During a solemn Requiem Mass celebrated for the repose of the soul of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Jan. 5, Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre said he feels close to the late pontiff and grateful.
He recalled, in particular, a personal encounter at the Vatican in 2012, when he asked the then pope to bless a miraculous medal for his mother.
With a “huge smile,” the pope blessed the medal, Archbishop Fabre said at the midday Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption.
When the archbishop said farewell and started walking away, the “frail” pope reached out, “grabbed me and pulled me back,” he said. “ ‘Tell your mother I said hello.’
“We chuckled and laughed,” the archbishop said. “That’s the pope I remember, a man who was very shy, something we have in common. … That’s Pope Benedict and the holiness of a man we now commend to the Lord.”
The story elicited smiles and quiet laughter from the congregation, which included members of the clergy, parishioners, archdiocesan staff and school leaders. The liturgy was celebrated just a few hours after Pope Benedict was laid to rest at the Vatican.
Archbishop Fabre told those gathered that he’s thankful for the pope’s “incredible theological mind and his writings of great depth.”
He feels “even more grateful” he said, for his personal encounter in 2012.
The archbishop also shared that he feels close to the pope, who first appointed him as auxiliary bishop of New Orleans in 2006.
“I thank him for his trust in me,” he said.
He asked the congregation to give thanks for the late pontiff’s faith and leadership and to “pray he may know God’s eternal peace.”
During his homily, the archbishop drew the congregation’s attention to the first reading from Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, which says there’s “an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to give birth, and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot. … a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”
The archbishop said this “list resonates deeply with us because we’ve experienced” these moments, either directly or indirectly. But to get caught up in the list is to miss the reading’s true meaning, he said.
“We face all in the presence of the living God,” he said. “God and God alone, in his mercy and wisdom” chooses the time for these events. “He arranges all things according to his loving plan for us.”
The archbishop went on to say that believers are called to “surrender our own agenda and will to God.”
“Great surrender marked” Pope Benedict’s life, the archbishop noted. Eight years into his papacy, the pope “discerned that it was right to humbly lay down that life,” and to serve the church in a ministry of prayer instead, Archbishop Fabre said.