Thursday, February 28, 2013

And Now, We Wait

It's too soon to say goodbye, Papa.  Though years will pass by, and others will come and go, you will always be the first, and you will hold a special place in my heart.  Though I had only begun to get to know you, and feel that stirring of genuine affection for you, these past weeks have brought it into sharper focus, and the bittersweet emotion threatens to pull tears from me.  Tears.  Over the loss--not even through death--of the father figure I really barely knew.  I used to wonder how it was that Catholics the world over could love this man.  Love him, love him.  The vast majority will never meet him, touch him, or even see him in person.  Yet they love him, with the kind of love that brings tears for the loss of him.  Astounding.

Then I found myself loving him.  And facing the loss.  So this is what it is to be Catholic.  To feel the emptiness of the papal palace, the darkness of its windows, within your own heart.

And now, we wait.  And the world watches.  All Creation seems to hold its breath along with us.  Which doesn't seem logical in the least, if you think about it.  Short of a supernatural element, how does anyone explain the impact on the world of the Bishop of Rome?  To those who are not Catholic, particularly those who are not even Christian, why does this man matter?  Why do you care what he teaches?  He has no earthly authority to compel you to abide by his teachings.  If you think he is wrong, you are free as a bird to live as you will.  He won't be sentencing anyone to prison, forty lashes, or a day in the stocks.  Those of you who wish to live contrary to what the Church teaches, why does it matter to you if the next Pope changes that or not?  You have free will.  Many mock the very notion of sin as antiquated superstition.  Why, then, do you want so badly for the new Pope to teach that your favored sins are no longer sins?  Okay, end of puzzled quasi-rant.

If you aren't going to obey me anyway, why do you care what I say?

But really, I say all that to point out this:  the Pope is important.  Whether we understand or can articulate why, he matters, and not just to the Church, but to the entire world.

And we hold our breath, because the chair is now empty.  Pope Benedict XVI has retired to a life of prayer, and we await the next Successor of St. Peter.  It's a bit like watching a chrysalis, and waiting for the butterfly.  You don't know precisely when it will emerge, or what it will be like, but you know it will eventually come, and it will be a thing of beauty.

Hope.  Pray.  But don't worry.  Easter is coming.  :)  As Blessed John Paul II once said, "Do not abandon yourselves to despair.  We are the Easter people, and Hallelujah is our song."

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