This morning, I thought about what I needed to do today to get through this day of Lent, this first day after Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesdays is so structured. We’re already given guidelines of how to keep the day holy and focused on prayer and sacrifice because we’re given the mandate to do a simple fast and to abstain from eating meat. As I thought about what I could do today, I felt a bit overwhelmed because, there’s no direction and my lack of planning has left me with too many options to choose from.
But I still feel called to take this day by day. And today, it is hitting me hard the fact that Pope Benedict XVI has abdicated and will step aside at 8:00 p.m. February 28. I have a slight fear that is growing inside of me. The majority of Lent for my Church spent with an empty leadership spot. THE leadership of our church…will be empty during a time when we, the faithful, are already in the desert. Lent can be a formidable season as it is. Who knows how long it will take to elect a pope. It has been reported that the conclave may not start until mid-March! Easter is March 31. I pray that we have a new Holy Father in place by Holy Week, I can’t imagine going through Holy Week without the message from our Holy Father and the encouragement as we walk the Passion with our Lord.
Honestly, when the news broke Monday, I wasn’t all that struck by it. I thought, “Surely, Papa Benny has taken this action with him in prayer and fasting for many months. No, this could not be a spur-of-the-moment decision” and I felt certain this has been weighing on him heavily and probably continues to weigh on him. Then when all the conspiracy theorists started in with their opinions about why the Pope would do this, I got defensive and found opposing, supportive opinions to combat those negative ones and to make myself feel a little better. Yesterday, I didn’t think much about it.
Today, my fears rose to the surface. The trust I have in Pope Benedict XVI as our Pope is what I fear losing in the next Pope. The Holy Spirit is guiding this ship, I know that, but even then…what if the humans in charge don’t hear the whisperings of the Holy Spirit as they choose Pope Benedict XVI’s successor? The political landscape in this country and the huge amount of ignorance about Catholicism that spews from the airways gets into my head and makes me wonder if the squeaky wheels will drown out the true voice of the Holy Spirit and the Cardinals will pick a Pope who will not uphold the teachings and truths and traditions of our faith?
So, today, my plan is to pray fervently for whoever our next Pope is. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy, I will pray as I walk my steps every time I take a break from my desk. Since I have no way of knowing who the next pope will be, my prayers will be centered on the intention that he accept the Chair of Peter without hesitation, that there be unity in our Church behind this man, that he be strong in the face of adversity and have the ability to communicate with all of us and encourage us to continue on our paths that we pray lead to being with our Heavenly Father.