7 Things: Preparing for a Conclave

In keeping with the Year of Faith custom of a weekly post “7 Things You Should Know About ________,” here are 7 things you should know about Preparing for a Conclave.

  1. Pray for the conclave. What perfect timing we have this year in Lent! We can offer our fasting, prayers, and almsgiving for the benefit of our Pope-Emeritus Benedict, for the benefit of the conclave, and for the benefit of our next pope. Also, try out Adopt-a-Cardinal. I used it the other day thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I got Cardinal Burke?!” Then I did get Cardinal Burke. Sweet! If only the conclave worked like that … or not.
  2. Take the mass media with a grain of salt. More often than not, they choose their lists of likely candidates from a worldview of secular politics. They’ll describe “conservative” and “liberal” cardinals, they’ll place a higher premium on having an ethnically diverse pontificate than on having a pontificate that best suits the needs of the Church, and they’ll overlook important theological points that will probably keep some cardinals from being elected.
  3. Don’t try too hard to interpret the cardinals. I recently had a long Facebook discussion with another blogger about how to interpret some of the things that have been said by Cardinal Tagle of Manilla. I think it’s fair to say we came to a draw. Most of the cardinals are foreign to us Americans, together with their perspectives, priorities, politics, and manners of speaking. Something that sounds bizarre or even heretical to us may simply be the result of a poor translation. As a general rule, the charitable thing to do is take the best possible interpretation of what a person says, given what we know about them.
  4. Start learning the cardinals’ first names. After I left the seminary, a friend of mine who remained there recounted the feeling in the room during the 2005 conclave. Everyone was on the edge of their seats in front of the big-screen television screen, waiting with bated breath for the announcement of the new Supreme Pontiff.

    “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum; Habemus Papam! Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum Josephum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger qui sibi nomen imposuit Benedictum XVI!”

    Look at +Burke sitting there in prayer, praying for some poor cardinal aside from himself to bear the weight of the Church, totally unsuspecting of the “Acceptasne?” coming his way.

    Yeah, between the new pope’s first and last names, you find “Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem.” It’s a little nerve wracking waiting on those 4 words for the last name you’re so familiar with. A friend of mine in 2005 heard “Josephum” and knew exactly who the lucky (or unlucky) cardinal was: Joseph Ratzinger. He was cheering before anyone around him (in a room full of seminarians and monks) had any idea what was going on. Here’s a short list of first and last names: Peter Turkson, Angelo Scola, Oscar Rodriguez, Angelo Bagnosco, Gianfranco Ravasi, Marc Ouellet, Luis Tagle, Odilo Scherer, Raymond Burke (yeah, I’m a little biased with that last one).
  5. Hold a mock conclave for kids … without mocking the conclave. I’m sure in the hands of some misguided catechists, there would be a Cardinal Sarah (no, not that Cardinal Sarah, one with pigtails) who might become pope. It would end up a terrible and unrealistic mockery of the conclave. However, these folks seem to have done it right. To whichever parent or teacher made the costumes: fantastic job!
  6. Consider some of the possible names. John Paul III would indicate a desire to be strongly evangelical. Benedict XVII would be an homage to his predecessor, but I find that one unlikely, as some folks are a little sour about the papal abdication. Pius XIII would be welcome to most traditional Catholics. Leo XIV would indicate a pope who wanted to take on the foes of the Church and might also mean a strong social justice bent. Gregory XVII might indicate someone strongly inclined toward continued liturgical reform. Of course, there could be new names as well. I’m kind of fond of Peregrinus (Pilgrim), an homage to one of Pope Benedict’s themes as well as a reference to a breed of falcon, a bird with sharp eyes, something the next pope will need.
  7. Please: No gambling on the conclave. There are online betting sites out there where people can place bets on the conclave. Even though it may not bear a canonical penalty, profiting financially from the solemn election of the Roman Pontiff just smacks of sacrilege, don’t you think?

Bonus: Check out the USCCB’s information and diagrams on the conclave. The green(ish) links on the site’s right sidebar will take you to more content.