It’s Mardi Gras and I don’t feel much like celebrating. I’m really not sad or depressed, just…thoughtful. I woke up yesterday at my usual way-too-early hour and read that Pope Benedict was about to canonize eight hundred new saints. Wow! Boy, if there was a time when we could use a few more saints to turn to for intercession, it’s now. Later as I was packing lunches and preparing to wake up the boys, the anchors on FOX News’ morning show announced that our Pope was resigning.
Did I hear that right? Must be an April Fools’ joke. Oh, wait a second…it’s February. Something just didn’t seem right. I pulled up Twitter (my usual source for finding out what people are talking about) and saw a link to the announcement our Holy Father had made. I thought, whose idea of a sick joke is this? What lunatic hacked into the Vatican’s news page or whatever and put up this lie? Someone somewhere was laughing their head off at the world’s stupidity, I was sure. And WHY would Fox be so irresponsible to report a bogus story like that without checking it out first to make sure it was TRUE, for goodness’ sake??
Of course, it was true, and when I finally realized this was no joke, I wanted to cry. The Pope just doesn’t quit! He must really be sick, I thought. Maybe he is, although the official word from the Vatican is that there is no specific health issue that would cause him to resign; he just didn’t feel up to the task anymore. Today I’m convinced that God has something great in mind for the Church, and our Pope is stepping aside because he knows that he can no longer do the job as effectively as he used to. These are difficult times for the Church. Benedict will spend the rest of his days in deep prayer (and will probably enjoy some time with his piano and his books; maybe do a little writing too); perhaps that is the most effective thing he can do for us now. I for one will be grateful to have such a holy man as Benedict (Will he go back to being just Cardinal Ratzinger again? I don’t know. I can still call him Papa Benny, can’t I?) praying for me and the rest of the world–and those eight hundred new saints (who, according to this, will be canonized in May by the new Pope) will be praying for us, too; I’m sure of that.
Did you see the picture of the lightning that his St. Peter’s after the Holy Father’s announcement? Some say it’s because God is angry that his faithful servant is giving up. Baloney. God is reminding us that HE is in control. Pay attention, he is saying. It’s Me. I’m still here and so is My Church. Watch and see My hand at work.
I don’t want to speculate about who the next Pope will be. The Holy Spirit knows what kind of Pope we need. Don’t bother hoping that Benedict’s successor will change Church teaching (I just rolled my eyes when I heard Chris Matthews going on about how the church is behind the times and wouldn’t it be great if our next Pope decided that birth control isn’t a sin). I’m a little sad to see Benedict go, but I’m also a little bit excited to see what will happen in the coming weeks. It’s going to be a very interesting Lent. Bring it on.
Godspeed, Benedetto; you are in my prayers, and I hope I will be in yours.