Today our beloved Holy Father, Benedict XVI, announced the stunning news that he is going to resign the papacy on Feb 28. Smack dab in the Year of Faith, we will now have a conclave to elect a successor, taking place in the heart of Lent. We as a Universal Church have another excellent reason for keeping a good and holy Lent. It’s very likely we’ll have a new pope by Easter. Let us be sure to pray for these men who will elect him from their number. And let us remember, that the Holy Spirit is with the Church and even though we, the average Catholics, might feel a little wobbly and saddened with this news– given we’ve not had a papal resignation in centuries — this is what the Year of Faith and the new evangelization is all about. This is yet another opportunity to know our faith, live our faith, and share our faith.
Benedict XVI is one of the most deliberate thinkers of the last two generations. He is an excellent reader of the signs of the times. An eminent theologian, to the end, Pope Benedict is the consummate teacher. He not only leads with his eloquent words, but he does so by his witness of love and service to the Church, as he has for so long. He is leading us into this time of transition. I trust his gut on this. We may feel we were not ready for it, but he is leading ever still. As popes live longer and longer lives, thanks to the miracles of better health care and nutrition, we had to face this idea of a resignation from the Chair of Peter as a kind of inevitability. Let us be not afraid of it.
Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. It is also the World Day of the Sick. I still have work to do and prayers to pray related to both. And now I will add the Pope’s intentions to my own in a more dedicated way as we march ahead in the new liturgical season.
After overcoming my own shock to Pope Benedict’s news, as I lay in bed listening to the morning news on the radio, I was grateful that they were announcing his resignation and not his death. I’m not ready to part with the great teacher who shaped so much of my theological training and prayer over the last 20 years. I pray that he has the strength to release his encyclical on faith that he was penning for the Year of Faith before Feb 28, but he might leave that to a successor. But more than that, I hope Papa Benny has a few years of quiet and peace, to maybe write a little more, and to play his piano, and to pray for us for a while longer. I wonder what you or I might be doing when we are 86 years old. Would we still working with the kind of schedule of events that our current pontiff has had? Not a chance. So let us look kindly to our brother, our good Shepherd.
Let us pray for Benedict XVI and pray for the Church. The Year of Faith is calling us to be faithful.
What are your thoughts?
Photo above: here is the Holy Father in a photo our family took during a General Audience in Rome, April 2011. Yes, we were that close to him, sitting near the railing as he rolled by. What a gift that day was!
UPDATE: Don’t forget that the media swirl around this event will be zany for the next several weeks. You might want to bookmark some of the Catholic new agencies for following reports about the coming conclave and transition to welcoming a new pope.
Here’s a few of my go-to recommendations:
and enjoy the blogs from my colleagues at the Catholic channel at Patheos.