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Pope Benedict and the Voice of God

February 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Fr. Najim, Pope

Over the last few days, I've been pondering what the prayer of Pope Benedict's heart must have been during these past Pope_Benedict_XVI_2006-01-20weeks. What was it like for him? What was happening in his interior life, in his heart to heart conversations with Jesus? What was he saying to Jesus? And what was Jesus saying to him?

The Holy Father most likely will never reveal to us what was happening in the intimacy of his prayer that led him to this decision; however, I believe that his decision to resign–a decision that affects the Church and the world–is a lesson for us on what it means to be a person of deep prayer.

One can only make a decision as monumental as Pope Benedict's decision to resign if one is in intimate communion with the living God. One can only have the courage and humility to resign the papacy if one is intensely listening to the voice of God.

The Pope's decision is a lesson in prayer and discernment. In the text of his resignation, he stated that he came to the decision after repeatedly examining his conscience before God. This means that day after day, maybe even hour after hour, the Holy Father opened his heart to the Lord in faith and love. In complete humility and trust, Pope Benedict presented to the Lord his questions and desires, his hopes and his fears, his body, mind, and heart. He spoke to the Lord in complete honesty. I don't know what words he spoke to the Lord, but maybe his prayer was similar to this: “Lord Jesus, you have called me to this ministry, and you have sustained and guided me. But I need to share with you from my heart that I feel that my physical and mental strength is waning, so much so that I'm not sure if I am able to fulfill this ministry. Jesus, I will continue to serve as long as you ask me. Help me to see if you want me to continue or if you are leading me to step down. I will do whatever you ask of me. Show me the way.”

And then, I believe, the Pope listened. And he listened still more. Ever so deeply did he listen. Day after day, hour after hour, he listened. As he shared his heart in complete trust and honesty with Jesus, the Pope's heart was open to receive the word that the Lord wanted to speak to him. Yes, God speaks to us. He speaks to us through the Church. He speaks to us through Holy Scripture. He speaks to us through our noble thoughts and desires, which always must be presented to a wise spiritual director to help us discern God's voice from our own. He speaks to us through others. But God does speak.

The Lord spoke to Pope Benedict. Maybe the Pope sensed the Lord speaking to him through the Scriptures, or through his spiritual director, or in the intimacy of his heart where he received certainty from the Holy Spirit that this was the right decision. Maybe it was through a combination of all of these things that the Lord spoke to him. But God spoke, and Pope Benedict listened. Thus, we see in his decision the beauty of friendship with Jesus: we share our hearts with him, and he shares his heart with us. He cares about our lives; he loves us. He is not distant. He is Emmanuel, God with us, ever desiring to be involved with every detail of our lives.

What we learn from Pope Benedict's decision to resign is that an intimate personal and prayerful relationship with the living God is possible. What's more, we learn that it is only when we are in intimate dialogue with the Lord that we are able to discern his will for our lives. We learn that the decisions we make in prayer are deeply personal; yet because we are one body in Christ, our decisions are also profoundly ecclesial: my personal decisions affect the life of the Church, for good or for bad.

My heart is filled with gratitude for Pope Benedict, ever the teacher in all that he does and says. May the Lord bless him as he transitions into a life of contemplative prayer for the Church and the world.


Art for this post on Pope Benedict and the Voice of God: Darkened Image of Pope Benedictus XVI At A Private Audience, 20 January 2006 Photographed By Friend Of Sergey Kozhukhov, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. Michael Najim

Fr. Michael Najim is a priest of the Diocese of Providence. He is Pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Westerly, Rhode Island and has been the Director of Spiritual Formation at Our Lady of Providence Seminary and Chaplain of LaSalle Academy, a coed Catholic high school in Providence, RI. He is the author of Radical Surrender: Letters to Seminarians, published by the Institute for Priestly Formation. He also blogs at Fr. Michael Najim's Blog.

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  • LizEst

    Thank you Father Najim for this. My sentiments exactly. God bless you.

  • Fr. Michael Najim

    Thanks for reading and commenting.  Let’s keep praying for our Holy Father and for the cardinals!

