Thursday, April 28, 2005

Surely Not I, Lord

Saw B16 in his new hoopty this week. It is a fairly respectable ride, although I myself would add spinners and a nice neon glow cushion. Also, Yosemite Sam mudflaps.

I was awed this week to discover that the Lord recently granted my prayers, the petitions of a person who once skipped Mass because she felt that a hangover qualified as a medical exemption, and not those of the man He had chosen as Pope.

Because he is a Truly Progressive, LOOOOOOOOOVE YOU!! type of fellow, one of my fellow Catholics proudly announced to praying "Anybody but Ratzinger," when Conclavealooza began.

Well, you weren't alone, Skeezix. The Big Raz was right there with him. He had several times asked The Deuce to grant him his well-earned retirement, eager to study and pet his cat and place his concecrated hands upon a typewriter’s keyboard rather than the heads of adoring throngs.

“Evidently, this time He didn't listen to me,'” B16 said in the days after his election. His homily to his brother Cardinals just before the conclave stung the Sistine Chapel air as he cracked the whip of his office, admonishing them that “(H)aving a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism… Being an "adult" means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties…We must become mature in this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith.” LOOK OUT! He's going to be... CATHOLIC!

Take me or leave me. But in using such stern language, he was begging them: Leave me.

“This one, this one, this one,” I said to the Holy Spirit as I watched the then-Cardinal deliver the eulogy to his predecessor. Something in the way he bracketed the story of John Paul’s life with the Gospel refrain “Follow me!” moved me to cock my head and say “I think I’d like to.”

Perhaps I was simply eager to restore my homeland papal bragging rights; the last German Pope, Stephen IX, dug up his predecessor’s remains, sat the body on a throne, held a shrieking trial in which he convicted the corpse of heresy, and then proceeded to dump it in the Tiber River. That's tremendous. Pardon me while I wave around my great-great grandparent’s German flag.

He is a shy and humble man, our new Pope, a retiring personality that juxtaposes his strong love of the Church. He is not a John Paul II clone and he knows it. Media coverage of his first Mass sniffed that he “waved and smiled to the crowd but did not wade into it.” Shut up, media coverage.

His eyes as he sat watching the Catholic Olympics that was his inauguration Mass (banners fluttered from every nation, including, wonderfully, Israel) never stared at one aspect of the immense crowd in St. Peter’s Square, but took in the whole scene with an amazed curiosity, constantly roaming over his new flock.

But I remain struck by his answer to a journalist’s question posed in a rare 2003 interview: “I think that two things are essential,” he said when speaking of how the Church might address the United States’ pedophile priests scandal. “Conversion to a profound and deep faith with the life of prayer and the sacraments, and clear moral teaching and conviction of these teachings that the Church has.” Oooooooooooooh, hateful! Mean-spirited!

“The Church is young!” Benedict told us in his first homily as Pope. In the face of dour predictions of a musty old pontificate, he raises his head to a springtime of faith.

He sees this in the winter of his own life. “While his reign may not be long, we pray that it may be fruitful,” the pastor of my parish diplomated in this week’s bulletin. Christ's own ministry lasted only three years, and in that time He seemed to be...pretty effective.

The Fisherman’s Ring sits heavily upon Benedict’s hand. When he broke the seal of the papal apartments, throwing the windows open to fresh air and hanging his own crucifix upon the wall, he did so reluctantly but with the vibrancy of faith. What follows might be controversial. It might even be unpopular. But it will never be wobbly. In a world of Girls Gone Wild, Volume Eight Million and Twelve, perhaps non-wobbly is what we need right now.

“I once again have a papa,” a Guatemalan woman said when she heard the news. And we once again have a good one.

Vivat! at

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