Five Legacies of Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI has officially stepped down from the Chair of Peter.  He is the first pope to do so in many centuries.  His time as pope was very brief compared to his predecessor, John Paul II.  But even in that small time, here are a few important things for which he should be remembered.

Model of Humility

Joseph Ratzinger never wanted to be pope.  He never wanted to be a bishop.  When he was nominated for the episcopate, he was sure his spiritual director would tell him he was unworthy.  But his spiritual director saw in him what the Holy Spirit saw when it chose him to be the successor of Peter.

Ratzinger reluctantly took up the mantle out of humble service.  He then laid it down also out of humble service.  Pope Benedict reminds the world that the Pope is not a king.  He is a servant to the King.

Anglican Communion

The Church of England has been going through some serious upheaval these past few years.  There were many who believed that the latest changes enacted in that Church were not in keeping with the Gospel.  So a large group of Anglicans known as the Traditional Anglican Communion reached out to the Vatican and asked under what circumstances they could be reconciled to the Catholic Church.

It would be reasonable to expect them to abandon much of their Anglican traditions to adopt Catholic ones.  But Pope Benedict XVI instead offered them full communion with the Catholic faith while keeping much of their spiritual traditions, including the Common Book of Prayer.  He created a whole new rite in the Church so as not to harm the spirituality of those who desire to sincerely be in harmony with the Catholic faith.

The New Evangelization

Pope Benedict has recognized that the modern world is moving in different ways than in ages past.  He recognized and encouraged Christians to engage in the new world of information and technology.  He is the first pope to have a Twitter account.  And while this may not be the most earth-shattering thing in the world, it shows a sincere effort to reach out through any medium to proclaim Christ.

The Tridintine Mass

Since Vatican II, most parishes have celebrated mass in the Novos Ordo, which uses the vernacular.  But there were many who had a great affection and spiritual connection to the Tridintine Mass, so much so that many broke from Rome over this.

But Benedict’s Motu Proprio instructed that each diocese make the Latin Rite available.  As with the Anglicans, Benedict understood the deeply personal nature of outward devotions and understood that this availability would only foster more Church unity.


While his official encyclicals and pronouncements are beautiful, his books published while pope stand above the rest.

No doubt he would have written his three-volume series, Jesus of Nazareth, even if he did not get elected.  But because they were published during his papacy, they were more widely publicized and widely read.  Anyone who has read them can feel the years of study, prayer, and reflection that went into this work of a lifetime.  And yet these books are completely accessible to the average reader and are not bogged down in technical or theological jargon.

I will never forget the profound simplicity that only someone as wise as Benedict XVI could understand about what Jesus brings to the world.  The pope pointed out that Jesus never promised prosperity, health, political soverignty, technological advancement, employment or the like.

So, Benedict asks, what DID Jesus bring?  “The answer is very simple: God. He brought God.”

Copyright © 2013, W.L. Grayson


Photograph of Pope Benedict XVI by Peter Nguyen [CC-BY-2.0 (]

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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