Pope Marks 85th Birthday With Reflection on 2 Saints

Recalls His Birth and Baptism on Holy Saturday

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By Luca Marcolivio

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 16, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's 85th birthday was marked by a day rich in celebrations, visits and festivities. For the occasion, the Holy Father presided over Holy Mass in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, which was attended by some Bavarian authorities and bishops, who were later received in private audience.

In addressing his greeting, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, thanked the Pontiff for the solicitude with which he exercises his service of love.

It was no accident, added the cardinal, that his first encyclical (Deus Caritas Est) was altogether a hymn of Love that is God, as the love that should animate every Pastor, called to have the light of God enter the world and thus, also, the warmth of his love.

In his homily, the Pope pointed to two French saints, figures of his long spiritual and pastoral journey: the Lourdes visionary Bernadette Soubirous, and the 19th century mendicant pilgrim Benedict Joseph Labre.

The Pontiff also spoke of Holy Saturday. It was precisely on the day of the Easter Vigil, April 16, 1927, that Joseph Ratzinger was born and received the Sacrament of Baptism. He spoke of Holy Saturday as the day of silence and of the apparent absence of God, the prelude of the Resurrection. The Pope has always seen this day as a key to the reading of his life, before and after his pontifical election.

Of Saint Bernadette he praised her purity of heart and her capacity to see the Mother of God and, in her, the reflection of the beauty and goodness of God. It was precisely to the uncontaminated heart of the little girl of Lourdes that Our Lady could show herself and, through her, to speak to the century and beyond.

Thus, Holy Saturday and the visionary of Lourdes have always been, for Benedict XVI, a sign of what we should really be, of the capacity of a simple gaze of the heart, able to see the essential.

This essential resides in what Our Lady indicated to Bernadette: a source of living and pure water, image of the truth that is given to us by faith, and sign of nostalgia of the pure life of the human being without sin.

“The light of the Risen One makes me go forward with confidence”

Benedict Joseph Labre, the other Saint mentioned by the Pope, was a pilgrim to the shrines of Europe almost his whole life, who did nothing other than render testimony to what matters. Because of the vastness of his pilgrimage, Labre was a genuinely European Saint, but above all he was a Saint that, in the name of brotherhood in God, was able to demolish borders.

Reflecting on Holy Saturday and his Baptism, Benedict XVI said: “Life becomes a real gift if along with it one can also make a promise that is stronger than any misfortune that can threaten one, if it is immersed in a force that guarantees that it is a good to be a person.”

In this sense, Baptism is a sign of rebirth, of certainty that in truth is an exercised good, because the promise is stronger than the threats, thanks to our reception in the great and new family of God.

The Holy Father then said he felt he was on the last lap of his life: “I don’t know what awaits me. The light of the Risen One, however, is stronger than all darkness and also helps the Pope to go forward with confidence.”

In conclusion, Benedict XVI gave his heartfelt thanks to all those who continually allow him to perceive the yes of God through their faith.