My normal morning routine involves the tv in the bedroom going on before I awake, the alarm going off before seven (on which I hit the snooze button at least twice), then up and running. This morning the tv went on (background chatter), the alarm went off, I heard the newscaster say that Pope Benedict had resigned! Well, suddenly one eye opened wide, I listened closely to the news, the other eye opened, and the day was off to a quick and unexpected start!
The news was historic, monumental, unexpected. These things don't happen every day, or decade, or century. It was quick to point out that the last time a pope stepped aside was in the 1400's, when the pope stepped aside to heal a division in the Western Church. The last time for personal reasons was in 1294. Not an everyday occurrence. As I said - historic, monumental and somewhat unexpected.
Pope Benedict XVI has served us well, better than I expected, and with great dedication. I am sure that we will hear much in the days to come, both pro and con, but his legacy is already written in the history of the Church and his impact huge. May he truly find peace and joy in his retirement and blessing in his long life of service to the Church and her people.
Now we move into truly uncharted waters. This Lent will like no other. Within a few weeks the Chair of Peter will be vacant and the process of selecting a new Bishop of Rome will begin. We have a young parishioner, Kayla Ciongoli, a student at Duquesne University who left a few weeks ago to spend the Spring semester at Duquesne's Rome Campus. I was excited for her, and told her to "soak up all of the experiences of Rome". Wow! Will she have stories to tell and the experience of seeing a new pope elected within her time in Rome. Jealousy is not something to be proud of, but in this case, I am jealous of Kayla - just a bit.
Pray for Pope Benedict XVI, in gratitude and in blessing, pray for the Church in this period of unexpected transition, and pray for the Cardinals as they prepare to select Benedict's successor.