Over the past several days, after briefly showing some respect for the Holy Father when he announced his resignation, much of the world’s media, have revealed their persistent anti-Catholic bias, dragging before the cameras the usual assortment of disaffected priests, nuns and others to once again bad mouth the Holy Father.
When not slamming the Church, and the Holy Father, the media then blather on about the forthcoming conclave as if it were a mere human political endeavor, ignoring the simple reality that a conclave is fundamentally the work of the Holy Spirit.
As Catholics we should follow the example of the Holy Father in his humility and simply be praying that the Cardinals do listen attentively to, and follow the guidance of, the Holy Spirit with the help of Our Lady, Mother of the Church.
From the earliest moments of his election as Supreme Pontiff, Pope Benedict revealed his humility and faith, saying: “…the Cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord. The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with insufficient instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers.”
In the intervening years Pope Benedict has been tireless in his guidance of the Church, his teaching strengthening the faithful, his outreach with compassion to the whole human family.
I admit being shocked, like most of the world, when the Holy Father announced his resignation, indeed as shocked as when Pope John Paul, called “the great” by Pope Benedict, died.
We are accustomed to quickly taking each pontiff into our hearts as true father and shepherd, knowing, or at least until now, only death would take him away.
Humbly Pope Benedict has opened the door to allow his successor[s] to choose another path, a post pontifical life of prayer.
In his homily at his installation Mass in 2005, Pope Benedict pointed to the truth of how pope’s are chosen, to the reality of being faithful disciples of Jesus, friends of God: “…. How alone we all felt after the passing of John Paul II – the Pope who for over twenty-six years had been our shepherd and guide on our journey through life! He crossed the threshold of the next life, entering into the mystery of God. But he did not take this step alone. Those who believe are never alone – neither in life nor in death. At that moment, we could call upon the Saints from every age – his friends, his brothers and sisters in the faith – knowing that they would form a living procession to accompany him into the next world, into the glory of God. We knew that his arrival was awaited. Now we know that he is among his own and is truly at home. We were also consoled as we made our solemn entrance into Conclave, to elect the one whom the Lord had chosen. How would we be able to discern his name? How could… Bishops, from every culture and every country, discover the one on whom the Lord wished to confer the mission of binding and loosing? Once again, we knew that we were not alone, we knew that we were surrounded, led and guided by the friends of God. And now, at this moment, weak servant of God that I am, I must assume this enormous task, which truly exceeds all human capacity. How can I do this? How will I be able to do it? All of you, my dear friends, have just invoked the entire host of Saints…... In this way, I too can say with renewed conviction: I am not alone. I do not have to carry alone what in truth I could never carry alone.”
So we wait, with intimate confidence in the Holy Spirit, for the conclave, the election, the emergence on the balcony at St. Peter’s of the next pope.
Indeed each Lent we prayerfully prepare for and await the greatest solemnity of the year, Easter!, so it is a good time to prayerfully await and pray for the new pope, and to pray for Pope Benedict as he enters a new part of his apostolic life.