Well. I had a post on my trip to Rome just about finished, but then I heard some news this morning. I figured this was a bit more important…
This morning, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he is stepping down from his place as Supreme Pontiff; he is resigning. Needless to say, the Church (and the world) were shocked. And rightly so: this hasn’t happened in 600 years. I believe in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope has resigned a total of 5 or 6 times. So it’s a bit of an “unknown”- no one exactly knows how this is all going to work out.
Now, because I’m at a Catholic University, studying in Europe for the semester, this event hits a little closer to home. After the initial “freak-out-oh-my-gosh-Is-This-Happening?-THIS-IS-HAPPENING!”, we all realized how incredible it is that we are on this side of the ocean, right now.
14 days ago, Grace and I were standing in St. Peter’s Square, listening to a performance at some sort of a youth cultural event, counting down the minutes until we got to see Pope Benedict. We cheered as loud as anyone when he emerged from the window, and even though we couldn’t understand a word of what he said in the address (except for “Carpe Diem!”), it was thrilling to be there, in front of the Vatican, along with thousands of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We prayed the Angelus in Latin with him, and he gave us a blessing. I felt ridiculous for crying, but it really couldn’t be helped: he’s our father, Christ’s representative here on earth, and I was meeting him for the first time. The added bonus was returning to Austria and finding out that we were shown for over 10 seconds of a video on not only Rome Reports, but EWTN.
Every semester, Franciscan University provides the students an opportunity to go to Rome and Assisi for 10 days. We will be getting on a bus the same day that Pope Benedict steps down. We will arrive in Rome on March 2, potentially in the middle of or at the beginning of a conclave. We could be present for the election of a new Pope.
OK, so here’s the neat part. The University may not be able to get us into the Vatican Museums; Grace and I went on a private tour of the Museums and saw the Sistine Chapel with less than 100 people inside. It may be difficult to really see the Basilica while there are so many people there; Grace and I saw that already. We even saw part of the crypt and had Mass at St. Peter’s tomb… Really, though! This has to be God’s doing!
In a mere 19 days, I will once again be standing in St. Peter’s Square. This time, though, I will literally be part of history. I really can’t wait.
If you are Catholic, please, please pray for our Pope as he finishes his last days as Pontiff. I can’t imagine the amount of humility he has in order to accept that his health isn’t good enough to adequately lead the Church. Pray for the Cardinals who are preparing to elect a new leader for us. (If you are not Catholic, please still pray for our Church!)
May God bless Pope Benedict XVI as he begins this next stage in his life and as he enters a life of prayer for the Church!