Tag Archives: papal conclave

Past and future popes

In the Catholic calendar before 1969, March 12 used to be the feast of Pope St. Gregory the Great, the reforming pope who died in 604. A prefect of Rome and then a monk before the people of Rome chose him as their bishop, he is known for his support of monasticism and the reform of the liturgy (including music). He also, out of concern for some British slaves he once saw in Rome, sent St. Augustine and other monks to re-evangelize Britain.

St. Augustine wrote St. Gregory for advice various times. Robert Ellsberg, in All Saints, notes that “Gregory’s answers reflect his characteristic wisdom, but also his humane flexibility in responding to new problems.”

St. Bede the Venerable later noted, “For while other popes devoted themselves to building churches and enriching them with costly ornaments, Gregory’s sole concern was to save souls.”

As the cardinals meet today to begin the conclave to select a new pope, they might look at these characteristics of St. Gregory the Great.

They also might look at the words of Timothy Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, who wrote the Washington Post, here:

“If I were pope, I’d pray for an end of fear.”

He went on to mention a list of fears – of the Holy Spirit, of women, of vulnerability, of simplicity, of death, of sexuality.

His last paragraph is particularly poignant:

One cautionary note: I’m not going to be pope. But there’s nothing on this list(save the ordination of women and the opening of the Eucharistic table) I can’t do myself. For me and for so many others who want and expect something dramatic from a leader like the pope, it might be a good idea to start with myself.

As we pray for a new pope, let us pray that we show in our lives what we want of a pope.

Cardinals, popes, and prophets

A prophet is not honored in his home town.
Luke 4: 24

 Jesus when he returns to Nazareth and reads Isaiah is first admired and then almost killed.


He dares to say that God’s mercy is not limited to one nation, but God worked wonders with foreigners, as Elijah did with the widow of of Sidon and Elisha did with the Syrian official.

How often do we want to restrict the saving power of God to our own group, making God an instrument of our in-crowd.

I think much of the commentary on the papal conclave is ruled by this type of in-crowd thinking.

I am not beyond that either, hoping that there is a pope who hears the cry of the poor and acts on it. That’s why I proposed moving the voting out of the Sistine Chapel. See my entry here on my Hermano Juancito blog.

Occasionally, though, one comes upon an interesting analysis that helps put things in perspective. If you have time read E.J. Dionne’s entry on Commonweal’s website. Click here.

As I read Dionne’s article where he reflects on the Dominican Timothy Radcliffe’s  discussion of Kingdom and Communion Catholics, I thought of Dorothy Day who I think bridges that gap, with one foot in the church that prizes her tradition and is critical of the “world” and the other in the church that seeks to be good news to the poor.

I don’t see any Dorothy Day types among the cardinals (though the Filipino and the Boston cardinals appear to be the closest), but maybe the Spirit will call the cardinals to look beyond their in-crowd and choose a non-cardinal for Pope.

In all this, we need to pray hard that the Spirit will open up the windows of the Sistine Chapel so that a New Pentecost may renew the Church.