O God, eternal shepherd,
who govern your flock with unfailing care,
grant in your boundless fatherly love
a pastor for your Church
who will please you by his holiness
and to us show watchful care.
Collect, Mass for the Election of a Pope or Bishop
Reflection - Well, here it is - Pope Day! Well, probably, anyhow - the first ballot yesterday evening and four ballots today certainly is a good start on the process. If not today, almost certainly tomorrow.
As I mentioned yesterday here, I offered the Mass for the election of a pope here in our England house. I was deeply struck by the prayer (above) which the Church offers for this occasion. This is the mind and heart of the Church as we approach this solemn moment of welcoming the successor of Peter onto the chair of Peter with all the awesome responsibility that comes with that. It is no joke that the room the newly elected Pope is ushered into and vested with the robes of his office, the room where he 'becomes' the Pope, so to speak, is called the Room of Tears. We really need to pray for this man, whoever he may be.
But this Collect tells us how to pray for him, I would suggest. And it is a fine corrective to the endless punditry that has come from all sides of the punditocracy, the pundit-sphere (Punditeria? Punditistan? The People's Democracy of Punditia?).
Ahem. Sorry - punning (pun-dit-ing?) is my ongoing untreated addiction. But really, from all sides of the equation has come ceaseless analysis and chatter about just what we need from a Pope. We need a reformer of the Curia. We need a charismatic evangelical presence. We need someone who can finally deal with the sex abuse scandals. We need a non-European. We need someone who will change every Church teaching to bring the Church into the 21st century for crying out loud. (OK, that last one is from the New York Times, who don't really count).
But how about... we need a pastor who will please God with his holiness? Because really... I kind of like that! A Pope who God will like! A Pope who will earnestly seek the will of God in all things and unite himself in prayer and in love to God's holy will, which is what holiness consists of. A Pope pleasing to God--please God that the cardinals will elect such a man for us!
And to us show watchful care. I like that, too. Not 'and solve every problem of the Church.' Not, 'and never make a mistake.' Not, 'and be all things to all people and thrill us all with his awesome charismatic popetude.' To show us watchful care. To do, as we say in Madonna House, the duty of the moment of the Bishop of Rome. To do little things exceedingly well... and in light of the truly divine actions of God, of Christ, of the Spirit in the world, the Pope spends his days doing little things. May he do them well out of love for God.
You know, as we've all been moving through the days and weeks since all this started, I have been pondering much the whole business of the papacy, not in its doctrinal and structural realities, which as a faithful Catholic I accept unreservedly, but in its current cultural expression--the host of expectations and attitudes we tend to adopt towards the current office-holder of the See of Rome.
I think we are out of balance on this front. The Pope is one man, with one job to do, and it is an important job, no question. But he is not the whole Church, he is (certainly!) not Jesus or God, he is not the entire magisterium or the whole of the episcopacy. He is one man, and he has one job to do, and that is to faithfully serve God as shepherd of the universal church to the utmost extent that a single human being can do that.
He cannot run every diocese or every parish. He cannot solve every problem. He cannot personally evangelize your disbelieving co-workers or bring back to Church your rebellious children or siblings. He cannot make every priest shape up, or even every bishop. He is one man, with one job to do, and that job is so huge that our best prayer is that he be a holy man who listens to God with ardent care and zeal.
So today is 'pope day'... I hope! Let us surround this poor man with our prayers and love, and ask God to lavish his graces and blessings on him, so that he can be a true servant of the servants of God who are us, and faithfully and nobly fulfill the great calling in life which God has given him.