I was in college when I found out that Pope John Paul II was dying. He had been the pope since before I was born, so the idea of him not being the pope was surreal to me.
After all, he was the one that called out to myself and young people of the Church. He was the one who told me that I was being called by God to use the gifts I was given for the purpose of spreading the gospel of God's love throughout the world. He was at the center of my conversion when I gave my passion for rap music to God to be used as a means to bring others closer to Him. He was the one who assured me that I have nothing to fear in this world if I give my entire life to Jesus Christ.
When he died, the reality and gravity of it hit me and left me with mixed emotions. I was filled with questions and fear of the unknown. I had never lived through a pope leaving and a conclave before. What happens next? How is a pope elected? Would the next pope be as awesome as JPII?
Looking back now, I am thankful for the great gift Pope Benedict XVI has been for the Church over the last 8 years. God knows what we need, when we need it, and always provides!
I'm sure many of you are also curious about how this whole conclave process works. All over the news there are stories covering the physical steps to the conclave process.
There are a couple things that the process is NOT:
- It's not about politics. There aren't 'Vote for Pedro' style campaign t-shirts with a Cardinal handing out custom rosaries inside the Sistine Chapel to secure other Cardinal’s votes.
- It's not random, or a popularity vote.
- They don't hold their breath and say, 'eenie, meenie, miney, POPE!'
- On the other extreme, it’s not like they pray and then see a flash of light and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove floats a heavenly note down with the next Pope’s name on it.
The Holy Spirit's Role
The Holy Spirit plays a really big role in the conclave process. The conclave includes discernment that involves both the human and the divine. The Cardinals spend a lot of time in prayer reflecting on the state of the Church. They understand what a big task it is to be pope so they take everything into prayer before they vote.
In fact, they don't even enter the Sistine Chapel and lock the doors until they have celebrated Mass together and invoked the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the conclave.
Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to build up and safeguard the truth in the Church. At the beginning of the 'Year of Faith,' Pope Benedict XVI said that the Holy Spirit 'leads the Church across the centuries as we await the Lord's glorious return' (Porta Fidei 1).
The Holy Spirit has been present in the Church since the day of Pentecost, and He will always be with us until the end of time.
This is why we can know with certainty that regardless of who gets elected pope, it’ll be for our greater good! We can be confident in the future of the Church.
As Jesus called Peter to become the first pope, He promised that 'the gates of the hell shall not prevail against it' (Matthew 16:18). Pope Benedict XVI was different from Pope John Paul II but still completely awesome. I know our next pope will be too.
What You Can Do
You’re not powerless in this process our Church is going through. Here are five ways for you to participate in this monumental event!
- Pray: For the Church during this time, for Pope Benedict XVI, for the Cardinals, and our future Pope!
- Trust: Trust the Holy Spirit to inspire the Cardinals to bring us a shepherd that will unite us and lead us to heaven.
- Adopt A Cardinal: Adopt a specific Cardinal in the conclave and pray for them during this process. Heck yes!
- Be Not Afraid: Embrace the moment. You are living through history, and not by accident! God has a plan for our lives that includes our next pope. Let's get strapped in for the adventure that awaits!
'Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world' (Pope Benedict XVI).