Monday, February 11, 2013

Into the Desert

Early this morning I went to the gym as usual, my ipod rattling away some podcasts. I’m off in my own little world of Monday morning haze when I glance up and notice that Pope Benedict is on half of the TV screens at the front of the gym. "Well, this can’t be good," I think. "The news isn’t likely to cover something good." I couldn't read the scroll on the screen, so I checked my phone. And that’s how I found out about the pope’s resignation. It was a small miracle in itself that I didn't fall off the elliptical.

A small part of me is not surprised. Pope Benedict has expressed many times that he believes a pope should resign if he physically and mentally cannot carry on his duties. Such an efficient, German mindset. But still, the news came as a shock to me. Benedict is the pope I know the best. I was only 16 when Blessed John Paul II passed, but as a non-Catholic, I didn't have much investment in the papacy other than a casual interest in watching the conclave news coverage. I’ve admired Benedict's devotion to tradition and his embrace of modern technology. He’s a fantastic scholar that seems to lead through steady patience and compassion. I came into the Church under Benedict, and I’m sad to see his time in office come to an end. I hope he can spend the rest of his years in a private retirement instead of being in the public eye as “former pope.”

The timing seems particularly odd. With Lent starting in two days, I would have assumed he would continue to serve through Easter. However, it looks like we’ll be having a conclave in the middle of Lent, and possibly a new pope by Easter. This season will be filled with uncertainty and speculation: Will the new pope be African or Latin or European? Will he be theologically liberal or conservative? What role will Benedict play post-cathedra?

Lent is meant to reflect the desert: Christ’s 40 days and Israel’s 40 years. I feel that this year, with the transition to a new pope, the Church will feel a little lost, wandering in a desert of uncertainty without a leader. As the Church enters its third millennium, what will her legacy be? Decay, implosion, revival, unification, growth? Will this century be marked by scandal and sin or justice and piety? And who will be the key players? I don’t know; I don’t even have any guesses. But I’m excited to be a part of it.

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