I loved Pope John Paul II. I still do. I have no memory of popes before him. In 2005 he died, and Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.
I really didn’t know how that would turn out. I wasn’t excited. I wasn’t finished mourning John Paul II, and all I knew was that Pope Benedict XVI was NOT going to be John Paul II.
And he wasn’t.
It didn’t take long, though, to realize that Pope Benedict is a remarkable man. I rapidly grew to love him, too. I’ve learned so much from him, and expect to keep learning from him for the rest of my life.
Now? I wonder what’s next. In 2005 I naively had little hope that the right man could be found. This time, I feel much the same way. Where is my confidence?
I join many others in two prayers: First, for Pope Benedict XVI, with deepest thanks for his papacy, and peace for his future. And second, that the Holy Spirit inform the Cardinals, and that the Cardinals listen. Come, Holy Spirit.
One thing that strikes me in Benedict’s statement is his explanation of how he made this decision. He did not say, “God told me to.” He said:
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.
That’s a lesson for all of us, right there. How do we discern God’s will? Are we waiting for a burning bush? A shaft of light, maybe? A Python-esque cardboard cartoon in the clouds?
Or is discernment an active process that requires self-examination and prayer?
Yup, he’s still teaching, and I’m still learning.