Smoke Watch

There are times when I lament the changes technology has brought to our society.  And then there are times when I am extremely grateful for it.  Right now, with the rest of the world, I am glued to the Vatican’s live stream of the chimney sitting on top of the Sistine Chapel.  And I am grateful for this technology that allows me to be virtually present with my Catholic brothers and sisters in Rome.

The only sound from this feed is that naturally occurring in that location.  No announcers, no news pundits giving commentary while we wait.  No, we have the sound of thousands of people, standing in the rain, holding a collective breath in silence.  Who will be the next Servant of the Servants?  Who will be the next to sit in the Chair of St. Peter?  Who will be our next Papa?

This is my first papal election as a Catholic.  I remember watching the news coverage of Pope John Paul II’s death and the results of the last papal election.  I remember being touched with a sense that something important, something very special just occurred, but I had no idea what that might be, really.  It would be another two years before I would really start to learn about the Catholic Church. 

Nonetheless, the election raises some interesting issues.  The entire world is interested in who will emerge as Pope, the head of the Church.  Whether people believe and accept it, this is a proclamation of true authority.  Jesus established a Church and placed St. Peter as head of that Church, Christ’s representative, on earth.  To deny it, to rail against it, to seek to empty the papal chair of its God-given authority through disobedience or even outright complaining is to fight and reject Jesus and God’s will for the Church.

This is not to say the pope is perfect.  Far from – he is human after all.  But for some mysterious reason, Jesus chose 12 fallible men to start His Church.  St. Peter’s faults are well-known and forever marked in Holy Scripture.  History also testifies to popes who have done horrific things.  But Jesus also said He would always be with the Church “and the gates of Hell would not prevail against it.”  The fact that the Catholic Church still exists, and in many places flourishing, is a testament that Jesus has kept His word.  In matters of established Church teaching, if we are to be faithful in following Jesus, we are responsible to accept and obey the Church and remain faithful and loyal to the pope.  We are called to trust Jesus and ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand those things we find difficult.  If we do not, the failure is on us, not the Church or pope.

In the present silence, I can only imagine the spiritual warfare that is taking place.  Holy Scriptures tell us that is the real battle.  The disagreements, power struggles, and wars on earth are physical manifestations of the real war.  Since Adam and Eve, Satan has waged war against God, against His creation, against us.  Our decisions, our actions, either contribute to Satan’s cause or they strengthen they strengthen the body of Christ.  Our hearts can become hard and brittle as we fight against God by refusing to obey His Word, or we can yield to the working of the Holy Spirit and allow our hearts to be transformed, on fire with His love.

As I finish typing these thoughts, WHITE SMOKE AND BELLS!!!  HABAMUS PAPEM!!!

We do not know who he is yet, but we know right now, he is standing in the room, surrounded by three sizes of vestments.  He will remove his cardinal red to don the papal white.  This cross is not one sought and it must be weighing very heavy on him.  So many others before him have broken down with emotion in this room so that the room is now called the Room of Tears.  Join me in a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s provision, and a prayer for our new pope and his intentions.


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