Cardinals speak of feeling as if the weight of the world is on their shoulders. While we watch the awe and majesty of a Conclave to pick the next pontiff, the Princes of the Church speak of it with trepidation, some with fear. The 115 cardinals who will pick the next pontiff rightfully feel their solemn responsibility. The Church’s greatest task is to save souls and the man who will figuratively grasp the keys given to St Peter by Jesus assumes an awesome responsibility.
The procession from St Peter’s to the Sistine Chapel may be one of the most moving and beautiful events a believer (and even a non-believer) may ever witness. As the Litany of the Saints is chanted the cardinals process into the Sistine Chapel, pulling themselves away from the outside world to pray and vote for the Successor of St. Peter. For the truly faithful, the days of the Conclave are often one of the rare moments in the public life of the Church where the mainstream media isn’t dictating who the cardinals should pick and why the Church’s Teachings need to be changed. Now some will attempt to do just that, but it often comes across as shallow and shrill due to the solemnity of the moment.
Monday on ABC’s World News Tonight, Diane Sawyer interviewed South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier. His Eminence, who was present at the last Conclave, was asked what it was like picking the future pontiff. The Cardinal from Durban spoke of looking at Michelangelo’s Last Judgment painted above him in the Sistine Chapel, and pleading for Jesus to help him make the right decision.
Detractors will point out to past corrupt conclaves and popes as evidence why this is not a truly solemn event. However, though there have been corrupt conclaves and popes, the Church’s Teachings have not been changed, and after 2,000 years the Church is still here doing the work of Christ, which is even more amazing considering the imperfect men and women in the Church. Jesus promised us the Church would prevail (Matthew 16:15-19) and it continues to do His work. In my recently released book; The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn, I write of the good we see happening before our eyes, as well as the attacks we face and have faced for 2,000 years.
The love of Jesus knows no bounds. He doesn’t dictate from some mountain top about who to pick to continue what He started with Peter, or how we should make each and every decision. He taught us with love for three years and promised to always be with us. In prayer the Triune God is always with us, just as He is with the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. He loves us enough to give us free will, properly followed leads to a place with Him in heaven, or to chose a different path, one of everlasting torment. The decision is ours. The choice should be clear; heaven is our real home and in beautiful moments like the cardinals processing into the Sistine Chapel from St Peter’s, we get an occasional glimpse of what heaven will be like.