Today is the day. In three short hours the last tweet from @Pontifex will go live. And our dear Benedict has already bid adieu to the College of Cardinals. After today, known as Pope Emeritus, Benedict will live a quieter life of prayer, contemplation and some piano playing on the side.
Benedict is only the second Pope of my lifetime. He is the pope of my motherhood. He was elected in 2005 and I became a mother for the first time about fourteen months later. My mom used to talk about Pope Paul being the Pope of her youth and growing up, John Paul being the Pope during her years of mothering young children and having them at home. Benedict became the Pope of her years as a Grandmother. All five grandchildren have been born during Benedict’s papacy.
It sounds odd to think of a Pope in these terms, but it is perhaps the best way. Benedict seemed like a kind and gentle German Great-Grandfather to my kids. He sometimes reminded me of my own Grandfather, who happens to be Polish. His defenses were vigorous and to those outside the Church may have seemed baffling. The truth is, this is the way one defends what one loves more than his own life. It is the way one defends family. In his final Papal Audience yesterday, Benedict included these words:
“Here, one can touch what the Church is – not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian purposes, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. To experience the Church in this way and almost be able to touch with one’s hands the power of His truth and His love, is a source of joy, in a time in which many speak of its decline.”
In hearing those words, I was reminded of my favorite quote of Blessed John Paul the Great:
…no one can consider himself extraneous or indifferent to the lot of another member of the human family. No one can say that he is not responsible for the well-being of his brother or sister (cf. Gen 4:9; Lk 10:29-37; Mt 25:31-46). The Hundredth Year, #51, p. 99
Benedict will always be our brother in Christ. He will always be an irreplaceable part of the Body of Christ. And his importance is not lessened because he is no longer the reigning Pontiff and is living a life outside of the constant public eye. His writings have brought many to the Church and is continuing to do so.
And as deeply as many of us are feeling his loss here are some important things to remember:
1) The Church is not set-adrift during this Pope-less time. We are still governed by Christ above. And the Holy Spirit is directing the Conclave. Please pray for the Conclave.
2) His resignation does not mean that Benedict no longer wanted to lead the Church because of recent controversies. He was blessed with wisdom to know that because of his age, his health and the demands of the job it was time to step-aside. It was an act of selflessness knowing that the Church needs to be led by someone who can meet those demands.
3) Where the next Pope comes from geographically is not of as much consequence as the media will make you believe. I was among those who during the last conclave predicted an African or Latin American Pontiff. I was off. Way off, obviously. The Conclave is, as I said before, guided by the Holy Spirit and is not interested in “sending a message” to the Western Media by the choice of our next Pope. We, as members of the faithful, are blessed to understand God’s hand in this process intimately.
Today is a day none of us has looked forward to, but must endure. God Bless You, Benedict XVI, our faithful shepherd during these most difficult and uncertain of times.