My heart is heavy today upon hearing of the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, the “unexpected announcement that rang out in the Consistory Hall.” Our family has grown to love him very much. One thing that you might expect us to say at a time like this, especially if you are not Catholic, is, “What now?” But there is no, “What now?” from us today, because the faithful know, “What now.” The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, and so there is no “what now,” for us in the sense that there is no dismay, confusion or worry. “Now” is the time for the Holy Spirit to take center stage, and we rejoice in that, in the midst of sorrow for the person who is our beloved Pope Benedict XVI, whom we love so much. Emotionally, this is a sensation I have never known before in my life, rejoicing in the Holy Spirit while sorrowing for the Pope in a situation that is not one of mourning his death, as it was with Pope John Paul II, but I welcome it as part of the journey of our magnificent Holy Church.
The Holy Father has announced that he will remain in office until February 28. As we see on the liturgical calendar, Lent begins for the Church in two days, on Ash Wednesday, and February 28 falls on Thursday of the Second Week of Lent. Lent, then, has a bit of an early start for all Catholics this year, in a sense. My friend R.J. Grigaitis suggests that we pray a 15-day novena Feb. 14-28 for the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter had already recommended a novena for the Holy Father to St. Peter for the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter from Feb. 14-22. R.J. Grigaitis, a fellow convert, suggests that we should extend that novena six days to the date the Pope will retire, Feb. 28. I concur.
Mater Ecclésiæ, ora pro nobis.