Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Papal Election - It is a Dangerous Time

"It is a dangerous time. Pray for us." So said an un-named cardinal on the eve of the papal conclave’s opening to Mr. Robert Moynihan, editor of Inside the Vatican.

Today, on the first day of the conclave, the media in Rome are keeping an eye on the smoke emanating from the Sistine Chapel while simultaneously writing editorials or commentaries. Last night, Mr. Moynihan wrote of a Sunday evening encounter wherein he spoke to “a friend, an Italian woman,” who holds the personal opinion that Cardinal Schoenborn “is cultured, refined, eloquent, noble, handsome — especially handsome!” While such things sound impressive, are these the qualities actually needed to be a good and holy pope? No.  (Incidentally, after reading of Mr. Moynihan’s encounter, it seems that he is not as deeply impressed by Cardinal Schoenborn as is his friend.)
Unfortunately, the lady is basing everything on what in Cardinal Schoenborn appeals to her – his appearance, his education, the way he responded to her disabled son– in a word, she views everything via the telescope of “feelings.” It’s very good that a cardinal left a good impression; that is how it should be. However, Our Faith is not a matter of our emotions or other subjectivities; it is based on objective Truth.
A few moments of polite inter-action proves nothing on the spiritual measuring scale. In a word, the lady’s reactions are sanguine - cheerful, open, giving, and optimistic. Unfortunately, a sanguine reaction can also be one that is not inclined to seek “cause and effect” and thus it is extremely susceptible to that which appeals to the five senses, otherwise known as sensuality (“of the five senses”).
Then there is Cardinal Dolan, who (according to Fox News) “is quick with a quip and, more often than not, he is the target of his own sense of humor -- a trait that will continue to serve him well if he is to become the first American pope.”  Yes, Dolan is such a comedienne that in 2002 he thought nothing of wearing a “cheese head” mitre on the Feast of Our Lady’s Nativity. Why?  It was the opening day for the NFL (football) season and the brand new archbishop of Milwaukee, Wisconsin wanted to show his support of the Green Bay packers. (Wisconsin is known for its milk and cheese. Get it?)
An edifying act of supernatural prudence it was not. The cheese head mitre disgraced the office of priest and bishop, just to offer a moment of comic buffoonery to those with no sense of dignity and proper decorum.  Despite Fox News’s sanguine view that Dolan's sense of humor will serve him well if he becomes the first “American” pope (incidentally, that's an example of careless writing…If elected, Dolan would become the first American to become the Pope), the news service at least told the truth when their report stated that “Dolan is not immune to the stain of sex abuse scandals that plagued the church in past decades.” No kidding.

These things are disgraceful, and we cannot explain them away or ignore them. We must pray and *sacrifice* that the cardinals allow the Holy Ghost to inspire them to elect a pope who will lead the Church according to God’s Will – not theirs and not ours.
St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church, provides such wise counsel, imperative for the Church at all times but especially when “it is a dangerous time,” as the anonymous cardinal phrased it when speaking to Mr. Moynihan. As. St. Alphonsus wrote:
“As regards the bishops, very few of them possess genuine zeal for souls. Almost all religious communities — and one could omit the “almost” — are relaxed. As a result of the present state of general confusion, observance has collapsed and obedience is a thing of the past. The state of the secular clergy is still worse: so, in a word, there is a need for a general reform of all clerics and ecclesiastics if there is to be any improvement in the present great corruption of morals among the laity.”

“So we have to pray to Jesus Christ that He would give as Head of the Church one possessed of more spirit and zeal for the glory of God than of learning and of human prudence. He should be free of all party attachments and devoid of human respect. If, by chance, for our great misfortune, we should get a Pope that does not have the glory of God as his sole purpose, the Lord will not help him greatly and things from their present condition will go from bad to worse. However, prayer, which can provide a remedy for so many present ills, will move the Lord to put His hand to the problem and remedy the situation. (Excerpt from the saint’s letter to a bishop, dated 24 October, 1774 from Selected WritingsThe Classics of Western Spirituality)
Let's take the counsel of a saint who is also a Doctor of the Church. Cast your "vote" for a holy Pope by praying earnestly and making more sacrifices to God for this intention!



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