A Papal Focus for Lent
I won’t lie. Until about five minutes ago, I had no real idea as to what I was going to write for today’s post. In my head, thoughts about Lent, Ash Wednesday, the Holy Father, and Sts. Cyril and Methodius were running a muck, each vying for the spot. (Also running through my mind: how to get a two month old to sleep and how to simultaneously quiet down both of her sisters.) Finally, something my seven year old son said during our family Rosary came to me and I had it. Allow me to elaborate.
We had been watching all of the news coverage all day long, much to the chagrin of my TV and video game deprived children. You see, I have an intense love for not only the pope, but the papacy and everything surrounding it. I was practically a John Paul II groupie (in a good way), following him from here in Newark in 1995 to Paris in 1997 to Rome, twice, in 2000 and 2001. I was glued to my set, as most of us were, when JPII so publicly passed away; I was six months pregnant, trying desperately to remember as much as I could so that I would be able to tell my children about him and all of it one day. Sadly, I didn’t make it to anything when Benedict was here, but I watched it all, drinking it in, making memories again. I was happy with the choice and couldn’t wait to see what he would bring. I was not disappointed.
Though some might argue otherwise (ahem, FoxNews.com), Benedict did so much to unify Christians by his very example and presence that during his papacy there has been an unheard of number of converts from Lutheranism and other Christian sects. He has been a voice against the major sickness of our day: moral relativism. He has told us all that it is dishonest to claim Catholicism while not believing fully in the teachings of the Church. In short, he served as a reminder to the world that the Church does not change and will not be changed.
The news on Monday of the Holy Father’s abdication shocked me. Perhaps it shouldn’t have, but it did. In a way, I had a bit of the same feeling I had when I found out at a prenatal visit last year that the baby I was carrying had passed away. It hit me, in the pit of my stomach, and I felt lost for a moment. I think I went through all the stages of grief before I had my first cup of coffee.
Denial: When I read the text from my brother about it, my first response was simply, “No.”
Anger: How could he? How could he do this to us? He’s not allowed to leave, even though he is.
Bargaining: I wonder if we start praying now, will he change his mind?
Depression: I cried, I felt sick, I felt a little numb.
Acceptance: Since he must believe it’s for the best, it probably is, and I can’t change it either way. I hope he has peace.
Explaining the pope not being the pope anymore to a group of children into whom it has been drilled that the pope is pope until he dies is no easy feat. I was worried they would react worse than I had. Would they doubt? Would they be upset? The answer: no. They were confused, but accepting. Unlike most of Facebook, they never questioned if it was OK, because, c’mon, if the pope is doing it, it must be allowed.
When we started our normal bedtime prayers I added in a special prayer for His Holiness, and for the Church, and for all of us. We talked about needing to pray for the good men who will elect the new pontiff and how they need to be open to God’s grace. Then, my seven year old decided to chime in with a suggestion:
“Mom, I think we should say a Novena for the Cardinals, so that they choose a good pope.”
A novena. Of course. Prayers. And, while we’re at it, let’s offer up our Lenten sacrifices for the current Holy Father, for the Cardinals, and for the man they elect to lead us onward. We all know prayer and sacrifice can never be the wrong answer, no matter the question.
So, if you’re still unsure of what your focus should be this year for the penitential season starting today, why not join us? Perhaps this is the reason his announcement came at this time, when all of us would already be in the mood for offering up.