On the silence of the Chair of Peter

On Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. local time, the doors closed at Castel Gandolfo, Italian police took the place of the Swiss Guards and the Catholic Church no longer had a Pope.

A sense of mourning settled into my heart as I realized the Pope who had guided my Church throughout most of my early adult life was no longer our Holy Father.

Of course, like most Catholics, I realize that this transition is part of God’s will. It is an act that, while we may not be able to make total sense of it now, will ultimately lead the Church into deeper union with Him.

However, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d lost my own father. Pope Benedict was not only a figurehead, but rather the true father of the Church.

Understandably, the thought of losing one’s father would be saddening to anyone. But what struck me even more deeply after telling God about this was how much I relied on others, even our Holy Father, more than Him.

Of course, as children of God, we are the hands and feet of Christ while on earth. This means we are called to love and serve others as representatives of Christ, allowing Him to work through us so that “it is not I who lives, but Christ.”  But how often, do we give our praise, admiration and attention to the “hands and feet” rather than the One to whom they belong?

So now, as the Church enters a time of Sede Vacante, many Catholics are left with bittersweet sense of loss – I know that was my own impression upon seeing Benedict XVI disappear behind the doors of Castel Gandolfo.

But let us remember that although we love and revere our dear Papa Benedict, he was simply the Vicar of Christ. Any reverence or affection that we have for the Pope is a result of his resemblance to the One he serves.

I think it’s fitting that Pope Benedict is stepping down during this Year of Faith and during the first half of Lent. The act of humbly admitting (and drawing attention to) one’s own human frailty speaks volumes not only of Benedict’s God-given virtue, but also of his total and complete reliance on Our Heavenly Father – a beautiful example that all of us should pray to have the grace to follow.

Now, as the Holy See is both vacant and silent, I am reminded of the attention Benedict XVI often drew to the necessity of silence in order to foster a healthy relationship with God.

In his Oct. 6, 2006 homily, he stated, “We need that silence which becomes contemplation, which introduces us into God’s silence and brings us to the point where the Word, the redeeming Word, is born.”

As the Holy See is silent during this time of transition, let us ask God to cultivate in our hearts a sense of awe at the fact that the Word became Flesh to dwell among us.

He too came and then left us for a short time. However, we know that after the Crucifixion comes the Resurrection and after the Resurrection comes the Second Coming.

We will no longer see our beloved Benedict addressing the faithful in St. Peter’s Square or challenging youth to respond to the message of the Gospel at a World Youth Day, but we must remember that he is praying for the Church and that the next Successor of Peter will be the man that the Holy Spirit chooses.