But first for a little levity, because you can't make this stuff up! Yes, lightening actually struck St. Peter's hours after the Holy Father told the world what he was giving up for Lent!
My mom was one month shy of her 93 birthday when she died this past September 18th. But I entered into a depression of sorts just watching her very slow physical and mental decline these past five years, although she fared much better than most her age and was pretty independent until her last three weeks. So much was taken from her, her independence, her ability to take care of her financial concerns, to cook, to drive and to remember as well as and more alarming, a developing gullibility. I feared that she would be taken advantage of by unscrupulous people either coming to the door or on the phone as she trusted everyone and believed what everyone said to her. I cannot tell you how many times I had to have charges taken off her charge card, because someone called, she engaged them in conversation and was taken by the sales pitch. But the thing that was really hard was being with her and realizing how much she slept.
For many, not all, these things happen. Usually though most don't realize that is happening. The Holy Father has cut things off at the pass and has acted wisely, although there is a part of me that would have wanted him to be like Pope John Paul II, to hang on to the very bitter end.
But our Holy Father has always told us that he is no John Paul II. God bless Pope Benedict who will now be a pioneer of what the ministry of a pope-emeritus will be. That's kind of exciting isn't it! What do we call him? He'll always be Pope Benedict or simply Benedict! (Add the numbers if you wish.)
But who will be the Holy Father's successor and what influence whether actual or simply being around, will Pope Benedict have on the selection process and the actual ministry of his successor. This is uncharted territory! Raymond Aaroyo of EWTN thinks the Holy Father will be consulted by other cardinals and will be influential. I hope he will be influential too and that the cardinals will take into account the Holy Father's hopes for his successor. That eases my anxiety a great deal!
Anxiety abounds and this too is a rupture with our tradition of selecting new popes. There should be no anxiety. But because we now live in a Church that is divided by two or more models of what the Church should be and in all areas of the Church beginning with Liturgy, but extending even to the faith and morals of the Church, who the next pope will be creates anxiety in the various camps of the Church. That is sad and indicates how the implementation of Vatican II veered way, way off track. That should not have happened and it should not be the new normal.
Let us pray that this will no longer be the case as the Church continues down the road to re-consolidate and become more unified and single minded in living as Christ's Church!
This is what I don't want:
1. The cult of the personality, no matter the theological disposition. What I have admired in Pope Benedict is that he has always pointed to Christ and not himself, nor has he made himself a media darling or super star.
2. A progressive that is progressive in liturgy. Let's have more of "the reform of the reform of the Liturgy" and kick it up a notch.
3. A pope that only celebrates the Ordinary Form of the Mass.
But at this point in my priesthood as I realize that I'm in the last 10 to 15 years of active ministry before I retired to do what His Holiness Pope Benedict will do (if I live so long, God willing) is that I put it into the hands of God and His Holy Church and trust that whoever it is, it will serve the overall design and destiny of God. Be not afraid!
I have one final hope and prayer. Wouldn't it be cool if the Holy Father's last Mass as the reigning Pope is in the Extraordinary Form! Wow! What a message that would send!
And if not as reigning Pope, wouldn't it be great to have photos of him celebrating the EF as Pope Emeritus!
We could see the PE celebrating the EF!