When news reached us that our beloved Holy Father, as of February 28th, would resign from his ministry as Successor of St Peter, we were all stunned. I had to keep repeating it to myself in order for it to become a reality: “OK, the Holy Father is resigning because he feels that his strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.” “OK, there is going to be a conclave and, more than likely, we will have a new Pope by Holy Week.” “OK, Pope Benedict, after his resignation, is going to ‘devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.'” Eventually all of this started to settle in my heart.
All of us here at Our Lady of Solitude foster a deep love and gratitude for Pope Benedict XVI – and always will. Pope Benedict was installed just 1 week before our little foundation left Alabama to make it’s cross-country trek to our new home here in Arizona. In many ways, our beginnings were all tied up with his. And we felt very united to him as we were both in times of transition and newness. Through the last nearly 8 years, we’ve continued to experience a spiritual closeness to him, as so often he speaks of what is essential to our life: personal encounter with Christ, silence, solitude, the desert, prayer, etc. And now, in this truly historic event, as he embraces the limitation of his own weakness and takes up a more contemplative life of prayer for the Church, we find ourselves once again in solidarity with him.
Sr. Marie St. Paul, upon sharing her reaction, stated how – as a contemplative nun – she was greatly affected and affirmed by Pope Benedict’s decision to spend his remaining days in devoted prayer. He will enter into what we are privileged to live each day: a life totally dedicated to prayer on behalf of Holy Church. How beautiful!
Contemplatives learn very quickly that the Lord delights in expanding the heart. This is the great work of each day – surrendering to this heart expansion. And within these hearts dwell not only the Lord but all of His children. This is part of the hundred fold of our life – though separated from the world, we maintain a spiritual nearness to all of God’s children through our prayer and love for the One Thing Necessary. And so, dear friends, rest assured that we are not ‘losing’ Pope Benedict XVI. He will remain united to us in this life of devoted prayer. That is the nature of the contemplative life, love grows.
In a society where action and productivity are the raison d’etre, the contemplative life is often misunderstood or viewed as useless or amorphous. We don’t become robots or anonymous beings when the veil is placed on our heads. Our heart does not turn to stone. Oh, quite the contrary! We learn how to love with our truest heart.
We often explain our life in this way: “We begin now what – please God – we will all be doing in Eternity…adoring, praising, glorifying God.” And so it is with Pope Benedict XVI – in his life of devoted prayer. He will spend the rest of the time given him in prayer, in adoration and in intercession. Will we miss him? Yes. But each of – in our own unique striving to live a life of dedicated prayer – will remain united to him. And that is indeed a great consolation.
All the Sisters send their Lenten prayers and best wishes that y’all will have a holy and fruitful Lent. Let us pray for Pope Benedict XVI. Let us pray for the forthcoming conclave, all of the Cardinals, and the Church.