And then this morning's news hit. So, here is a precursor to my Lenten blogging.
Following my initial period of disbelief (which lasted for the better part of the morning), I have been alternating about every half hour between being on the brink of tears and being supremely confident in the Divine Will.
Right now I am the former, so here are reasons why I am sad today, in no particular order:
- Not that there are "camps" or "teams" for our past two pontiffs, but in theological and liturgical matters, I am most assuredly a child of Benedict XVI. I think that he has been a tremendous gift to the Church in so many ways -- his clear love for tradition (in all senses of the word), his loving ecumenical heart that burns to see all Christians reconciled with the Church, his leading by example in liturgical matters (which are nearest and dearest to my heart and probably will form the basis for a future post or three). I know most people my age have a strong love for John Paul II because of when they grew up, but as a 2003 convert, I only knew the very end of his pontificate. Almost eight of my almost ten years in the Church have been under Benedict, and he has influenced my own faith journey in so many ways.
- He is my one and only Papa. The pure self-sacrificing love that shows through in everything he does, that beaming smile that shows the face of Christ Himself -- I love this man so much that I cannot express it in words.
- This is the closest I will get to any sort of speculation in this post, but I can't help but wonder if something is seriously wrong with his health. He didn't even wait until after Easter to announce this and he only gave two and a half weeks' notice beforehand. If indeed it is the case that his health is seriously deteriorating, this is the thing that makes me the saddest.
And yet, in the midst of my sorrow, I know that we have reasons to hope:
- After so much speculation that Benedict would only reign as pope for a short time and that he would not really have an impact on the Church (as a sort of "transitional" pope), he gave us almost eight years of theological brilliance and clear teaching on what it means to be authentically Catholic in the modern world. He started the Church on the path to true liturgical renewal -- a renewal based on continuity with tradition, not a break with the past.
- As the climax of his years of teaching on the Second Vatican Council, he began the Year of Faith in which we currently find ourselves. He has made it abundantly clear that the true meaning of the Council is not to be found in the "Spirit of Vatican II" but in the documents promulgated by the Council.
- He has named more than half of the Cardinals of voting age who will meet very soon to elect his successor. I think, by the working of the Holy Spirit, that we will be in excellent hands.
- Much as it feels like we are losing our Papa, he doesn't appear to be on death's door. I pray that Josef Ratzinger will have many more years of serving the Church in his own way.
The comment I have seen most often today is that Benedict's resignation demonstrates his deep humility. To quote one of my favorite bloggers, "he leaves as he came, with a humility that shocks the world." And that's really what our Christian life is all about, isn't it?
I hope that we will all learn from this great man how to do justice, love goodness, and walk humbly with our God -- and trust in our Lord Jesus that the gates of hell shall never prevail against our Mother Church.