I am rarely moved to tears by anything. Maybe half a dozen times in my entire life, and, I don’t think, ever, by the printed word.
In February, 2004, we attend Cardinal Ratzinger’s weekly Mass, celebrated Thursday morning at 7 a.m. inside the Vatican in the church of the Campo Teutonico, but open to the public.
He has celebrated the Mass for many years for anyone who wishes to come.
After celebrating his Mass, then Cardinal Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, emerged from the sacristy in a simple cassock and was greeted warmly by an excited crowd of people from all over the world, some to get the great theologian’s personal autograph, others to get a picture with the second most powerful prelate in the Church, and yet others to thank this holy German priest for his persevering and faithful service to Christ and the Church.
At first he struck us as somewhat timid.
However, as he approached the excited and sizeable crowd of people, he began to talk to and take interest in each individual person who has come to see him.
He answered questions in various languages, asked some of his own, occasionally cracked a joke or two, while always devoting his entire attention to each individual person in such a soft, pastoral way.
This much was obvious: the real Ratzinger was most at home as a man of the people, as a shepherd keeping watch over his flock.
It was our turn. We introduced ourselves to his eminence, reverenced his ring, engaged in some pleasant talk with him, and then we popped the question: “We have a favor to ask of you, your Eminence”.
He waited patiently.
“Will you celebrate our wedding mass?”
“Well, let’s see what we can do. Why don’t you write a letter to me with some possible times and dates.”
“Well, actually your eminence, we already have one prepared.”
Within a week, Marta received an envelope from the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith. We open it, stunned: it is a yes!
Several months later and a few days before our wedding date, at the cardinal’s request, his secretary scheduled us to meet the cardinal. He wanted to get to know us a little better.
Being a responsible secretary, he emphasized over and over, “You only have 10 minutes with the cardinal ” that is all. He is a very busy man and I am responsible for keeping his schedule.
The door opened and we entered to be warmly received by the cardinal.
However, we exited his office some 30 minutes later, only at the end realizing that not we but rather he had far exceeded the set limit.