I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy accepting that the Pope will soon be gone. I’ve long admired him, because he was Pope during the whole time I’ve been Catholic.
My baptism story is clearer to me than the conclave that happened right after. I was 11 going to bed right before Easter morning, still unbaptized (though I’d been taught to make the Sign of the Cross, I was not officially a member of any church. My parents had decided to let me choose when I could reason, because most of my father’s family is LDS.) I remember dyeing Easter eggs and looking forward to candy the next day. Those fantasies filled my half-asleep mind when Mom came into the room, waking my brother and I, and turned on the television.
“Come watch the Pope’s homily,” she said, as I rubbed sleep out of my eyes and blinked hard against the sudden light. (The Pope at the time, though not for much longer, was John Paul II.) “It might be your last chance to hear him.”
And it was—we saw him struggle through those attempts to speak, before he was taken away. Pope John Paul II really spoke to me once before he went home, and being young all I knew was that this man was important.
He died soon after. I’d never seen my mother cry like she did when they showed him in the coffin. I didn’t quite understand—because I didn’t know the impact he had on the world.
That was when Mom realized we had to be part of a church. She says it’s a miracle of the late Pope. When faced with the decision between Catholicism and Mormonism, I told her I wanted to be like my Catholic grandma. Mama Carmen always came with her prayer books and candles, her spirituality amazing me to this day. I wanted that kind of relationship with God, and even though I’d been exposed to more of LDS tradition in my short lifetime, I chose Rome. It was the best decision I ever made, for to this day it gives my life meaning.
I was baptized on April 16, 2005; the conclave where Pope Benedict XVI was elected took place on the 18. He has always been my Pope, and even though he hasn’t gone home, I find it difficult to let him go. I trust that the next Pontiff will be God’s choice and the right man to shepherd His people, but the transition will be difficult, and I will always miss Pope Benedict.
What I realize writing this is that if during a conclave I was given the great gift of joining the Church, surely the same will happen now. People will ask questions, the faithful will answer, and it’ll be a chance to evangelize. A person will ask, “How do you elect a Pope?” Answer this, and you’ll open their eyes to our rich tradition and the beauty that is our Church. Even if they walk away, they’ll walk away wondering. I’m optimistic that this unexpected turn of events will bring light to many souls. It’ll be a beacon to people around the world; while news channels speak of the conclave, people who didn’t know before will realize there is a visible Church where their weary souls can find refuge.
With a heavy heart, then, I will say farewell to my dear Pope Benedict XVI. I pray that he may live his last years in peace knowing he has touched many souls. As you can see in the video, this humble man doesn’t care for applause–he did it all as a faithful servant of God. Somewhere he will still be around–just imagine that! He’s not dead, he’s right here with us, a part of the Church Militant praying for her just like the Saints do. Meanwhile we must offer the new Pope our love and support, for even though the adjustment will be difficult, God knows what He’s doing.
Thank you, Holy Father. You have our hearts.