Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Rosary for Pope Francis

I'm back!  Due to a broken laptop cord, I've been unable to blog or properly follow most of the news surrounding the conclave and Pope Francis' election, but I'm now back online, and I'm going to try hammering out some of the posts that have been floating around in my head during that time.  I started this one on my Kindle, but quickly gave up, as for some reason Kindle and Blogger do not get along with each other, and it tries to eat my words as I type them, resulting in me having to try several times to type each word.  Maybe now that my son has rigged up a temporary fix for my power cord, I can finish.  :)

I had the opportunity Wednesday, between class and Mass, to spend bit of time in prayer, so I decided to use it to pray a rosary and dedicate it to our new Holy Father. If you are Catholic, you know that during the season of Lent (which we are currently in, for you non-Catholics), the Sorrowful Mysteries are meditated on daily.   I was a bit torn, to be honest with you.  The Sorrowful Mysteries on such a joyful day?  But, I also could not determine which set might be most appropriate.  So, I stuck with tradition.  And I ended up very grateful for my indecision.

I want to share my reflections with you here.  I realize I have yet to write a post explaining the nature of the rosary.  Non-Catholic friends, try to keep up and feel free to ask questions.  I would do a better job, but my new laptop cord is still in California, and my Kindle is not Blogger-friendly.

The Agony in the Garden

This first meditation focuses on Christ's prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane immediately prior to His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion.  We should also not forget His disappointment in being abandoned by His friends, who he asked to watch and pray with him, but who fell asleep instead.  How often, I have to ask myself, am I caught "sleeping" (literally or figuratively) when I should be praying instead?  Prayer is an important part of the duties of a Pope.  He has the entire Church to pray for--the entire world, in fact.  He must also pray carefully for wisdom to guide the Church well.  Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has retired to a life of prayer, but we should never forget the importance of prayer in the life of the one who now holds the office.  And we should never forget the importance of our prayers, both for the man and for his intentions.  Will we be faithful, or will we be found sleeping?

The Scourging at the Pillar

The second meditation focuses on Christ being bound to a pillar and scourged--history tells us with an instrument called a flagram (hope I spelled that right), which is a whip with multiple "tails."  At the end of each tail is a small piece of iron, stone, or bone.  There is little doubt that the Pope, as head of the Church and Christ's most visible representative on earth, takes a scourging.  People from all corners of the world lash out with spiteful words against him.  Many (as I expected) wasted no time at all labeling Pope Francis hateful, and expressing their disappointment, or even anger, that, once again, the Pope is Catholic.  It has always been so, and so it will always be.  The world hates the Church.  Christ told us to expect it; why then would we be surprised?  What has, since that night, surprised and appalled me is the number of Catholics who have lashed out against the man.  Liberal Catholics find him too conservative (boo-hoo, contraception is still a sin, and women still can't be priests); conservative Catholics find him too liberal.  (How can he disrespect the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by offering it in the vernacular rather than Latin?!?  Can you believe he prayed in Italian?!?)  Oi.  

I have to say, fellow Catholics, I'm disappointed.  Criticism of our Holy Father is supposed to come from without our ranks, not from within.  If you disagree with the man, pray for him, don't slam him to whoever will listen.  Especially when it's been less than 24 hours since his election, and you have no idea how the charism of the Office will affect him.  Do we not believe that this man is ordained to be Christ's representative on Earth?  The Vicar of Christ, we call him.  Take a few seconds to let the implications sink in.  Then get to confession.

The Crowning With Thorns

In the third meditation, Christ is dressed in scarlet robes, a reed placed in His bound hands (a mockery of a scepter), and a crown is fashioned of thorns and placed--probably none too gently--on His head.  The soldiers bow before Him, not in reverence, but in mocking derision, and spit on Him.  Many outside the Catholic Church will mock the trappings of the papal office--the vestments, the mitre, and the tiara (though this last seems to have fallen out of fashion), among others--but it occurs to me that, in its own way, the papal mitre is the Pope's crown of thorns.  It is a symbol of honor and authority, yes, but it also causes suffering in the man who wears it.  From the time he first puts it on, he will be pierced by it.  Most will bear it until the day they die, but I am convinced that even in those rare cases where a Pope sets the mitre aside, the marks it leaves on the soul will always remain.  

Some may argue with me that the crown of thorns was never meant to be a symbol of honor, and was, in fact, intended as the exact opposite.  I submit to you that the cross was intended to become the symbol of His greatest defeat, and instead became the symbol of His victory.  Anywhere this crown is seen, people think of the King of Kings, Jesus, the Christ.  It may have been intended for mockery and scorn by those who fashioned it, but God remade it into a symbol of His great glory.

The Carrying of the Cross

This fourth meditation could be introduced in a number of ways.  The Carrying of the Cross, the Way of the Cross, the Via Dolorosa (Way of Suffering) are a few of my favorites.  Here we focus on Christ's journey from Jerusalem to Golgatha.  As was customary, our Lord was given His own cross (though history suggests it was the crossbeam, rather than the entire cross) to carry to the place of His execution.  Consider this for a few moments if you will.  The man is battered, bruised, and bleeding.  He is, by now, barely recognizable.  And a heavy wooden beam (most likely rough-hewn and splintery) is laid on His wounded back, so that He may carry the instrument of His own execution to the place where He will die.  He was arrested the night before.  He has not slept; He has not eaten.  Is it any wonder that three times He stumbles and falls under the weight He carries? And so a man is summoned from the crowd and compelled to carry the cross for Him.  Our Lord stumbled.  Our Lord fell.  Our Lord required help to carry His cross.  Who are we, mere mortals that we are, to assume we can do better?  We will stumble.  We will fall.  We will, at times, need help to bear our crosses.  There is no shame in it; Christ shows us this by His example.  Pope Francis has just been given, and has humbly accepted, the greatest cross a human will ever be asked to carry.  The weight of the world, literally, now rests upon his shoulders.  Because a Pope's responsibility is not just to the Church, but to the World.  When Christ instructed Peter to, "Feed my lambs," He did not mean only those within the fold.  The Pope's responsibility extends far beyond the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.  He must do all he can to bring the Gospel of Christ to every soul on Earth.  And aside from very rare exceptions, he will carry the cross to his death.

The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord

The final meditation is Christ's crucifixion and death.  And there is no Christian on Earth who must, by necessity, die to himself as perfectly as the successor of St. Peter.  He is to be, in a very special way, Christ's representative to His Church on Earth.  In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul wrote, "I am crucified with Christ:  nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:  and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."  These words are obviously a call to all men and women who wish to do as Christ commanded and "take up his cross and follow me," but how much more do they apply to the Vicar of Christ himself?  We should all pray for Pope Francis, that he may perfectly mortify self, so that Christ may perfectly live in him.

Servant of the Servants of God

God bless you, Papa Francis.  May you always be His humble servant.

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