As I sat down at this computer early Monday, my cup of coffee in hand, my own face washed in Facebook's steady blue-white glow, imbibing this combination to kick-start awake my brain in the midst of family chaos (winter storm Nemo, falling out with a friend, a dying geriatric cat needing to go to the vet) a dear friend saw I was on live and Instant Messaged me: "What a way to start the day....Pope Benedict resigns as of the end of the month."
I was online and yet it took 10 minutes for me to reply. In that time, other friends started posting the online wake-up call with articles, bloggers' takes (my favorite being Jimmy Akin's) and personal reactions that could be summarized as running the gamut from shocked to distressed.
Honestly, my first thought was detached: 'Wow. Really?! Hm. It is too early for me to react or know what to say; I think I need more coffee first.'
Was that cold & unfeeling? Perhaps I was just numb, or in a co-dependency induced denial?
My second thought, as I read the myriad other articles and postings: Why is everyone so shocked? Why are so many laid so low? Why are a few so freaked out that they are prophesizing this as a sign of the reign of the last pope!? (I think that reaction disturbs me more than B-16's decision).
Is there something spiritually wrong with me? Am I
somehow less Catholic than the rest of our body, who are right now
experiencing sadness, surprise, shock, and anxiety over this event? If not,
what is it about me that causes a lack of interior
reaction in the face of this excitement?
I love Benedict, but the man is 85 years old; this is a logical and noble step, totally in line with his character. In fact, earlier in the week I was just thinking about whether Benedict had much longer with us; he has been looking ever so old in recent photos. And tired. I swear, while serving the children lunch one day last week, it crossed my mind: 'I wonder if he'd ever step down before dying?' Maybe that Eerie Thing that Sometimes Happens to Me (which happened a few days before the death of Mother Theresa as well) softened the blow? (And no, I am not claiming psychic powers or a Gift of the Spirit. My mind is just always taking flight someplace else; I guess I have "imagination.")
Is it the fact that I live in perpetual t.v.-radio silence, without cable television and its talking heads to goad and pluck my emotions, which leaves me feeling undisturbed by all of this? While it is true that no pope has done this in recent history, the beauty of my faith is that actions need not be modern to be acceptable and "right". This is a natural process which Canon Law allows for, even if no one else has used the opportunity in the last 700 years.
Life is full of partings. Those partings are at best bitter-sweet; more often they are more bitter than sweet. Is it that the sudden and violent parting of so many young ones in a school a stone's throw away from me still wields more reality to me than anything else, even if the earthly leader of my Church resigns his post?
I know, I know: he holds the keys of Peter. He is our pontiff, our Papa. And I do love him. He is Christ's vicar, and has worked to promote unity within a Church that feels pain in the threat of schism. He is not perfect because he is a man. I believe he is a holy man, and a supremely intelligent and loving man. Yes. I will miss him when he finally steps down.
But I trust the Holy Spirit will guide the conclave in its election of our next pontiff. I trust the Holy Spirit will continue to guide us through whatever messes lie ahead.
When I finally shook myself from my sleepy stupor on Monday, I replied this way: "Pope Benedict is a wise man and an excellent pontiff; if
he says we need to fill the Chair with his successor now, given the
rapid demands which face the Church, then I trust his call and take
comfort in the fact it will be "right". Now we have something
additional to offer up sacrifice for during Lent."
And something to anticipate in the dawn of a joyful Easter.