Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thank you for coming, Holy Father.

“Love reaches out.” That’s what Bishop Emeritus, Walter F. Sullivan, said to some 5th graders yesterday, as part of his talk on the visit of Pope Benedict the XVI. These three words have touched me deeply. They now frame my experience of this historic pilgrimage. As newspapers, network and cable stations vie for optimal coverage, enlisting the commentary of various “experts” on the Catholic Church in America, I will watch and listen with the rest of the world. But Bishop Sullivan’s words will echo beyond the observations of papal pundits and the questions of reporters who wish to open wounds that have only just begun to heal.

I had the opportunity to pray Evening Prayer with Pope Benedict at St. Paul Outside the Walls, in Rome. And, with several thousand others, receive his blessing from the window of his private office at the Vatican. I even got a pretty good photo of the Holy Father though he seemed miles away from where we were huddled together in St. Peter's Square. This “sighting” is different because he came to us. We are being visited and that simply fact is of great importance. Presence itself is a gift. I will listen with the ear of my heart to his words because he is the shepherd GOD anointed. Pope Benedict’s message – “Christ, our hope” – can not be disputed. Christ simply is our hope. Matters of discipline, practice or morals may elicit various opinions among the nation’s Catholic faithful. The People of GOD are always a bit ahead of the institution – always calling the Church to become its best self. That’s nothing new in a history of two thousand years. What we must never forget is that GOD has a plan for our blessing and somehow, Pope Benedict XVI has an integral part to play in its completion. That alone should inspire great reverence. Somehow, the Spirit chose him from among many – the very same Spirit who chose Paul and Barnabas in today’s gospel. That is why I pray GOD’s blessing on the Holy Father. GOD, for whom nothing is impossible, is not finished with this divine/human enterprise we call “church.” And because of the Spirit of the risen Christ, it will not fail.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki