Rereading what Hans Urs von Balthasar (quoting in passing Dietrich Bonhoeffer) has written brings to mind the role that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is now performing for the Church and the world.
“There are moments when a solitary Christian undergoes suffering that is unknown to others or not understood by them; he offers it to the Lord for him to use as he thinks fit, and so this Christian becomes a source of new community. In the Church’s history there have also been times ‘when the Church existed only in a single person or a family’ (Augustine), when her catholicity withdrew back into her root: consider the loneliness of an Athanasius or a Maximus Confessor. Consider, too, the loneliness of a few monks still embodying the authentic tradition of their founder. This is a loneliness without earthly hope; the crucified Lord, too, had no earthly hope, yet ‘against all hope’ he is able to raise up children to Abraham from the very stones.”