As Pope Benedict XVI's papacy comes to a close, I have mixed feelings, as I am sure many of you do too. I am excited to see who will be elected next, but I am also sad to see Pope Benedict step down. He is a great man, someone who greatly impacted my faith life and the lives of countless others. I pray that our new pope will be a wise and humble leader for the Church, even greater than Blessed JPII and B16.
As Benedict tips his hat and fades into a Vatican monastery to live a life of prayer, I give you five ways you can celebrate and remember Benedict's papacy this week with family and friends.
1. Arrange Times to Reminisce
I did this publicly last week with Edmund Mitchell who blogs at Edmundmitchell.com and Ryan Eggenberger who blogs at Entrecatholic.com. We opened it up to people who wanted to join us via Twitter and watch on Ryan's web site. You can view us talking through our feelings about the news, our memories of Pope Benedict, the significance of the Chair of Peter, and our favorite writings of one of the most intellectually gifted popes in history. Feel free to view the video, share with friends, and organize your own hangout session. It really helped me think through this event, and it was edifying to hear great insights from thoughtful friends:
(Start a few minutes in, and fyi the Chair of St. Peter is a feast in the US, not a solemnity)
2. Make Cupcakes
I'm serious. One of the sisters at my convent is planning on making German chocolate cupcakes for February 28th with tiny Vatican flags (German chocolate - get it?). It may sound silly, but these little things help us as a community celebrate and "ritualize," if you will, what has been a big event for us in the Church. My mom did these kinds of things for my family when I was growing up. They seem unimportant, but they really help small communities feel a part of the larger Church community.
3. Share Your Favorite Encyclical/Writing of the Pope!
I have been astounded at the mistaken impressions many people have of this pope. It has been apparent in the coverage this event has received in mainstream media. One reason for this, is that most people get their information from hearsay, rather than drawing conclusions based on primary sources. "Try reading Benedict!" is the advice I give to skeptical friends, especially Catholics. After reading what he writes, I feel you cannot help but respect this brilliant, faith-filled man. His address to the Roman Curia in 2010, in which Benedict speaks to the horror of the abuse crisis, is one of the most heartbreaking and poignant pieces on the topic.
4. Pray for the Upcoming Conclave
I am a bit embarrassed to admit I didn't think I needed to pray for the conclave. I thought, "The Holy Spirit picks the pope so what is there to worry about?" (Pretty astounding lack of skeptical thinking for a former atheist I might say!) I later realized that my way of thinking, though seemingly pious, was incorrect.
A post by Michael Barber corrected me, in which he quotes Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, as saying:
"I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope. ... I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit's role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined."
Then the clincher: "There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!"So long story short, one of the best ways we can celebrate Benedict's papacy is to pray for him and for his successor. We need to be on our knees praying that the cardinals will choose the right man for the job!
Here is a beautiful prayer for this purpose, written by my friend Ami, that she has given me permission to share:
Dear Holy Spirit,
Today, I offer all that I am,/ and all I am becoming with you,/ I offer all my sacrifices and penances, / mortifications and prayers, joys and good deeds and holy aspirations / for the sake of pure love and trust / in Your perfect guidance / of the Roman Catholic Church in this new millennium. / May all that I am be a gift / to the entire Body of Christ, / whether it be through my strengths / and intentional good acts, / or even through my weaknesses, / my faults, and my failures. / May Your Inspiration fill the hearts of our Cardinals / who will be in such significant deliberations / during this Lenten season / as we move towards selecting the next / Holy Father of Your Church. / Guide them as you guide us / to always do Your Will, / to sacrifice for the sake of others, / and to grow everyday / to resemble even more / Our Beloved Jesus Christ. / Give them the strength / to endure any attacks / from media, misguided persons or / any other factor which may try to interfere / with your Truth being made known / on earth in these times, / as we so need You, / as we so love You, / and as we so desire You / to be with us as you promised, / present even until the end of the age. // My God, Father of all, / O blazing brilliant Holy Spirit, / O Perfect sacrifice of Love, / my Jesus, / Have mercy on us. //
You are Love, and would that / You be Loved! Trusted! Followed!
Another hi-tech way to pray for the conclave is to go to AdoptaCardinal.org and they will automatically assign you a cardinal to pray for! Super awesome idea.
Also, if you want to participate in a Fantasy Conclave and learn more about the process, visit FantasyConclave.com
5. Join the Twitter Storm
On February 27th and 28th, using the hashtag #ThanksPontifex, a storm of tweets will take over the social media site Twitter. This "storm" has been organized to thank Pope Benedict for all that he has done for the Church. If you are on Twitter, join the list of participants here. If you are not on Twitter, pray that this Twitter storm helps others to see how loved Benedict is by the Church!
_ _ _
Let us join in prayer for Benedict and our future Holy Father in this historic moment in the Church!