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Father Muench Says...

Remembering Benedict XVI, feast days

January 11, 2023

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I begin today with my expression of sadness at the recent death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict has been living at the Vatican in retirement for the last ten years. While the acting pope, Pope Benedict brought his gifts and skills as a theologian and his loving spirituality to our Catholic Church. As pope, he wrote several excellent encyclicals and books. Before being elected Pope, he attended the Second Vatican Council as an advisor to some bishops.

Pope John Paul II brought him from his native Poland to Rome to become his advisor and act as a theologian. He became a cardinal of the Church – he was elected Pope upon the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005. Pope Benedict was to surprise us, Catholics, by his decision to retire as the acting pope after eight years as our Holy Father. He believed he could not continue to fulfill well his responsibilities. Over the years, I have come to realize how demanding it is to be the pope.

I was able to attend two papal audiences myself in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican while Pope Benedict was our pope. This was when I traveled with two groups from my parish, St. Mary’s, Ticonderoga. They were unique experiences and were truly a call for a new and stronger dedication to faith and my dedication to my priesthood.

I believe with many that we, Catholics, should be grateful to our God that Pope Emeritus Benedict was our pope for a time. We are also grateful that he was humble enough to decide to retire when he did.

Last week, I mentioned to you a few of the saints that are celebrated during the Christmas time. This year, as we celebrate the life and papacy of Pope Emeritus Benedict, we can add him to all those other holy Catholics who we honor at this Christmas time.

Today I would like to add some others to our list of saints who are celebrated during this Christmas time. We also celebrate the feast days of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Bishop John Neumann, and St. Brother André Bessette.

On January 4, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. She lived during the early 1800s. She was a wife and a mother of five children. She is remembered as a saint for her founding of a congregation of religious women, the Sisters of Charity, who continue to be devoted to the education of the poor and to teaching in parochial schools. She began her work as a teacher in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Many parish schools in our country are named “Seton” remembering her memory.

On January 5, our Church celebrate a feast fay in honor of St. Bishop John Neumann. He was a missionary here from Germany in the early 1800s. He became the Bishop of Philadelphia. Bishop Neumann was known for his holiness and learning. He was remembered as a promoter of parochial schools. Bishop Neumann is the first American bishop to be canonized.

On January 6, we celebrate the Feast Day of St. Brother André Bessette, a Holy Cross Brother. Brother Andre served his community as a humble brother and porter in Montreal, Canada. We know that Brother Andre visited the Diocese of Ogdensburg often.

His dedication to St. Joseph led him to work toward the erection of a Shrine with a magnificent basilica in the Mont Royal areal of Montreal. Many groups from our diocese visit this shrine dedicated to St. Joseph. I want to mention to you that the present superior at St. Joseph from the Congregation of the Holy Cross is my cousin, Father Michael Delaney.

Brother André is well remembered for his healing miracles. He was visited by many sick and troubled though only a humble brother. He always attributed his miracles to his dedication to St. Joseph. During his lifetime, Brother Andre was well known throughout Montreal. He died in 1937. Nearly a million people attended his funeral Mass on the site of the shrine that was under construction.

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