I’ve been so busy talking, emailing, IMing, and commenting on other blogs, (not to mention grading papers, dealing with troubled students, etc.) that I haven’t yet posted on this momentous event.
I was in my office grading papers when Dad called yesterday afternoon and declared those wonderful Latin words: habemus papam!
We didn’t yet know who it was, but still what excitement. I don’t know if I can explain how thrilling it was.
Then dad got off the phone and I called Dom. I was on the phone with him and he was watching the tv coverage when the cardinal deacon came out onto the balcony to make the joyful announcement. I really wished I could have been watching. Dom did record it and I watched last night, but by that time the newness had worn off a little bit. Maybe because I was past the initial thrill of the good news, then the sight of that white hat above someone else’s face felt sad. I have never known another pope besides John Paul II. I like Ratzinger, I am thrilled he is our new pope, but I still felt disoriented and upset. Like a child does when a favorite uncle comes to pick her up from school instead of Daddy. It isn’t that she dislikes the uncle, but Daddy is gone and she feels bereft. That’s how I felt seeing Benedict’s fact as he emerged onto the balcony to give his first blessing. Mingled with the excitement and the joy was a little stab of loss. I won’t see that beloved face again until we meet one day in heaven, God willing.
And I can tell he would understand that feeling. He said that after John Paul the Great, he is simply a humble worker in the Lord’s vinyard. He asked for our prayers and said he would need them. Praised God for being able to do great things wil inadequate tools. What a wonderfully humble man.
Certainly this speech was nothing like John Paul’s “Be not afraid.” But how could it be? They are two very different men. Ratizinger is Ratzinger and Wojtyla is Wojtyla. We still have that “be not afraid” ringing in our ears, it did not need to be repeated and it would have felt hollow if he tried.
Ratzinger said what he needed to say about John Paul II at the funeral homily, now he looks forward to the future with only a quick glance at the past. He is old, he wanted to retire. The Holy Spirit had other ideas. He will go where he is needed, do what needs to be done, just as John Paul did. But he will need our prayers and support. What a heavy weight he must bear now. What a blessing for us that he is willing to bear it.