What an exciting time to be Catholic!
After eight years of shepherding the Catholic Church as the Bishop of Rome, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s recent resignation (the first for a pope in more than 600 years) has created a buzz within the Church, as well as the world, as to who the successor will be to the throne of St. Peter. We all know that more often than not, media coverage of the Church is less than favorable. But in recent days, the perceived mystery around Pope Benedict’s resignation (there really wasn’t any mystery, but the media and secular society wanted for the first few days to create a story that didn’t exist), along with the anticipation and excitement of the upcoming conclave of the College of Cardinals has brought the Church into the bright lights of the media and the greater attention of the world.
Although some might argue that having a pope for only eight years and having to go through the conclave and all the rituals and business that is required for electing a new pope takes time and energy that can be better applied elsewhere, the attention and exposure the Church will receive over the next few months as a new pope is elected and begins his pontificate is a great boon for our faith. Much of the world will be watching as these historic events unfold and as such, opportunities will present themselves for our Protestant brothers and sisters, as well as non-believers, to be exposed to the great history, tradition and faith of Catholicism. The richness of times such as these provides evangelistic opportunities for us as Catholics to share with others the wonderful beauty and truth of our faith.
The fact that all of this is transpiring during Lent is a blessing from God, I believe. What better time is there to be in prayer regarding the selection of the next pope? We should all be praying fervently that the Holy Spirit falls upon and blesses our cardinals as they come together for the conclave that will ultimately lead to the election of the Church’s next shepherd. In this time of fasting and penance, we have the opportunity to turn some of our inward focus outward as we pray for the future of the Church.
Finally, this historic turn of events gives us all an opportunity to grow deeper in our intellectual understanding of our faith. Intellectual formation is one of the four pillars we are all called to develop as well-rounded Catholic Christians (human, pastoral and spiritual are the others). During the conclave and the coronation activities that follow, I encourage you to pay special attention to events as they unfold to increase your knowledge and understanding of the magisterium, the papacy and the wonderful traditions of our Catholic faith.
Let’s all continue to be in prayer as we excitedly await the next pope!