I found out about the Pope’s resignation early yesterday morning as I was scrolling through my Facebook account on my I-Phone. Minnesota Public Radio had a note that the Pope had resigned. I would almost expect to find out about such an announcement from an angel blowing a trumpet from the sky—not reading a post in the dark on my phone. But this is the age we live in.
Pope Benedict knew about the changes in our age. Through his resignation he recognized that the head of the Catholic Church had to be in top physical form. Even though no Pope had resigned in six centuries he was willing to break this tradition. The mission of the church was too important. Mission trumped precedent.
I find this breaking of precedent a wonderful breath of fresh air. Though I disagreed with Pope Benedict on many issues and was not supportive of his election to the Papal Office, his willingness to adapt wins my admiration.
I have deep respect for the Catholic Church. My wife, Amy, is Administrator of St. Joseph of the Lakes Catholic Church in Lino Lakes; I frequently attend Mass there on Saturday evenings and even share my own vocal gifts. I have a certificate of appreciation for volunteering my time from the church on my office wall. I hope and pray that the Catholic Church will thrive under the next Pontiff.
The stakes for the Catholic Church could not be higher. Even though the church has lost its influence it still is the most important religious institution in the world. The numbers bear this out—1.1 billion Catholics in the world, 60 million Catholics in the United States, 1.1 million Catholics in Minnesota, the St. Joseph of the Lakes has approximately 1,750 families. Those are numbers that many of us Protestants can’t comprehend in their size.
But the takeaway for me in the last 24 hours is not wondering who the next Pope will be—the media will have plenty of time to egg on speculation in the next six weeks. The takeaway is that one man through a process of discernment believed that he wasn’t able to do his job because of his physical limitations. So he resigned without letting people know in advance (and who wouldn’t have loved to break that story!); and he resigned in a breaking of long precedent.
This one man needed to make a decision. He was able to get out of himself and place himself before God in a process of spiritual discernment. This is an example for all of us.
Bravo, Pope Benedict! Bravo!