The Pope bearing the burden of belief

Fr Z has posted some pictures of the candlelight vigil under the Holy Father's window tonight. Pope Benedict's last General Audience Address was delivered to a vast crowd. I am amazed at how many friends of mine have managed to fly out to Rome at short notice to be there.

In the meantime, there is a note of craziness around in the Church. We have had our fair share in Britain over the past week or so. A teacher said to me that it was rather like when a teacher leaves the classroom. Some pupils will carry on with their work, while others throw things at each other or start climbing the walls.

Recently the "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster has become popular with many parodies being produced. We forget that there was a real possibility of England being invaded and subjected to Nazi rule. There was no guarantee of victory: many feared the worst and some tried to do secret deals with Hitler. If everyone had panicked, the country would have become ungovernable and the war effort compromised. It was important for people to keep calm and carry on.

On Sunday I said three Masses, celebrated two baptisms and then drove round to Wonersh so as to be able to teach there at 9am on Monday. In the evening I said Low Mass and then took the class for non-Catholics. Yesterday I celebrated a Mass for a year group in the Church, gave some spiritual direction, did some music practice and catechesis at the school and later spoke to the Confirmation class. Today I met with the other local Deans and the area Bishop, caught up on some paperwork (not enough) and gave some marriage preparation. Tomorrow I'll be celebrating the morning Mass (Pro Papa), blessing a grave, marking some essays, visiting another Confirmation class, then doing Rosary, Benediction and Novena with confessions afterwards. In the meantime the Holy See will have become vacant - but all the other things must carry on and I have to keep calm.

A fundamental reason why people gather in St Peter's Square and pour out their hearts in prayer and cheering is that the Pope bears the burden of belief for the whole Church. If it were not for Pope Benedict, many Bishops around the world (and some close to home) would long ago have spoken out in favour of women priests, gay marriage, artificial contraception and a host of other aberrant doctrines. What has prevented this from happening is the Holy Father, the successor of Peter who has confirmed his brethren in the faith. An interregnum brings with it a note of disturbing chaos. The announcement Habemus Papam will be applauded with relief and joy even before the name is given.

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