I don’t think the streets will fill at Benedict’s death. I don’t think there will be cries of «Santo subito!» I don’t think there will be twenty-four hour news coverage, or a huge state funeral, or a gathering of heads of state.
But I do suspect the skies will be filled with angels. I do suspect John Paul II himself will cry «Santo subito!» I do suspect the Doctors of the Church will keep watch day and night. And I do suspect the Apostles will gather.
We’re not great at recognizing holiness. But from my Christian heart I’ll give the world a hint: I suspect a very holy man is in his last days, and when he passes the world will be the poorer.
Fr. Clinton Sensat