The daily Mass goers in my parish know that, particularly during Lent, I tend to allow a lot of silence into the celebration of Mass. I don’t mind taking a few extra minutes to just sit in the silence after the homily, or especially after Holy Communion. That silent time, for many people who come to Mass, is the only time they have where there isn’t noise coming at them. So this morning, after the homily, I walked back past the altar, bowed to the crucifix, and sat down in the presider’s chair to sit and wait for just a minute to allow that silence.
And as I sat, it hit me that very soon I would have to be particularly careful in the Eucharistic prayer not to mention the name of Pope Benedict. It’s the only name I’ve said in the prayers at Mass for the pope since I’ve been ordained.
I turned that thought into a moment of prayer for Pope Benedict, but that didn’t last long, before I found myself praying about the next pope. At first, I wondered about superficial things as I prayed. “Lord, what will the next pope look like?” Will he be from Europe or will we see someone from Latin or South America, maybe even Africa? “Wow, God, how interesting would it be for the next pope to have the perspective of an African – so many African priests serve my own diocese as missionaries so generously,” I prayed.
Then I just starting rambling in my prayer, “Lord, I know it is up to you, and nothing personal, but I really hope it isn’t the Canadian, because I don’t want a Canadian to be pope before an American . . . But whatever you want, God.”
And then I continued, “Lord, actually, I just want you to send your Spirit to bring us a servant, a voice for truth.” I continued, “Lord, please send someone who will encourage me to be a better priest like John Paul the Great.”
“Lord, send someone who will challenge me to study theology with my mind and my soul, like Benedict.”
“Lord, make whatever man you are calling to be the next pope open to your Spirit, and make him ready for the challenge.”
Then I continued, “Lord, protect him from any evil that might try to attack, and make the world ready to accept and love him so he can be a good leader of the Church, a successor of Saint Peter.”
At that point, just before I realized that there was an entire chapel of people waiting on me to stand up and start the Prayer of the Faithful, I realized what I was doing. I was praying for my future pope. That’s right, as I waited and wondered, as I hoped and desired, I found myself praying for my future pope. And for a pastor, whose boss is a bishop, whose boss is the pope, it isn’t too far off to have this personal connection.
We desire and wait for the pope because as much as the pope has a personal connection with every Catholic (and indeed every Christian) in the world, there is something a little closer for a priest. My brother priests and I wait each year for his annual letter to priests on Holy Thursday; we feel a common bond with the pope as we say his name at every single Mass we celebrate.
I’ve been to hundreds of youth conferences, camps, and retreats. And rarely one goes by that I don’t hear a men’s or women’s talk that encourage those who are single to spend time waiting, trusting, and praying for their future spouse. Now I know the analogy can get a little weird if we push it too far, so let’s be careful there.
But in the same way that a single person who is waiting for a future spouse makes it a good practice to pray for their future spouse, we as a Church should pray for the future pope. We should ask the Lord to protect him, bless him, and make him ready. We should ask the Lord to give us strength, to encourage us in the interregnum (the time between popes), and to make us a more loving and faithful Church under the care of the next pope.
For me, it took my mind wondering and asking what my next pope would be like to realize how important it was to be praying for him every day.
What is your prayer for the next pope? What graces are you asking God to give him? What are your hopes and desires for him as he will lead you and your families closer to Christ through the Church he will be called to serve? What do you hope he will be able to offer in his leadership and how can you pray for that?
Below is a short prayer from the Mass for the Election of a Pope. Maybe you could say this every day between now and when our new pope is elected. And keep praying for your future pope!
Oh, and for the record, eventually one of the little old ladies from daily Mass announced, “Father, it is time for the prayers . . . ” so I had to stop praying for the pope and start praying for the people!
eternal shepherd, who govern your flock with unfailing care,
grant in your boundless fatherly love
a pastor for your Church
who will please you by his holiness
and to show us watchful care.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.