Night image of St. Peter's Basilica, Ponte Sant’Angelo and Tiber River in Rome, Italy.

Night image of St. Peter’s Basilica, Ponte Sant’Angelo and Tiber River in Rome, Italy.

I don’t know about you, but when I heard the news about Pope Benedict XVI, my heart dropped. I was immediately saddened.

Being in the news business, I had to immediately push this aside in order to work to confirm the statement — and work with our Register team and EWTN to get the word out. Since this initial scramble, I have had time to take a moment to reflect on the timing of this monumental event.

There are times in the Church when we are reminded to pray in a manner that is more elevated, more solemn and more focused. Lent is such a time. Beyond this normal period of penance, we now add urgency. Our urgency is not one marked with fear, but with a deep recognition of tremendous need.

In God’s economy, prayer matters. Not because prayer in and of itself is efficacious. Not because we are powerful in and of ourselves. But because God has chosen to meet the needs of his people through the prayers of his people. The greatest and most powerful gift we can ever give to others is to beseech the God of Heaven on their behalf.

And pray we must. Though the Church has been deeply blessed by the pontificates of Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, we still have a great deal of healing and renewal ahead of us.

The great gift of prayer is one that we now must bring together to the throne of Grace for the well-being of his Church, our Church, and for the world in its great need. We have the opportunity to be the instruments of God in cooperation with him to affect the greatest possible good for his Church — the selection of our next pope.

Papal Conclave begins tomorrow

We don’t know all the details about how this will play out, but here are a few basics:

  • The Papal Interregnum began on the 28th of February. This is the time in between the reign of one pope and another.
  • Usually there is a fifteen-day waiting period from the end of a papacy to the beginning of the conclave, but this conclave will begin on Tuesday, March 12th.
  • It seems likely that we will have a new pope before Holy Week begins.
  • The Mass of installation then usually happens five to seven days after the election; timing is a factor with Holy Week approaching.

So, as we continue our Lenten observance, we do so with appropriately heavy hearts. This heaviness can be a tool that we use to help us make a serious commitment to the weighty and potentially world-changing activity of electing a new pope. My own prayer intentions will be that the 115 Cardinal electors present for the conclave will elect a pope that:

  • First and foremost has a profound relationship with Christ, that he might emulate Christ in the way he prays and leads God’s people.
  • Has a love for Christ that is so compelling that millions of the Lord’s stray children will return to the endless well of love and grace that God has for them in his Church.
  • Will have the courage and wisdom necessary to continue the implementation of the true intent of the second Vatican Council and the related reform of the “reform.”
  • Will continue to inspire the youth of the world, such that they will bring about, through vocations and active lay participation in the mission of the Church, the continued fruit of the New Evangelization.

Will you join with me in this prayer? What intentions would you add to this list?

Dan Burke is the Executive Director of the National Catholic Register and author of Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God.

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