Habemus Papam! A Personal Reflection

fry-whitesmokeIt’s hard to be sure since I’ve only experienced two in my living memory (the first two taking place when I was less than six months old), but sitting in bed last night it occurred to me how similar to pregnancy an interregnum is. The watchful anticipation; discerning signs of impending activity; the breathless anticipation as we wait for the appearance of this person. The buzz I felt yesterday. sitting with my colleagues and waiting for the new pontiff’s appearance, was not unlike the anxiousness I have felt while my wife has been in labor. Even now we must take the time to get to know our new Holy Father — not unlike receiving a new child into the family.

Of course some are already celebrating him; some are already decrying him. I suspect this is nothing new in the history of the Church as all manner of people seem to have an opinion on what a new pope should do — not; should say — or not. Personally I tend to take a more cautious approach. Attestations on Twitter that “We love him already!” make me uncomfortable, as it should anyone who knows the history of the papacy. (There’s a reason so few popes are listed among the saints, and why Dante listed so many as residences of Hell!) That’s not to impugn the character or sanctity of Pope Francis, but simply to point out that the papacy is more about the office than the person holding it. Popes come and go; Peter’s chair remains.

Of course I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pleased by his choice of name, which I share (yes, that F. stands for Francis). My connections with the poor man of Assisi run deep, having been baptized by Capuchins and educated by OFMs. My brief defection to the Dominicans in graduate school only deepened my love for Francis’ mendicant spirituality. I hope that Pope Francis will speak on his own relationship with St. Francis, which I suspect is strong.

So, for now, we watch and wait and pray for our shepherd. At Mass this morning our pastor was practically beaming as he announced that we would be celebrating a Mass of thanksgiving for Pope Francis. I hope that joy remains for a long time so that the world might see the faith the Church has — not in this pope, but in Jesus Christ who has provided again for this little flock. Deo gratias.

Goodbye, Papa Benedict

BenedictXVI-OliverBonjoch-WikiCommonsIt’s hard to put into words just what Pope Benedict XVI has meant for me, particularly as a catechetical leader. More than anyone else Benedict has pushed for an understanding of faith that is rooted, above all else, in the person of Jesus Christ. In all of his teaching his constantly points to Jesus and invites us to enter into a deeper relationship with him.

I believe Benedict will be remembered as the pope that energized and put into practice the New Evangelization, for at its heart the New Evangelization is about the person of Christ. I was especially heartened at his decision to place the ministry of catechesis under the auspices of the new Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. This piece of administrative business may seem uneventful, but it has important implications for how we are to understand the work of catechesis.

In aligning the work of education and faith formation with the call to a New Evangelization the Holy Father reminds us that catechesis can only be effective and faith only take root once we have proclaimed Christ‘s life, death and resurrection to those in our care. Catholic schools and parish religious education programs are a particularly important way in which faith is transmitted – not as an academic subject to be studied and quizzed on, but as a living experience of the love of God through prayer, service, and the Eucharist.

As we continue to journey through the Year of Faith, we would do well to keep before us Pope Benedict’s the call to evangelize our students as well as catechize and educate them. We must proclaim Christ‘s love and witness to its power in our lives if we hope to make disciples of our students. Or, as Pope Benedict stated:

It is a particular responsibility of the whole Church to keep the message of Christ ever fresh and effective, also through clear teaching which must nourish faith in the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God who for our sake became man, died and rose again for our salvation. She must do so tirelessly by appropriate ways and means, so that all those who accept the Gospel message and believe, may be born to new life through baptism.

Any Society needs a head

Some boy school-friends decided to start a new club. Several of them came to the father of one, and asked for the use of an empty shed in the garden. He asked what the club was for.

‘Oh, just to have as much fun as we can. It’ll be called the P.Y.L. — Please Yourself League.’

‘Any committee, or rules?’

‘No, we can’t be bothered with those things.’

‘Which of you is the secretary, then?’

‘Nobody wants to be secretary. Besides, we don’t need one, nor a president. That’s the whole point of the club. We don’t want any fuss about organisation, just the club, that’s all.’

‘Well, you can have the shed, but it doesn’t strike me as a very practical proposition.’

So the society was started, and a board ‘P.Y.L., H.Q.’ was placed over the door.

Next week the lender of the shed asked his son how the club was getting on.

‘Oh, it’s pretty awful. Everybody wants to have his own friends in, and keep other people’s friends out. Nothing but arguments.’

‘You want a committee, I should think.’

Next week: ‘Well, have you got the committee yet?’

‘Yes, I’m one — we volunteered for it. But they won’t listen, they all talk at once. Besides, it isn’t fair, some of them had a meeting last night when the rest of us didn’t know about it.’

‘Didn’t the chairman call the meeting, then?’

‘There isn’t a chairman.’

‘Well, why don’t you elect a good chairman? Every society needs a head of some sort.’

‘Yes, it does look like it.’

So the P.Y.L. provided itself with a chairman and a secretary, and things began to go properly. When little matters cropped up to be settled the chairman decided them, and if it was something big he called a meeting of the committee. One of the first things they did was to change the name of the club to the P.T.L., the ‘Pull together League.’

If a club for a few boys cannot get on without a ‘visible head,’ how much more Our Lord’s Church, which He wants every person to join?

– Rev. F.H. Drinkwater, Catechism Stories Part I: the Creed (1939)