Thursday, March 7, 2013

Taking their time is a good thing

We have now been seven days without a Pope and the Cardinals of the Church have yet to set a date for the beginning of the Papal Conclave to elect the next man to sit on the Chair of St. Peter.  And this makes many people nervous.

"What is taking them so long?"  "We need a new Pope before Easter!" "What are they waiting for?"  These and other things are some of the things that you hear being said.  But, I think the amount of time that the Cardinals are taking is a sign of a good thing.

First, of all, what is the rush?  We don't actually need a Pope before Easter.  Easter will still happen without a Pope.  Jesus still rose from the dead. We will still all gather in our parish churches.  The fire will be lit.  The Exultet will be sung.  The elect will be baptized.  Life will continue on as it always does.  It might even be a relief for our future Pope that he has a few moments to get his bearings before having to preside at such major liturgical events as Holy Week at the Vatican!

Additionally, this time as the Cardinals gather in their meetings, called General Congregations, are so very crucial.  It is during this time that they talk about the issues that are facing the Church.  The meetings that are taking place now are actually far, far more important than the Conclave itself.  From all reports, there isn't a whole lot of discussion that takes place once they are locked in (with a key, "con" "clave") the Sistine Chapel. In there, they will essentially pray and vote.  It is now as they gather that they are talking about the major issues the next Pope will have to face.  It is now that they are talking about the kind of qualities the Holy Father will need to have.

And, importantly, it is now that they are getting to know one another.  You know there isn't some kind of Cardinals Club where they gather for drinks and dinner every Saturday night.  By and large, the Cardinals don't interact all that frequently.  Many of them don't know one another very well.  This time, both in General Congregation, and just as importantly over meals and moments of recreation, they are getting to know each other and see up close what kind of men they are.  If the next Pope is to come from among them, as is the  norm (although not the only possibility), then these meetings are a critical time for them to get to know each other.

So, let them take their time.  It is good for the process and good for the church.

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