This morning began like any other, of course. Haus Meister woke me before he left, gave me my coffee as only he can make it, and we sat on the sofa in the living room to say our morning prayers. After he left for work I sat at the computer to finish my coffee, check e-mail, and the weather for the day. Absently scanning the headlines at the bottom of the Weather Channel page, I was shocked suddenly to read: “Pope Benedict XVI to step down.”
Impossible. It must be a hoax.
Now of course it took about three minutes and a quick browse through other news venues to see that it wasn‘t.
Most of the day has been spent in a myriad of emotions, trying to wrap my mind around this. Trying to avoid reading vituperative comments (hard to do down here in Deep Bible Belt where the Pope is the Jack Chick Antichrist). Trying to avoid those who decide to figuratively exhume Bl. John Paul II and point out every physical ailment and how it impaired him and how he should have been the one to resign.
As if we’re the ones to judge. We’re not the ones in the papal shoes.
If any two men in the world ever prayerfully considered this step, I am certain it must have been these two. John Paul considered it but continued on. Benedict considered it and found it to be God’s will for him. No Gallup poll, no amount of Facebook comments, no votes or likes or thumbs up or plus-ones factor into this. It was between them and God. We can speculate all we want, but ultimately that is where the decision lay.
Still, for the practicing faithful Catholics of the world, it’s a blow. There is a shock to it as well. It has been 600 years since a Pope stepped down, and now the man we know, honor, and love is going to step out of the picture. We know he will still be praying for us, but we will miss seeing his smile. It’s like, well, grieving without a funeral. It’s odd also because in our normal parlance we think of someone resigning in terms of failure, like CEOs who step down because of fraud or Nixon resigning, or something like that. This is different. This is so vastly different. He didn’t fail in his task of leading the Church. He just recognized his own limitations, his age, and while he could he wanted to pass on the baton. But he didn’t fail. In fact, so much of his work was done so quietly, so subtly in contrast to the very public John Paul, that I bet we’ll come to see and appreciate it more as the years go on.
And then there’s the anticipation. The joy and hope in the knowledge that Christ will never abandon the Church. There will be a conclave in a few weeks. There will be a new Pope (by the by, I wonder how the eligible Cardinals are sleeping tonight). We’re standing in the thick of Church history. More of my children will be able to remember this day, will be able to tell their children about this day. I’m excited for them. Trooper was only a little guy–maybe 19 months old when Benedict was elected. Rascal was months from his due date. Now they’ll remember, and so will Dino and Princess and maybe even Sunshine. We’re going to make this a big celebration.
But oh, we will still miss you, and pray for you, Pope Benedict XVI.