Joseph: Pope Benedict One Year Later

One year ago today we woke to the shock of Pope Benedict XVI doing what popes haven’t done in centuries: resigning. I don’t have too much to add to what I wrote then and in the weeks afterward. He is the man I admire most in the world, and he has taught me more than anyone else about this life and this faith. His wisdom, clarity, gentleness, and good humor marked his 8 years on the throne of Peter with one high point after another.

When I read despicable, ignorant, lying articles about him, an anger starts to bubble up, and then I check it (most of the time). That’s not the way he would respond. He’d listen earnestly, sit silently, and then quietly do what he has done his entire life: teach with love.

I will always be a Catholic, but the years of Benedict were years in which I felt a certain closeness to the papacy that I have not felt before or since. Francis, for all his many skills, is not the careful teacher and meticulous scholar that Benedict was. He is a man in the world looking to overturn tables, and at this point in time he’s the right man for the job. That I don’t feel the closeness to him I felt to his predecessor is a statement on me, not the Holy Father.

Benedict was the last great man of Europe. The last of a type of old world scholar and leader formed in the old ways of learning and forged in the nightmares of war and the upheavals of change. This little man stood astride this century as a bridge between the Church of Then and the Church of Now, and with all his vast power and intellect attempted to reunify them into a single tapestry.

He’s still with us, and still serving the Church in prayer and, I believe, with counsel to his successor. Those who try to drive a wedge between Benedict and Francis are fools. No one who has read deeply in Ratzinger/Benedict could fail to see the continuity of belief and conviction, even as they notice the discontinuity in style. Benedict’s papacy was a time of regrouping and learning between two larger, ebullient figures: John Paul II and Francis. That the shy and thoughtful Joseph Ratzinger was not the globe-trotting John Paul or the gregarious Francis is neither here nor there. To everything its season.

I hope in his retirement he is finding the peace he so desired after the death of John Paul, when he simply wanted to return to Germany and write his books and play his piano. He just wanted to be Joseph: the quiet teacher. But God needed him to be Benedict, so he took that burden until he could no longer carry it. He’s served the faith for decades, and at the end, he’s earned a measure of peace. God be with him always.


Here are the pieces I wrote about the resignation last year at this time and in the weeks after:


Images from the Pope’s Last Major Mass

‘night Papa

The Ring of the Fisherman

Benedict, Dante, and Chickens


30/30 (Time-Management Tool) [App o the Mornin’]

Sometimes getting things done isn’t a matter of inspiration and talent or even motivation, but of just sitting in the same place for 30 minutes and refusing to move or shift your concentration from anything other than the task at hand. For me, the task is writing, and I can usually turn out a column in about 30 minutes, if I’ve already thought it through before sitting down. For you, the task could be anything, from paying bills to completing a work project to reading a long and challenging novel or a section of the Bible.

Every task takes a certain amount of time, and when seen as a whole that time can be overwhelming. You think, “I have to write a book, and it will take 3 months, and I simply cannot face that.” But, of course, 3 months is 12 weeks is 90 days is so many hours and minutes and seconds. Each giant task can be shaved into smaller, more managable tasks.

When you approach a task this way, you’re not thinking of 3 months of work. You’re thinking of the next 30 minutes of work. That can be followed by 10 minutes of email or Facebook or solitaire or Cute Overload. And then you can move onto the next 30 minutes of work, and the next. Or make it 15 minutes, or 45, or 60: whatever fits your method of work. The pomodoro technique uses 25 minute slices, with 5 minutes for a break, and a longer break after after 4 slices. Seems to arbitrary to me, but it works for some.

I use 30/30 (iOS: free) to manage my time slices because it’s easy to use, it lets me set my time quickly, and keeps everything on a single screen. I like it because it uses a clean, gesture based interface with a lot of color to separate different kinds of tasks.

It’s a simple matter to set a series of timers for a work day, adding a little icon and unique color to each if that’s your thing. In between each task, you can set a break time and then follow with the next task. All the tasks line up in a vertical column and can dragged into any order or deleted. It’s easy to skip a task, move to the next task, or delete a task with tap. There’s a clock at the top that will calculate how long the current task list will take to finish.

The app is free, but you can buy icon packs if you like. I don’t need icon packs, but I got one anyway to support the developer because it’s a useful app.

Productivity is a tough thing to master, and you can waste a huge amount of time playing with methods and lists and whatnot. Really, it doesn’t need to be complex. You need a task manager (even if it’s just a handwritten list in a notebook) and you need a timer. There are plenty out there and you can dig deeply into methods and tools, but I think that’s a waste of time, and I know, because I wasted my time doing it. 30/30 is a good little time management app. Give it a shot.