There’s no doubt that our Holy Father’s decision has brought forth a wave of doubts, confusion, mixed emotions, and perhaps sadness as well.
Today, together with an interesting commentary by Fr. Robert Barron on Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy, we would like to offer some 15 keys that can help you to maintain an authentic Catholic approach towards what’s to come.
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Faith in the Mind
The Pope has explained the reasons for renouncing his Pontificate in this document. Let’s not be rash in firing off all sorts of personal interpretations and speculation. Conspiracy theories and other shocking intrigue offered by ‘experts’, who are called in by the media to speak about something they don’t really know much about, should be taken for what they are worth–usually not much– and no more.
John Paul II did not renounce his pontificate, in spite of his failing strength, because he discerned that was not what God was asking of him in that particular moment. Benedict XVI did so, on the other hand, because after examining his conscience before God, he discovered that it was the Lord’s Plan for both him and for the Church. The reason for the Pope’s resignation, beyond his failing strength or his age, is to be found in his personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Because of this, no one in the future can call for the Pope’s resignation based on such and such an incapacity. This decision will always be between God and his Vicar.
The Church is the body of Christ. Christ is her head and it is the Holy Spirit who guides her. Regardless of the Church’s frailty, this truth will always stand firm. God is greater than our sins.
The Church is the People of God and we are all part of it. Now is not a good moment to judge past decisions or plan new strategies for the future. Now is the time for us to be united in one heart and to look forward to the future with hope and in communion. If you want to change the Church, as Mother Teresa said, start with yourself.
Reflections on the next Pope are interesting but shouldn’t be given excessive weight. We can have such discussions only in so far as it is clear the most important thing to do is to pray for the Cardinals and trust that the Holy Spirit will guide and continue to bless the Church. It’s important that we give a positive testimony to those who struggle to understand this process.
Faith in the Heart
The sadness that we may experience at the Holy Father’s decision must not become an obstacle to the joy and hope that must fill our hearts as we turn our eyes towards the new stage upon which the Church will soon embark.
Within a short time we will have a new Pope at the ship’s prow guiding the Church, and a man of God, with the experience of having exercised the Petrine ministry himself, praying from the stern. Surely that is a wonderful motive for hope!
The Pope must not be turned into an idol. It is a great blessing when a Pontiff is also a man of God but we mustn’t forget that he is still a human being who is therefore both fragile and a sinner. Our obedience and attention to him don’t depend on his human qualities or his moral integrity, but on his condition as Christ’s Vicar on Earth.
Don’t get attached to any one candidate, and don’t let the secular media make you think that if one of them is elected, everything will turn out fine, whereas if another is chosen then everything will go wrong. Firstly, because the Holy Spirit can change your plans. And secondly, because the Holy Spirit has been changing their plans since John XXIII (and even before that).
Faith in Action
Pray a great deal that the Holy Spirit will enlighten the Cardinal Electors and that they will be docile instruments of his movements. This is the best way of participating in this crucial time for the life of the Church.
Read the document in which the Pope formally renounces his Pontificate and explain it to whoever asks you about it.
Pray for this new stage in Benedict XVI’s life.
Don’t share or tweet dubious information about the Pope, the conclave or the Cardinals. Take advantage, instead, of this time to get to better know the Cardinals and various members of the Church that carry out these positions of authority and service.