February 28, 2013

Thank you, Papa!

Do you remember that day? I can tell you exactly what I was doing. It was 90 minutes before my senior thesis was due, and I was writing the last paragraph. We had stayed up all night (6 of the 8 girls in our Literature class), writing, reading each other's work, reciting bits of Peter Pan and The Hound of Heaven, editing, editing, editing.

I had avoided the last paragraph. I knew what I wanted to say, but I wanted to be sure, so I combed through the paper over and over again, looking for gaps in my reasoning, cutting the awkward turn of phrase, paring down the quotations, eliminating commas. 11 o'clock rolled around -- two hours till class -- and we sent two girls down to the cafeteria to grab us food. The bells tolled noon; we stopped and prayed the Angelus. Then quickly got back to work.

The bells rang again, and we started to cross ourselves, "The Angel of the Lord declared ... wait...we just prayed this, didn't we?" And the bells kept ringing and ringing and ringing, so loudly, so quickly, so joyfully. Then the patter of shoes down the hall, and cheerful shots: "We have a new Pope!"

In a burst of energy, I typed the last three sentences of my thesis, clicked save, and ran down to the cafeteria, where we had had a huge projector screen set up since Pope John Paul II's funeral. The cafeteria was already packed. Fr. Fessio sitting in the front with our Benedictine nuns, and the other priests, everyone else crowded around the awkward tables, standing on chairs, trying to see. The room was electric with excitement.

And then the joyful news! Fr. Fessio was crying, everyone was cheering, and hugging and jumping up and down, and I was certain they could hear us celebrating for miles around. Then he came out, and spoke -- humble and beautiful, and definitely surprised by all our joy:
Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope, John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble worker in the Lord's vineyard.

The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers

In the joy of the resurrected Lord, we go on with his help. He is going to help us and Mary will be on our side. Thank you.
And all that afternoon and evening the daily routine of school work was interrupted by joyful shouts: "Habemus Papam!" and everyone would cheer.

And since then, three powerful and challenging encyclicals, three exuberant World Youth Days, and a joyful visit to the US. The Anglican Ordinariate, and his beautiful visit to England and Scotland. The courage and conviction of his dealings with scandals in the Church, the out-pouring of love he showed to victims, to the hurt, oppressed, those caught in the cross-fire of war. And his wonderful, gentle spirit, his fatherly care.

I couldn't imagine a world without Pope John Paul II, because he was the only Pope I had ever known. Now I find it hard to imagine a Church without Pope Benedict, because in the Church guided by him, I grew up. I became an adult in the faith: living it in the world, struggling, pursuing, thriving, rejoicing, trying to witness always to Christ's love. These years have been hard on the Church, but they have been rich with blessings, not the least of which is our Holy Father.

And I cannot grieve: the Church is still guided by the same thing it has always been guided by: the Holy Spirit. I won't bother quoting from Pope Benedict's final General Audience, because I want you to go read the whole thing. It may be my favorite thing he's ever written.

But let's end with this: Cardinal Sodano (Dean of the College of Cardinals), said this afternoon, in Rome:
"The journey of your pontificate was a reliving of the experience of the disciples of Emmaus who, after walking with Jesus for a good stretch of road, said to one another: 'Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way?' Yes, Holy Father, know that our hearts were also burning when we were walking with you in these past eight years. Today we want to once again express to you our gratitude. We repeat together a typical expression of your dear native land: 'Vergelt's Gott', may God reward you!”

Thank you, Papa! I love you, and pray for you, and am so profoundly grateful for you!


  1. So beautiful, Maggie! I too feel as if I've grown into an adult with Pope Benedict as my guide. What an incredible gift it has been to live during two such pontificates. I can't wait to see what God has in store for us next!

  2. What a wonderful memory! Thank you, Maggie!

  3. Beautiful, Maggie.