The Season of Lent began on February 13th. At our All School Mass for Ash Wednesday on that day, I shared with the students, faculty, staff, family members and friends of Guerin Catholic High School a small reflection about the big announcement that Pope Benedict XVI had made on Monday February 11th. The reflection is below. Also, please join me and our school community in praying for Pope Benedict XVI and for the Church.
On the morning of Monday February 11th, I received a text from my sister Kelly that said: “Why is the pope resigning?” At first, this question from my sister didn’t really register. But, after a few seconds, I found myself seeking out this answer.
Pope Benedict XVI announced that he will resign from his duties on Thursday February 28th 2013 during the Second Week of Lent at 8:00pm Rome time. The words of his resignation to the Church at a gathering of Cardinals on the morning of February 11th included: “I have convoked you to this Consistory … to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.” “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
Many, like all of us, wonder why the Pope is resigning? Again, in his letter to the College of Cardinals, Pope Benedict said that he has come to realize that he no longer has the strength in his advanced age (at 85 years old) to fulfill the duties required of the Successor of St. Peter. He recognizes that the Ministry of the Pope is physically demanding, especially in today’s world of global travel and public ministry, and after lengthy prayer and examination, he feels that the Church would be best served by a Pope who is more physically able to fulfill these tasks. To me, there is great wisdom in this decision – which is clearly made for the good of the Church.
But, what can we learn from the Pope Benedict’s decision? Well, it has been said multiple times that Pope Benedict made the decision after lengthy prayer and repeatedly examining his conscience. What was that? The Pope spent vast amounts of time praying about this decision and he repeatedly examined his conscience? How many here can say they daily strive to listen for the voice of God? The Pope through his recent decision to step down from the Chair of Saint Peter was a decision he came to by praying about it a lot, listening for the voice of God and examining his conscience. Pope Benedict is teaching us through this that we also need to spend time in prayer, examining our consciences and listening for the voice of God. We learned from the example of Pope John Paul II how to suffer and die with dignity. It seems as if Pope Benedict XVI is showing us how to live in humble honesty.
So, you may be wondering what’s next? Well, after Pope Benedict steps down, a conclave will begin soon after to elect the next Pope through the 117 members of the College of Cardinals. They will need our prayers big time because they will go through a pretty rigorous schedule and during the conclave the Church protects her Cardinals in this process. They will be on lock down in Saint Martha’s House, which is where the Cardinals will stay when they are not in voting sessions in the Sistine Chapel. Things are quite strict for them: they will have their cell phones taken away, no newspapers, no TV, no internet, no radio, no outside communication of any type. Why do you think this is the case? (wait for responses until you hear THE RESPONSE – TO HEAR THE VOICE OF GOD). They are there to hear the voice of God and to be led by the Holy Spirit to select our next Pope.
I will also be promoting a Novena for us to pray together as a school community for Pope Benedict XVI, which will begin on Tuesday February 19th and it will conclude on his last day as Pope. It will be a great retirement gift for our Pope. We can also pray in thanksgiving for his many years of faithful service, for his health and for the Papacy, including for our next Pope. Let us pray:
Prayer for Pope Benedict XVI
Father, we pray for your protection and guidance over our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Give him strength and wisdom to stand as a prophet for our times. May he be a light in darkness around which we gather in hope. We ask you to bring about reconciliation through his faithful teaching of peace and justice. Let him follow in the path of Peter and Paul who, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached that the Lord saves all who call upon his name.