Today I was going to write about Lent. About what I'm giving up (going out for lunches during the week. I've been spending too much money doing that lately, and need to cut back) and what I was going to do as something extra (finally learn all the mysteries of the Rosary. As a lifelong Catholic who is almost 35, I should know them by now, but don't). I might do some extra spiritual reading as well, but I haven't decided on the book yet. Perhaps something by our Holy Father?
Because I would be remiss if I didn't say something instead about today's big news: that Pope Benedict XVI has decided to abdicate the Chair of Peter. In his statement, he said:
"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have
come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no
longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual
nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less
with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many
rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of
faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the
Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in
the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have
had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry
entrusted to me."
I've seen all sorts of reactions on Facebook, mostly reflecting shock (the first post I saw, just after 7, said nothing about resignation but only that we'd have a new pope by Easter, which for a moment made me think His Holiness had passed suddenly), but also prayerful acceptance and understanding, along with praise for his humility.
One, however, criticized his decision to do so right before Lent. But I think he chose this week, this day, on purpose. Not only is today the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, but also World Day of the Sick. If His Holiness is indeed ill and suffering, that makes so much sense. But the fact that Lent begins Wednesday, to me, makes his announcement today even more profound. Lent is a time of reflection, a time to turn and return to the Lord, to offer Him our failures, our sorrows, our need for healing on all levels, to be open to His grace and recall that without Jesus' sacrifice, we would truly be without hope.. What better time to entrust the entire Church to the Lord? For the Church Universal to really increase in prayer, for both our Holy Father as he serves out his last weeks, as well as for the cardinals who will soon enter Conclave to choose Benedict's successor? The Pope even directs us to do so in his statement:
"And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme
Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that
she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in
electing a new Supreme Pontiff."
May God bless Pope Benedict, his successor, and all the Church! And may you have a blessed Ash Wednesday!