04 March, 2013

The Pope's Last Day

There are days you want to remember because they were the happiest day of your life, others because it changed your life, still others that you'll never forget because they were so terribly sad.  Today isn't really any of those days.

Today is a historically epic day.  A day that no living person on earth has ever experienced before.

The Shepherd of the Catholic Church retired.  This is simply unprecedented.

As I write about today, it's not that anything profound happend just that I want to remember it.  It's one of those days, like "Where were you when Challenge exploded?"  "What were you doing when Kennedy was shot?"  "Do you remember how you felt that exact moment as you watched the second plane hit the Twin Towers?"

This will always and forever be, "Do you remember watching Pope Benedict say farewell?"

Two weeks ago I woke up and scrolled through my Twitter feed. Twitter is my newspaper. I scan the headlines, click to read interesting stories.

This is how I found out that my pastor was named Bishop at 6 am before he even emailed the staff.

This is how I found out that Pope Benedict XVI was stepping down.  I read the press release and starting calling and texting anyone I knew that was awake at the crack of dawn: two of my best friends, Dennis and Alyshia.

We had mixed feelings as we speedily texted back and forth while simultaneously getting ready for work, feeding a baby, and monitoring Twitter as the rest of the East Coast was awaking to the news.

There were feelings of disappointment - this isn't a job...it's a lifetime vocation. Yet understanding that he is an frail old man in failing health.

Regardless, we will never know his heart but only sympathize that this was undoubtedly the most difficult decision he has ever, ever made.

We were all heavy hearted that day around the parish office. Our pastor had just received his call to be a bishop by Benedict XVI just weeks before and the smiles still hadn't worn off.  While my friend Sarah had returned from Rome just days before and said that she was not at all surprised by the news, as the Pope was barely able to give his audience and blessing.


Today was no different.  Many of us sat in our offices with two or three news sources streaming with Twitter updating.  Others didn't seem to care, and that was weird to me.

~~~~~ (continued Monday, March 4)

I sat with my eyes glued as the Pope boarded his helicopter and the bells tolled for the last time.  The view of the flight was spectacular.

Pope Benedict landed at Castel Gandolfo and immediately went inside the Papal Palace and offered a very brief final blessing and parted with these words,
You know that this day for me is different from previous ones: I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church: until eight in the evening I will be still, and then no longer. I am simply a pilgrim who begins the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth.

The tears streamed down my face.  The news reporters predicted this may be the last time we ever see him.

At this point the only other "event" to take place was the closing of the doors and changing of the guard.

I couldn't do anything. I was mentally exhausted.  Not in the same way as when John Paul II died, but in a sad-for-him trying-to-wrap-my-head-around-it sort of way.  I ordered Mexican take out and picked up Evie from the sitter.  We arrived home just in time to start streaming the final 30 minutes of Pope Benedict's time as Roman Pontiff.

Evie sat on my lap.  The Pope made one last appearance to bid farewell to the faithful and to thank his guards.  As the crowd clapped, Evie clapped.  She had no idea what was going on, but I wanted to share this moment with her.

Pope Benedict XVI did his truly last blessing as Pontiff and the doors were closed.

The Swiss Guards saluted the Vatican Police.  And a single bell tolled.

That was it.  It was over.  We are now sede vacante.



This week has been very different that when Pope John Paul II.  There was a heartache when JPII died. Maybe because I was in college and we studied so many of his writings I felt like I knew him? Maybe because he had been Pope for my entire life?  Losing him was like using a grandparent.

My feelings of the end of Benedict's reign is most like losing a good boss. You're sad to see them go, but you know their retirement was for the good of all.

I still have mixed feelings about the whole thing in general.  Part of me feels like the office should be honored, it's a life time position.  But the other part of me deals with an extended family member with a failing memory and I totally get the humility it takes to step down.  I've decided that it's okay not to have a strong opinion one way or the other on this matter.  Because it doesn't matter.

I am looking forward to the weeks to come as the new Pope is elected and shortly after my pastor will be ordained a Bishop! A very exciting time, indeed!

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