Reposting from The FilAm, the online magazine of the Filipino-American community in NYC
As the cardinals gather in Rome this week to prepare for the conclave, Catholics around the world, including myself, can only wait, pray and love.
Wait. There is an old saying in Rome is that “he who enters a conclave as pope exits as a cardinal”. Following the last day in office of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the media –and the public at large—have not ceased on speculating about the new pope. The Philippines’ own Cardinal Luis Tagle has been tagged as Asia’s papabile (i.e. “pope-able”) because of his Chinese heritage, ability to speak Mandarin, personal charisma, and theological intellect. Of course, there are also Latin American, African and European papabili. Indeed, anyone in the religion beat these days will think of himself as an election beat reporter: discussing the pros and cons of each candidate, looking at their track records as cardinals, and highlighting issues that ought to be (in their view) tackled by whoever is the next pope.
But unlike elections for the presidency, we should not forget that the conclave is an exercise that is both human and divine. It is human, in the sense that the candidates–who are themselves the electors–are made up of fallible men and therefore, can be swayed by human considerations. It is divine, in the belief that the Holy Spirit will enlighten their decision. In any case, unlike the election for the presidency, not one of these candidates, actually want the job. More likely they are shaking in their local brand shoes with no desire of stepping into red Italian ones. Also, Michaelangelo’s The Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel, which hovers above the chalice wherein they will cast their ballot, should help keep human interests at bay.
Pray. As the ordinary Catholic faithful, we cannot be indifferent to these historic moments of the Church. When John Paul II died, the world mourned. The world had lost a great man, we, Catholics had lost a father. When Benedict XVI resigned, I think, we had—still have—mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was mourning all over again for the loss of a father. On the other hand, it was rejoicing for him who deserved to rest and enjoy the remaining years of his life without the weight of the world on his shoulders. As Catholics, the right thing to do is support the conclave with our prayers and sacrifices. I guess we shouldn’t be so presumptuous as to think that the Holy Spirit will take care of it anyway. Yes, God can bring out the greatest good even in the worst situations; but in the meantime, we can suffer for our lack of prayer and faith as did the Catholics during the years when the least holy men were put on the seat of Peter.
Love. A good Catholic learns to love whoever ends up as Pope. Not because of the person per se, but because he has inherited the shoes of the Fisherman and is therefore, alter Christus (Christ’s representative on Earth). The greatest mistake Catholics can make is to look upon this event like outsiders. Many times we forget that the Church is not St. Peter’s Basilica. It is, in Catholic theology, the Mystical Body of Christ, of which Christ, its founder is the head, represented by his vicar on Earth, i.e. Peter and his successors. We make up the rest of the body. Therefore, whether we like it or not, the issues that the Church faces –from paedophilia, to alleged corruption and the persecution of Christians—are issues that hurt us all. That’s the reason we have to pray for those who assume its leadership have the ability to tackle these issues as its Founder would rather than the popular solutions put forth by media pundits and political kibitzers. #