Well, here we are on the eve of our new Holy Father’s Inaugural Mass.
The last month has been a momentous one in the Church. Pope Benedict’s resignation was unexpected and alarming to some – was he seriously ill or perhaps dying? Were the scandals in the Church too much for him to face? This hasn’t been done in 600 years… is he making a statement about changing the papacy?? It seems like the most simple and likely answer is that he is frail and most likely in failing health. He was wise enough to know that he could not steer the barque of Peter with the sureness that was needed at this time. With great humility, he recognized that there was someone else who could do it better than he could. After his final farewells, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI quietly entered Castel Gandolfo to live a life of prayer for the Church. Outside the castle walls, the world erupted in chatter about when the next Pope would be elected and more importantly WHO it would be. I am a dedicated Pope-aphile. I love all things Vatican and I jumped in with both feet reading and researching who the likely candidates could be.
I grew up with John Paul II. I loved him for his ease with the people and his love of the young. In my college years, his World Youth Day addresses made me feel like I was part the Church NOW… not just the future of the church. His writings on the Theology of the Body changed my whole way of thinking. He made me want to live my faith vibrantly and faithfully. Then he died and Pope Benedict XVI stepped into the famous red shoes of the fisherman. I wasn’t sure what to think of our new Holy Father… he was quieter, didn’t seem quite as comfortable with the spotlight. Yet, his writings moved me, here was a deep thinker with the ability to make even complex theology understandable. His love of Jesus and personal relationship with Him was evident and just as I was beginning to love Benedict XVI, he retired!
As the days of the Conclave approached, I joined my sisters in daily prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Some were saying they wanted a pope who was this or a pope from here … I didn’t have any strong preferences. I think I secretly hoped he might be from the US but really – I just wanted one who would lead us in holiness.
Enter Pope Francis! Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio was one of the names I heard mentioned in my web-surfing. I was excited about him as he was from South America and yet of Italian descent – a bridge perhaps. So… I was thrilled when I heard his name read after the HABEMUS PAPAM!! WOW! A pope from the new world, a Jesuit, FRANCIS… all kinds of firsts were happening. His papacy is still in its natal stages – yet, I love him already. He is humble, gentle, funny, and kind. These things have already been seen. He is devout, prayerful, and committed to the teachings of the Church, this, too has already been witnessed. Now what remains to be seen is how he will shepherd and administer this unruly flock of sheep that has been entrusted to his care. I imagine it will be by showing us how to live lives of simplicity and holiness. The Holy Spirit is with him, the prayers of 1.2 billion people are supporting him, and he has entrusted himself to the protection of the Blessed Mother – he’s starting off on the right foot – even if it’s not in a red shoe!
VIVA IL PAPA!! VIVA!