Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fr. Jeremy's Report on the Beginning of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome

March 19, 2013

Dear Abbot Gregory and Confreres, Msgr. Betschart and Colleagues, Seminarians and Students,

Yesterday it poured rain and the wind blew hard.  The storm cleared and cleaned the skies, and this morning was fresh and beautiful.  It is the Solemnity of St. Joseph and the "Beginning of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome," Pope Francis.  The crowds moved toward St. Peter's early in the morning.  I left Sant' Anselmo at 7 o'clock for the Mass that was to begin at 9:30.  

I arranged to be on Cardinal Levada's terrace again.  It was not easy to get to his door because security was so tight.  In fact, it was rumored that there would be so many people and the security was so strict that in the end, I think, many fewer than expected actually showed up.  Probably many Romans who might have otherwise come stayed home, while those who came from elsewhere would certainly have come anyway.  In any case, by the time Mass began, the piazza was full.

I was at the Cardinal's house by 8:15 and had a cup of coffee with him just before he himself left to go to the Mass.  I went into his chapel to pray Vigils and Lauds and as a result missed seeing the Pope drive around the piazza greeting many people.  I'm sorry for that but had a good time of prayer in his chapel, which is dedicated to St. Joseph.

I followed the Mass both from the terrace and from a television just inside.  For example, I would be outside for the prayers and songs but came inside to follow the homily more easily.  There was a joyful spirit all round.  As I said, it is the feast of St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church; and the Pope used what he called this "happy coincidence" to speak of what it means to begin his Petrine ministry on this day.  Following the example of St. Joseph, he urged us all to be "guardians" of Jesus.  This nicely developed into the Petrine ministry as a guardian but also he suggested that all of us as guardians - guardians of all the good things God has given us: the creation, the young and the old, the weak and the poor.  (But you all can read his very words easily enough.  No point in my attempting to summarize them here.)

The new Pope has certainly won people over with his simplicity and warmth.  He spoke in the homily of not being afraid to show tenderness in our relationships with each other, and that has shown through in all that he has done so far as Pope.

Cardinal Levada kindly invited me to stay for lunch.  As I waited for him to return from St. Peter's, I watched the television as it showed the Holy Father after Mass receiving the representatives of different nations.  He seems to do that very well.  He is completely at home with himself and emanates great warmth and tenderness.  The Cardinal was able to share with me his experience of being a part of the conclave, even if he carefully avoided coming anywhere close to violating the oath of secrecy.  But it was just very nice to be with someone who recently emerged from that great event and to hear him speaking of his own sense of a great movement of the Holy Spirit.

(Last Thursday, the day after the election, I had the good fortune to be at dinner with Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor and several others.  I know him well from many years on Vox Clara together.  Although he was over age to be in the conclave itself, he participated in all the meetings of the cardinals beforehand.  It was interesting that he told me he was not surprised at the election.  In other words, Cardinal Bergoglio's name was moving among them even if it wasn't moving around in the press.)

For my part, I enjoy probably as much as everyone else the lovely warmth of this new Pope; and I was charmed by him homily today.  Even so, I can't help but think back on how I felt after the homily of Pope Benedict XVI as he began his petrine ministry; and I am struck by how different my feelings were then.  The depth and eloquence of Pope Benedict's first homily were striking, even if, I don't think, they were out of reach of the most ordinary listener.  Pope Francis today was so different in style.  I couldn't help but think that, much as I appreciate this, I will very much miss that profound, impressive style of Pope Benedict.  

Maybe these are the sort of conflicted feelings that might inevitably arise from this very new situation in which Catholics find themselves: a pope who has resigned, living in prayerful solitude, and another of different style taking his place.  One must adjust to a difference, and there's something wonderful to marvel at in seeing how God gives us such different men, each a pope for a different chapter in the Church's life.  One thing is clear: the Church is strong and alive, gifted with many different types; and God continues to bless her with strong and vigorous shepherds.

I had all of you in my thoughts and prayers today as I celebrated this Mass with Pope Francis.

Pace e bene,

Father Jeremy

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