So the days of the Conclave are upon us. By this time next week, we would expect a decision to have been made and one of the men who entered the Conclave will not be going home. His black cassock and red accoutrements will have been exchanged for white and the name by which he has been known will be a matter of history. I must apologise, for in last week’s blog I mentioned Pope Emeritus Benedict arriving at Castel Gandolfo by Lake Albino. It should have course been Lake Albano. Maybe it was the arrival of a white cassock that led to the lake name change.
Whoever is asked to take that fateful step at the end of the Conclave, it will be a burden both immense and humbling, demanding physically and spiritually, in fact a great Cross to bear.
There is so much to be done both within the Curia and in the broader Church. The trust of the people has been severely challenged in recent years. Now is a time of rebuilding, a time to come out of the dark tunnel of forest undergrowth and seek again the vision of a pilgrim Church.
An essential aspect of that regaining of trust must be the continued living of Christian faith in the light of the Council called by Pope John XXIII. The need for real collegiality, as envisioned by that Council, has become patently obvious in recent years. Centralism that monitors the Church worldwide, that over-rides the local bishops and imposes “solutions” that do not take into account the milieu of their communities, ends up stifling faith. The people must be allowed fresh air in which to breathe.
Beyond our Christian family, the credibility of our faith has been severely tested by the incessant gaze of the media, latching on to each new problem that has arisen, stoking the flames. Not that I expect agreement from a secular world with a people of faith- there will always be a mismatch here-but I do expect that we treat issues in a grown up manner, respecting the cultures in which we co-exist with others. Within the Church that which is illegal cannot be defended, secrecy to prevent the course of justice is deceit and failure to allow an honest exchange opinions, inexcusable. We have got to do better than this.
It is not just “their problem”, that is our priests and bishops, it is our problem too, for along side our pastors, the laity, in their overwhelming numbers, are on the same journey. Together, we must continue to seek our own salvation and promote the evangelisation of the times we live in.
The first verse of Newman’s famous hymn, Lead kindly light, matches our present need perfectly.
"Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th'encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me”.
Within the next few days we will be asking one person to take that first step and so lead the Church on in our continuing journey of faith. May the good Lord sustain us.