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home : opinion : perspectives

2/28/2013 9:00:00 AM
The pope's humility
This is part of The Evangelist's ongoing series of reports from diocesan seminarians on their studies, work and development. To read previous installments, search for "seminarian diary." If you have any questions on studies for the priesthood you'd like answered in a future column, email them to kate.blain@rcda.org.

I've been thinking a lot about the Holy Father's announcement that he's resigning. It shocked the world. Traditionally, this is not the course that a pope would take, as it is a position that lasts until one is called by God to new life in heaven.

My reaction, though, is anything but disappointment or sadness. I see this as the ultimate act of humility, love for God and His people, what is best for the future of the Church and truly God's will.

A decision like this is discerned in prayer, much like a vocation to religious life. It is not the will that you and I possess that is the driving force behind the Holy Father's decision, just as it isn't for one discerning "a call" to the priesthood. It is not weighing salary and benefits, the lifestyle and retirement potential that brings one to a seminary; rather, it is an attempt at putting God's will and desire before one's own.

This is something that only those deeply rooted in a prayer life could understand. The hardest thing one can do is to set your own wants and needs aside in order to follow another. We tend to misunderstand this as submission in a negative way, but it is a choice made entirely on one's own, to put God's will before one's own.

Could we ever have such deeply-rooted humility to step aside so another could stand up and bear the cross? From paparazzi photos to skewed headlines, the papacy is made to appear as a life of royalty, but this boils down to pure ignorance.

When one is selected, through discernment of the voting cardinals, to become the next vicar of Christ, the weight of the world is placed upon his shoulders as soon as he steps out onto the papal balcony to give the apostolic blessing. His willingness to sacrifice himself and bear the scrutiny that comes along with holding such an office is unmatched in this world.

In a world that is filled with evil and hate for the Church, the newly-elected pope becomes the countercultural Jesus of the modern day, subject to the same rejection and persecutions as Christ Himself. Those who target the Church - its teachings, traditions, beliefs and practices - claim to be victims, rather than oppressors spreading the very hate that they claim to stand against.

The Church, sticking to its teachings, is a target for all who want the freedom to live as they see fit. But what right do I have to claim to be the final judge of what is morally right and wrong?

What sets the Church apart from you and me as the moral standard-setter is God the Father, revealing Himself in Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, and working throughout His creation by way of the Holy Spirit. It is not up to the Church to decide this or that based on what is popular. It is only through scholars and theologians who have studied the Bible and teaching of Christ in depth.

It's a tough pill to swallow to come to the understanding that we aren't as wise or intelligent as someone else. What do we as a society do in this case? We target that person, trying to discredit and mock them because we cannot come to the realization that we aren't on the same level.

This is how I see it when others attack the Church and her teachings. We spread hate speech behind the veil of righteousness and justice.

The Holy Father has one purpose and concern: you and me. He willingly bears the cross society places upon him and spends time on his knees in prayer for you and me every day. He asks God to not hold your sins against you, to instead further the weight upon himself and those who hold the chair of St. Peter.

The more he's attacked, the more he is willing. Yet there comes a time when he realizes it is time for another to stand up - one who can physically take the burden of the cross to a higher level, continuing where his predecessor left off.

Anyone who believes they could carry this endless and ever-increasing weight is truly blinded by their own ignorance. In his own words, the Holy Father said, "The path of power is not the road to God."

I commend the Holy Father for his willingness to serve God in the way that he has. He continues to do God's will. God bless Him and the contemplative life into which he is to journey. Viva il papa!

(Brian Kelly is a seminarian studying for the priesthood for the Albany Diocese at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. A native of Newtonville, he was formerly business manager at Holy Trinity parish in Cohoes.)

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