  • Becky Ward

    Hi Father, it’s great to have your input here. How do you prefer to be addressed, Fr. Michael, Fr. Najim, etc…?

    This is a great reflection – only a truly prayerful person who has a relationship with Jesus could make a decision like this. 

  • Fr. Michael Najim

    Hi Becky,
    Thanks for commenting. Most people call me Fr. Najim (pronounced nay-jim).


  • Hi Father, I enjoy your take on Pope Benedict and God.  This past week has been a week of deep meditation not only for me but for many others.  One can not help but think and be reassured that Christ is definitely in charge of His World.  To me the Pope is truly a humble man, as I personally feel he has been instructed by Christ to give up his seat which he did. I also felt that by so doing, it will give him more time to pray and I really mean pray because our world right at the present moment is in deep need of prayer.  So it  did not surprise one bit when I heard that the Pope upon his retirement will spend his time in a monastery in prayer.  Now that the dust has settled a bit since his resignation,  let us all pray that the new pope will continue with the Good News in the same light of Jesus Christ Our Lord.  Amen.

  • EHerv

    Good morning Fr. Najim. I came across your article through “Spirit Daily” and liked it very much.  I think we all can learn from the example of our Holy Father to bring all things to prayer before God and then to wait on Him, and to “listen”. Not always an easy task! Thank you for reminding me that our relationship with God never ends but needs to be nurtured each and every day! God bless you this Lent and Easter season!

    • LizEst

      Welcome EHerv ! We are happy you have visited. Hope you will come back again and again. God bless you!

  • stevemc1

    Hi Father,

    I appreciate your article on Pope Benedict’s deep prayer life. Since the resignation, I have been reflecting upon and praising the Pope’s very humility that you write about. However, I am concerned by the Holy Father’s decision to resign in light of the breaking Vatican scandal. To resign before the breaking of a major scandal that occurred under his leadership (I am NOT saying that he was in any way complicit with the terrible allegations) does not ring of true humility. Humility and defense of the Faith would have been better exhibited had he mentioned that these horrific events occurred under his watch and that he is not able to deal with them.

    I love the Holy Father. As a Catholic, I hold him to a Petrine standard. Wolves exist within and without of the Church. Rather than “flee for fear of the wolves,” shouldn’t the shepherd confront the wolves head-on for the sake of the flock? 

    Peter would.

    God bless you, Pope Benedict, and our Church.


    • LizEst

      Only God knows the heart of the Holy Father and what he is going through at this time. Only God is fit to judge him. St. Ambrose said, “Nothing graces the Christian soul as much as mercy.” As we judge, so also will we be judged.

      Anyone who has been a parent, anyone who has ever been in charge of something that relies on the cooperation of other people knows things can happen that are way beyond their control. Things can also happen to one’s health that are totally unexpected as well. Pope Benedict said he has examined his conscience. I take him at his word and believe he has done what is best for the Church, according to how God’s will has been revealed to him.

      God bless Pope Benedict XVI. God bless the College of Cardinals. God bless our next Holy Father.

    • BA

      For me, I believe the Pope had no choice due to his physical condition.  This is definitely not “fleeing” from fear of the wolves.  It is preparing the Church for a leader who can physically handle these attacks.  The Pope needs a break from this type of criticism.  I am sure he prayed about it and is making the correct decision.

  • Fr. Michael Najim

    @EHerv….thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. Yes, we certainly can all learn from our Holy Father. He’s ever the teacher!

  • Fr. Michael Najim

    @Stevemc1….thanks for your comment. I can’t pretend to know what the actual events that led him to resign. I think we need to be careful about speculating. The point of my article is that I believe he made the decision after deep prayer. In fact, he wouldn’t have made the decision without prayer.
    We must remember that he’s a human being. We don’t know what his health prognosis is. He could be terminally ill, or maybe even have the onset of dementia. We just don’t ok now. His decision is a humble act because it shows that the papacy is bigger than one man. The needs of the Church are bigger than his own.

  • $1650412

    This really speaks to me Father, thank you!

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