I have adopted a cardinal of my very own, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko of Poland. It’s a big responsibility. I will pray for him during the conclave.
This is part of dearth of what I like to call ‘pope culture’ that has emerged as the world attends to papal election in the post-information age. Media speculation swells – are the red shoes Prada or not? Memes abound. PopeAlarm.com promises subscribers an immediate text and/or email when white smoke emerges from the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel. And, my favorite – NewAdvent.org posts a daily ‘buzz score’ for each cardinal, “based on a cardinal’s relative influence and visibility, and adjusted daily based on Google search activity in various languages.”
This is humorous and enjoyable hubbub. But we are missing the point if we approach the conclave as we might follow news on “Oscars Best and Worst Dressed” or “Decision 2012” or National Signing Day. The papal election is not a vehicle for entertainment, much less speculation. Choosing who will step off the boat into the raging waters is no small matter.
The papal election is a time in which Catholics believe the Holy Spirit guides leaders of the church in prayerfully appointing the Successor of Peter. The Spirit does not emerge in memes or buzz scores. The Spirit moves as a still, small voice, akin to the voice with which Peter answered Christ’s question, “Who do you say that I am?”
It is in this Spirit that the next pope will be elected. And he will be, in the end, a man, a broken man, vesting in a room named for the tears that have been wept there.
He will need our prayers long after his election.
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