If I could actually write well, the piece I would have liked to be able to write about the Holy Father would be something very like the piece written by Thomas L. McDonald ’night, Papa.
Here is just a snippet:
And I will miss him more than words can express. He was “my” pope. I read him for years as Joseph Ratzinger, marveling at a mind so sharp it could convey complex points with utter simplicity. As someone called to a teaching ministry, I was inspired by his ability to teach at any level required of him, and teach so well that he also could inspire. There were those who greeted the news of his election with dismay, because they understand the Church primarily through the lens of power and politics and modern obsessions. I was overjoyed, because I understand that the Church’s role primarily is pedagogical. An evangelical church is, first and foremost, a teaching Church. And what better leader for a teaching Church than a wise and compassionate teacher?
Whoever next occupies the See of Peter will also be my pope, but at the age I am and being the man I am, I doubt I will ever have the kind of connection that I had with Benedict. After many years of spiritual wandering far away from my Catholic roots, his was the quiet voice that summoned me back and showed me a new way. He reshaped the way I think. All of the reading and education and influences that went into furnishing my mental apartment is now viewed through a Ratzingerian lens.
As a convert there is something wonderful about your first experience with the build up to the conclave and then to the first report of white smoke. Although this was bittersweet with the passing of Blessed John Paul II. Still your first experience of the interregnum and election of a new pope can be quite exciting. The fact that I was already quite a fan of Cardinal Ratzinger regarding his books and leadership in the CDF it was even more special. Long before he was pope I had been following the Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club along with digging into his writings and so to have your favorite Cardinal elected as pope is pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Pope Benedict throughout his life has combined talents rarely seen. A bookish professor with leadership skills is a rare thing indeed. One that can make hard and wise decisions while also teaching the fullness of the faith is even rarer. Some might have seen his election as a “caretaker” pontificate, and he has indeed taken care of us. We don’t have the long eyes of history to fully see the impact he has had as pope. Still we can see many visible impacts now from both his leadership and teaching. Wiser people than I have already listed many of them.
It is hard to process all my feelings regarding Pope Benedict XVI. There is already a selfish sense of loss and apprehension for thinking forward to 2:00 PM EST tomorrow, when the Pope’s abdication takes effect. As hard as this hits me, I don’t quite understand those who are angry with the Holy Father for resigning. They want him to continue as Pope because they trust his judgment, but don’t trust his long-prayerful judgment regarding this. I wish it had been otherwise, but if anything I love him more for this. I will be praying for him and am thrilled that he will also be praying for us.
Again there is also the bittersweet feeling regarding the impending interregnum, the start of the conclave, and the election of a new pope. I feel bad for getting excited about this as if it was disrespectful. Still it is an exciting time for Catholics, especially for Catholics who entered the Church after Pope Benedict XVI’s election.
I am pretty much ignorant regarding the majority of the Cardinals or the favored papabile of the day. While there are some Cardinals I really like and who might make great popes, I have no special insights as to who the conclave might pick. It is easy to fall into the idea of “Wouldn’t it be great if ‘Cardinal X’ from ‘Country/Continent X’ became pope. Where the location and not the man is more important. I might feel a bit of this in regard to Cardinal Tagle of the Philippines because of my own connections to that country and the seeming humility of the man. The mean side of me could root for Cardinal Burke to be elected just for the total freak-out reaction regarding dissident Catholics and much of the world. Although a pope being Catholic and faithful to the Church might get roughly the same reaction.
With Mr. McDonald I totally concur in repeating.
And all we can say will be, “Good night, papa, and thank you.”