Pope Culture

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.

Screen shot 2013-03-09 at 12.13.01 AM

Thanks to Meg Hunter-Kilmer for this punny meme.

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.

Pilgrims in Rome view images of John Paul II on a rainy night.

Pilgrims in Rome view images of John Paul II on a rainy night.

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Jane Sloan


B. Jane Sloan is a writer and high school theology teacher from Atlanta, GA. In addition to blogging for Catholic Exchange, she has been published in Our Sunday Visitor, Notre Dame Magazine and the literary journal Omnibus. Jane graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2007 with a B.A. in theology and philosophy. In 2009, she graduated with an M. Ed. from Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education. In 2009 Jane made a 500-mile pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain. She spent summer 2010 as an intern planting vegetables and baking bread at the Abbey of Regina Laudis OSB in Bethlehem, CT. In 2011 she was present among the millions at the beatification of Blessed John Paul II. She is currently working toward her M.A. in Theology. Follow her on Twitter @CE_SundayBrunch. Follow her other blog on all-natural eating at www.thesavagepalate.blogspot.com

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  • Anton

    Excellent! Yes, all humanity is in deep raging waters, never mind those who splash about in puddles. Pray! Pray! Pray to the Holy Spirit! May Your hand Lord be on the man You have chosen!