The 31st of December 2022 was different from all the other years, because besides living it serving in a life in the Holy Spirit seminar for young people here in the mission of Rome, early that same day we received the news that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had passed away. At that moment I was certain of his intercession in the lives of those young people and why not, in my life?
On January 3rd, one day after the retreat was over I went back to the city and a sister from the Covenant Community, knowing about my knee and spine limitations, a sister from the convenant community made the special invitation to go to St. Peter’s Basilica to pray before Pope Benedict XIV without having to stay in line for a long time. When I was finally there, sited in front of him, the first words that came into my heart were:
“Pope Benedict, I never thought I would have the opportunity to speak personally with a Pope, but now that you are in heaven I believe you can hear me in a private audience”.
After saying this I remembered the saint that picked me on December 31 (following the Community tradition of having a saint friend as our godfather or godmother throughout the year): “Saint Benedict” and I understood that the Lord was giving me not only Saint Benedict, patron saint of Europe, but also Benedict XVI, the humble servant of the Lord’s vineyard.
Another great grace was to participate in the funeral mass on January 5th at St. Peter’s Square, with all those people united in prayer, giving thanks to God for his life, consumed to the end for the love of Christ and his Church. As members of the Community we could hear the echo of his words spoken in that same square in 2012 at the final approval of our Statutes: “Thank you for your presence! I accompany you with my prayer and my blessing, that you may be joyful instruments of God’s love and mercy for everyone you meet in your missionary commitment”. These words were kind of “refreshed”in my life today and I am sure that his prayer and blessing will now accompany me more closely in the fulfillment of God’s will.
Consecrated Missionary of the Life Community, Seminarian
A great landmark
I met Cardinal Ratzinger at least twice when I was a seminarian in Rome. Once, it was in front of his apartment. I introduced myself and said I was a seminarian from the Shalom Community in Fortaleza. He was extremely receptive, kind, and gentle. He showed interest, asked questions. Later, after Saint Therese was declared Doctor of the Church and Edith Stein was canonized, he gave a very beautiful conference about both of them at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas, where I was studying theology. His phrase about the paradoxes of God that make a saint a doctor and a doctor a saint marked me deeply.
When he was elected Pope I was together with Moysés and Emmir in the audience right after the pontifical approval of the statutes of the Community. I held the icon that our sister Guadalupe made for that occasion, representing the Petrine and Marian ministry in the Church. His reaction upon seeing the icon was beautiful, an expression of admiration followed by the phrase: How beautiful!
Fr. João Wilkes with the icon
Benedict XIV was the Pope who preached so much the beauty of being Christian and the joy of communicating it. Despite these encounters, I cannot say that he knew me. He saw me, but he didn’t know me, in a deeper sense. After he passed away, taking advantage of the grace of the communion of saints, I had a good conversation with him, also at the moment of the funeral, next to his coffin. I was finally able to introduce myself in a more specific way, to thank him for all his service to the Church and to entrust to his prayers my intentions, those of the Community and of many who are entrusted to me.
Fr. João Wilkes
Consecrated Missionary of the Life Community