Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Habemus Papam: A Year Later

What to make of B16Y1?

I give it a B+.

I never thought I would.

When the Conclave met to elect a successor to JP2, I was pretty neutral on then-Cardinal Ratzinger. Well, "neutral" is just a polite way of saying..."meh." I was in my own heart, extremely "meh" about the whole thing.

My more heterodox Catholic friends considered that scenario with abject terror. His papacy, they darkly surmised, would lead us all "back" to the 1962 Missal and witch burnings. (If no witches were found, would the rubrics have allowed for a combination of homosexuals and Harry Potter merchandise?) My more robustly orthodox friends were eagerly anticipating a return to the 1962 Missal and witch burnings, with the option to substitute heterodox bishops, seeing as how there are far more of the latter than the former. (I expect this is because they believe the latter have been something of a renewable resource)

Fr. Drinan was on TV (CNN?) commenting on the papabile and when discussing Cardinal Ratzinger, he looked is if he had been suddenly afflicted by near-terminal stomach cramps.

I was just watching. I held out a mild hope on behalf of Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, SJ, but knew the chances were slim. I trusted the Holy Spirit would guide these Princes of the Church (even if they don't usually condescend to be guided by same in other matters), since they weren't going to be guided by li'l ol' me. (They hadn't ever, so why start now, right?)

Black smoke issued.

Then black smoke issued again.

Then, finally, white smoke.

My heart caught in my chest.

Habemus Papam.

We had been withOUT a Pope. I had never stopped to consider that, even throughout the funeral of JP2. We had no shepherd. That we had staggered, somewhat blindly, for all those days...and that I hadn't realized it, shocked me.

Habemus Papam.

That day, I went to pick up my oldest from school and I remember so very vividly Sr. R. running towards the school gate upon seeing me, her Carmelite habit flapping, waving a poster-sized photo of the new Pope and shouting with relieved elation "Habemus Papam! Habemus Papam!"

Our Lord has not left us to fend for ourselves.

And, oy, is there a lot of stuff that needs fending.

What has surprised me most about this pontificate is that it is--so far, anyway--one of breadth as opposed to length, and one of subtlety. Witness the delicate difference between gentleness and limpness, of firmness versus harshness. I am particularly pleasantly surprised by the beams of catechetical light issuing from this pontificate. The image of light is, I believe, accurate, because it is the clarity of the teachings which strikes me the most. And note these are more teachings than "pronouncements."

Yes, sure, we'd all love to see the circus element cast into the outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of wicker baskets and Kool-Aid pitchers. (But this will all come, I believe, in the fullness of time.) In the interim (again with the Latin?), we have such a manifestly wondrous encyclical as Deus Caritas Est, which crystallizes and focuses and illuminates and explains how as Christians in general (and Catholics in particular) we are called to be living exemplars of charity and love in all things, at all times. To do what we do out of love for God will inevitably cause us--if/when we have fallen short--to show Him ultimate and divine reverence, and once we have done so, we can never go back to the Land O' Heterdoxy, where the subjective ramblings of the egocentric self hold sway, with no authority greater than one's opinion.

His gentle firmness (or firm gentleness) was, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, self-evident during the Easter Triduum. Those who have been steadfast adherents of the "Tridentine" Mass must admit the "Novus Ordo" Mass as B16 celebrates it, is a thing of staggering beauty and power; leaving no doubt whatever we're witnessing an intersection of the temporal and the eternal. Those of us who like the more ::cough, cough:: modern Mass likewise have to admit to witnessing a Mass that inexorably draws the heart and mind to a more transcendent plane, one that "Windexed" one layer of human cloudiness away from our vision of the Word incarnate.

I am pleased we have a Pope who reminds us, quietly, gently, humbly that God's will doesn't depend on our individual opinion, and what the Church teaches isn't because it's spouting off an misogynistic, baroque opinion, but because it HAS to declare God's truth to the world...not for it's sake, but for the world's. Today, I will make a specific effort to pray for B16 and his intentions and I hope as many other Catholics as read this will do likewise.




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