Benedict's 'mystical experience' was nothing out of the ordinary

Talk of Pope Benedict’s mystical experience of God telling him to resign the Papacy seems to have struck a chord with the secular media. And yet, if ever there was a non-story, this it is. Let me try and explain, writes Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith.

- The Catholic Herald

There is a very good old joke that goes the rounds of preachers (all the best jokes are old, by the way) and which I heard, if I remember right, from Nicky Gumbel, the rector of Holy Trinity Brompton. A young Londoner was in love with two girls, as sometimes happens, and had given the impression he was interested in marrying both of them, which again sometimes happens. But he really could not choose between them: one was called Claire and the other Maria.

So he went to Church and knelt down in front of the altar, and prayed to the Almighty. He prayed really hard, and he asked for a sign: 'Dear Lord,' said the young cockney, 'Please tell me, ’oo shall I ’ave? Shall I ’ave Claire or shall it be the other one?' And he looked up, hoping for an answer, and there over the altar in large letters was God’s reply: AVE MARIA.

Mystical experience? Of course not. Neither for that matter was there anything mystical about the way Charles I consulted the sortes virgilianae. God does speak to people, Popes included, but he does so in rather a different way.

Essentially what happened to Pope Benedict is that he became convinced in prayer that it was the will of God that he should lay down the burden of office. He must have been thinking about this matter, and he prayed about it, and the conviction came, through long hours of prayer, that this was the right thing to do.

And this would be the same process that any other Christian would go through when faced with a major decision; so that is why I call this a non-story, in that the story does not reveal anything specially privileged about being Pope, but points to the privileges that all the baptised and confirmed share.

Each one of us can pray, and can take dilemmas to God, and the peace of mind that follows a decision is often the providential sign that this is the decision that God wants us to make.

FULL STORY Benedict's 'mystical experience' was nothing out of the ordinary (The Catholic Herald)

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