Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus papam

It's an exciting day. We have our first new pope in 26 years, Benedict XVI, and tomorrow is my 25th birthday!

After hearing Ratzinger speak at John Paul's funeral, I'd say our new pontiff is a man of prayer and reasonably humble.

As Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said prior to the conclave, that's probably the best we can expect from a successor to John Paul II.

Here are some things about the papacy that give me hope for the future:

1. They say the job of pope changes the man, not vice versa. Nobody expected Pope John XXIII to launch the modernizing Second Vatican Council.

2. Ratzinger was not only an architect of Vatican II, but was also John Paul's point man for implementing its reforms.

3. Catholics believe the Holy Spirit guides our pope and church. All else is secondary.

I'll segue from that last point into a personal anecdote.

I was in Indianapolis last weekend for a Wabash College alumni reception.

As was daily the case during my life at all-male Wabash, the scene seemed lifted directly from the pages of an Evelyn Waugh novel.

Wabash is the type of liberal arts environment where the sheepskin degrees are in Latin and students deliver lectures on Dostoevsky while vomiting into trash cans. One is trained there to be ready for anything.

So while we were mingling and smoking cigars, it did not surprise me that people of all persuasions (personal and intellectual) wanted to talk religion with me.

Sometimes they were confrontational. One former classmate told me he was barely hanging on to Catholicism.

He had a litany of tensions and torments. His parents are no longer Catholic. He feels pressured for being the last one in his family to still attend Mass, and this only monthly. He feels tormented by a perceived call to be both married and a priest.

This guy wanted my feedback.

I said I thought all of the things he expressed were very important, but perhaps secondary to a more important issue: his relationship with Christ.

While it is good to be passionate about our tensions with the church, I think our opinions on such matters can serve to distract us from more important realities of Catholic life.

One can appreciate that some Catholics disagree with certain teachings and also appreciate that those teachings will probably not change.

The real question is how we live with those tensions within the Roman Catholic framework.

Do we ignore them, retreating into the comfort zone of our active imaginations and intimate social circles? Or do we sincerely seek a Christ-centered way of addressing them each day that allows us to live peacefully and generously?


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July 22, 2006 10:29 PM  
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July 22, 2006 11:06 PM  

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