I wasn't prepared for how awful I felt watching Pope Benedict's helicopter fly out over Rome yesterday. It wasn't yet 2 pm EST, so I wasn't expecting it, and the emptiness that I felt startled me.
I remember Blessed John Paul's final illness and death like it was yesterday. I was about 8 weeks pregnant with Henry, which was a great comfort to me, and of course we had all known that John Paul's death was coming. Although Paul VI was pope when I was born, he and John Paul I died when I was far too young to remember. So, John Paul II was the only pope that I'd ever known, and I LOVED him. I mean, LOVED him. It was the great goal of my life to meet him in person, and I was never able to. Mike and I do have a papal blessing from him when we married 3 months prior to his death, which is of course very special to us.
So, John Paul II's long decline was hard on me, but it just seemed to me like he would live forever. It just didn't seem possible for me to imagine the Church without him. But toward the end there I could see the writing on the wall, and I prepared myself. The new life growing within me felt even more poignant as John Paul passed away.
I remember the mourning period, the funeral, the conclave. I still felt numb. And when Benedict was elected, I was thrilled, because I knew how close he was to John Paul, and I felt confident in his ability to lead the Church.
Now, with his resignation, it all feels so different. I'm glad that he's still here with us, praying for us all. But him stepping down feels very jarring to me, and having the Church without a pope really scares me.
I hear that Monday the cardinals will meet to set a date for the conclave, that'll be good. I remember the last interregnum and this one feels both the same and different, if that makes any sense. It's so strange, it's so exciting, it's so sad, all in one.
I hope that we have a new pope soon, and that he is spectacular. I keep reading in the newspaper about how "Pope Benedict leaves a church in crisis, his successor will have so much to deal with." Well yes, but isn't that always the case? Is the Church (indeed, the world) ever NOT in crisis in some form or another? I think that the media is just trying to stir the pot.
Yesterday evening after our takeout, we put on BBC World News for a spell, and their coverage wasn't too objectionable. There was the inevitable speculation about "papal favorites" which is completely pointless, but there you have it. After that segment was over, I put on EWTN, which was airing a Mass for Benedict at the National Shrine in Washington DC. It was lovely.
It comforted me to pray our Lenten rosary decade with Henry before he went to bed. He's *adorable* with his new rosary beads, and he keeps pleading with me to pray the entire rosary. Given that it takes us at least 10 minutes just to get through a single decade I've been reluctant (at least before bed) but I love that he's enjoying it so much. I'm very blessed to have him; I think he's going to grow up to be a kind and wonderful person and (please God!) a great Catholic.
These are historic and important days that we're experiencing, and I'm so glad to be sharing it with all of you. Let's all aim for a prayerful weekend, and I'll check back in, as ever, on Monday. :)