The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Our Next Pope

The cardinals of the Church have gathered in Rome, and yesterday they began a series of meetings in advance of the conclave that will take place sometime later this month in the world's most spectacular and beautiful meeting room, the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. And as the world watches and the faithful pray and wait for a puff of white smoke, the self-appointed "experts" will question, and speculate, and suggest, and dare even to instruct.

The other day during a TV interview one wag suggested that, "After decades of the authoritarian rule of the last two popes, the cardinals will no doubt turn to someone more pastoral in his approach." I almost fell out of my chair! More pastoral? During the past century no popes have been more pastoral than John Paul II and Benedict XVI. None of their recent predecessors has reached out more lovingly and hopefully to men and women of good will. Yes, these two men were uncompromisingly faithful to the Church's magisterial teaching on faith and morality, but is this not what God wants from His vicar on earth and what the faithful expect? But if the Church is to carry out its overriding mission of evangelization, it must be more than a defensive bulwark against the ever-changing zeitgeist. It must also enter into a dialogue with the world, teaching and listening and learning. As Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman put it, "It is as absurd to argue men, as to torture them, into believing."
Sharing the Cross: Benedict and John Paul

These two men, then, these two intellectual and spiritual giants, whose pontificates can almost be viewed as conjoined, worked tirelessly to teach and to demonstrate to the world that faith and reason are not in conflict and, indeed, are essential companions on our life's journey. The Church and the world have been blessed by their presence and selfless leadership.

I suspect that what this "expert" really wants is a pope who will go along with whatever moral deviations or liturgical innovations the faithless place in front of him. This, of course, will not happen. Of one thing we can be certain: the next pope, whoever he may be, will continue to defend the Church's unalterable teachings on the sanctity of human life created in the very image of God. The deposit of faith will remain secure. I believe, too, that the College of Cardinals will also elect a pope who is just as committed to the Church's mission of evangelization as were his two predecessors.

We must always remember that it is the Holy Spirit, working alongside these successors to the apostles, who guides the Church through this time of uncertainty and change. He was promised by our Lord and was with the universal Church from its very beginnings on that first Pentecost. He was with the early Church, too, as it confronted its first challenges at the Council of Jerusalem. Recall the words of that encyclical letter sent by the apostles to the universal Church: "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..." [Acts 15:28] And because God keeps His promises, the Holy Spirit will remain with His Church, the Bark of Peter, as it navigates today's troubled waters.

Pay little or no attention to what the secular media has to say about these momentous events now unfolding in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. They inevitably get it wrong because they view the Church through worldly lenses and not through the eyes of faith. They see this selection of a new Vicar of Christ on earth as if it were simply another political event, another election to be covered and probed and dissected, and as fodder for their "insightful" commentaries. Listen instead to the Church and join together in prayer as we await the decision of the Spirit.

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