Abraham Lincoln served as the 16th president of this Republic in the early 1860's. He served in probably the most divisive time in the history of this nation, the Civil War. In tough times he stood valiantly as the guide of the peoples, and took bold steps in the Emancipation Proclamation and passage before his death of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution to bring about an equality among peoples. His birthday is celebrated on February 12th.
Both of these men were larger than life, both served as hallmarks of greatness in the life of this nation, and both are held up as champions of freedom and hope. Both were also men who were less than perfect, who were flawed and made mistakes, and in the case of Lincoln was vilified by a great many people for a variety of reasons. Still, we honor them in the history of the nation.
We stand as a Church at a moment of recalling the role and service that Pope Benedict has given to the Church in his long life. We do that in recent days and in days ahead from the unique experience of his presence in our midst and from a position of being too close to the reality of his reign on the Chair of Peter to be objective. I have read glowing commentaries of his papacy and reviews of his life. I have read blistering commentaries as well, many of which are truly unfair and are judgements rooted in politics rather than the experience of the Gospel message. I trust (and hope) that those committed to the Church will see in his papacy and his service to the Church the pastoral love, gentleness, prayer and scholarship, and dedication that I have seen in these last number of years. Do I give my blanket approval to every direction that the Church has taken in these last few years? No. But do I see the leadership of Benedict XVI as being a blessing for our moment in history ... yes. May history be good to him and to the Church, and may we remember him with civility and love.
The Prayer Over the People for this Monday of the First Week of Lent is:
Enlighten the minds of your people,
Lord, we pray,
with the light of your glory,
that they may see what must be gone
and have the strength to do what is right.
Through Christ our Lord.