Monday, February 18, 2013

Habemus Papam

It was a breaking news on Twitter which everyone was reposting; yet again, you couldn’t say something was official unless it was spoken by a credible source. Then, it came. Vatican Spokesperson Federico Lombardi dropped the bomb which sent shockwaves all over the world – triggering both sympathy and speculations as to what was truly happening within the walls of the Vatican. Minutes later, the Holy See released an official statement bearing the message – which said it real and straight: After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. 

Pope Benedict XVI now has more than a week to remain in the seat of the Holy See. On February 28, the highest office of the Catholic Church will be declared vacant as Benedict leaves the Papacy after eight years. In March, one of the 117 cardinals will took the helm and succeed Peter.

Pope  Benedict XVI leading Sunday's Angelus (REUTERS)

Benedict or Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger led the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for 24 years before he took over the Papacy. He became famous for his monikers “Cardinal No” and “God’s Rottweiler” for taking up firm stances involving Catholic teachings. He led efforts to crack down on religious pluralism and other challenging issues which have polarized the Church. Working closely with Pope John Paul II and heading the College of Cardinals by the time John Paul died, he was picked by his colleagues to take the seat of the Holy See. By then, he was 78. 

Benedict, now 85, said he was no longer fit to lead the Church due to deteriorating “strength of mind and body”. He was the first Pope to resign in the modern times – 600 years after Pope Gregory XII stepped down. Some said Benedict had given premonitions of his resignation four years ago, when he left his pallium – a symbol of papal authority – on the tomb of Pope Celestine V. Celestine, in the 13th century, also bowed out from the Papacy. 

Faithful looking up the Saint Peter's Basilica during Sunday's Angelus (REUTERS)

Benedict will spend his retirement in a small lake town southeast of Rome where popes traditionally have their summer. Meanwhile, in the Vatican, priesthood work will continue for the cardinals who will choose among them the next leader of the Church. All eyes will again be on the Sistine Chapel, waiting for a white smoke and a resounding announcement for another age in the Catholic Church’s history, Habemus papam.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Of Masses and Messages

Last Sunday, Ruthie and I heard the Mass at the Greenbelt chapel. It was among those moments we spend together when we can talk about all of everything in the sky and end up parting ways late at night. It was a good Sunday night to begin the week. Even though I slept late - despite the first day of the work-week the following day - I was filled and happy.

Apart from our sharings and stories, what struck me the most were the message from the Homily and what happened during the communion. I could barely remember the specific Gospel, yet there was this verse from one of the readings that forayed me into hope and a strengthened faith:

Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord will be your strength. 
- Nehemiah 8:9-10

The past weeks were weathered and not-at-all-good. Clouds of doubt and fear hovered above me and rained on questions regarding my career, relationships, travel plans, and a whole lot more. It inundated my heart with skepticism as to how I would be able to achieve my goals amid all impediments, how I would be able to fulfill my roles, how I could help up finance our dream home, how I would be able to put up a certain event for a good friend amid my 'unstable' emotions. I had many fears; insecurities came up like arachnids conquering a tree to save themselves from high floods. I thought of myself as incapable - in all aspects.

Until that verse came like a thunder that woke me up from a nightmare. It seemed God whispered to the heavens to stop the rain and blow winds of hope instead. And so I found hope, at the very least.

Rejoice in the Lord. It will be your strength.


It was a first Friday last Friday, and so Achie and I decided to date out beginning with a first Friday mass. I was late - in fact, I even failed to hear the readings and the Gospel. Yet God did speak to me from the moment I stepped on the pavement until the time I finally entered the chapel.

From afar, I was hearing echos of the voice of one of my most favorite priests. I got excited to hear his Homily, even though I knew, he was already half-way to the end. I was wondering what he was talking about, until the muffled, babbling sounds transformed into a crystal clear voice of beauty. "He just wants you to develop that virtue: patience. When you wait, God is just around, with you." I continued walking towards the chapel entrance nearby where my friend was seated and waiting. All of the priest's messages came out like bullets from a shotgun aimed at no one - but me.

I couldn't help but smile while I was walking. "Oh God, thank you for speaking to me. You never fail indeed, true to your words."