When I picked up my two boys from school last Thursday, they were all abuzz with news. Rather than bellyaching about homework or teasing each other in the backseat, they wanted me to know that they saw the Pope retire on TV in their classrooms that morning.
“It was sad to see him go,” said my second-grader, Justin.
“But he looked kind of happy when he was waving to the crowd at Castel Gandolfo,” noted my seventh-grader, Stephen.
My wife and I had seen the same live footage on EWTN and I was pleased that our Catholic school took time from classes to let the students view history in the making. As we drove by the public school down the block, with the students being dismissed, I was glad for the thousandth time that we were able to make the financial sacrifice to send our boys to Catholic school. In the public school, no matter how much better the computers may be, the students were deprived not only of prayer but also of viewing and discussing this Vatican scene that was the top news story throughout the world.
“Do you know what he said to the people from the balcony?” I asked.
“Be happy!” replied Justin.
“Don’t remember me. Remember Jesus!” Stephen said.
Interesting how the different ages heard or saw slightly different messages coming from the TV screen. The younger one expressed the Pope’s simplicity, told in “happy” or “sad.” The elder brother heard more of the message and got to the heart of Benedict. His whole life and pontificate was about, “Remember Jesus!”
At dinner that evening, I furthered the conversation by telling my wife, “Our boys saw history in the making today.” She listened as our sons described in differing details the bells ringing at St. Peter’s Square, the Pope flying in a helicopter from the Vatican to Castel Gandolfo, and the things he said and did before retiring to his room at the papal villa.
“So there’s no Pope now?” Justin asked.
“The cardinals will meet now to elect a new one,” I explained.
“It will be one of them who will become Pope,” Stephen added, always anxious to show his greater knowledge before his little brother.
As though following the train of thought, Justin said suddenly, “How many Stations of the Cross do we have in our church?”
“Fourteen,” I said, figuring they had covered this topic in religion class that day.
“What’s number fourteen?” he pressed on.
“Jesus is Laid in the Tomb,” I replied.
“Shouldn’t there be one more?” he continued.
“Well, some churches have a Fifteenth Station for the Resurrection, but I think that’s more to make us remember that Christ’s life didn’t end in the tomb. He rose from the dead.”
“It’s sort of like the Pope,” Justin said, getting to his point.
We all looked, puzzled.
“Just like Jesus died and rose again, so the Pope has gone away but he is still with us,” our son said.
“That’s a beautiful way of putting it,” my wife and I agreed.
For once, not even Stephen tried to get the final word on his brother. It was Benedict’s final lesson for our family.