It has been a little over a week since our beloved Pope Emeritus arose from the chair of Peter to enter upon his new life of prayerful service to the Church. We as cloistered contemplatives are in a unique, and perhaps the best position to understand his decision. Although none of us have had to renounce such a prominent office, all of us too, following what we have perceived as the beckoning voice of God in our hearts, have chosen to live hidden behind cloistered walls in order to more effectively dedicate ourselves to prayer. Pope Benedict has not abandoned the Church, but has chosen to live in its heart, there to perform the absolutely essential task, the “one thing necessary” which gives life to all the other tasks that are performed by the other members of Christ’s mystical body.
Every decision to follow Christ is a “sign of contradiction” to a world enamored of self assertive independence. The contemplative life especially is always subject to controversy, and so it is no surprise to us that Pope Benedict’s following of his vocation has earned him not only praise, but criticism. So has it been with us. To give up power and wealth as the world sees these things can only cause consternation. Ah, but we know that there is no greater power, no better wealth, than to be with Jesus! But then, is this not selfishness? Laziness? Oh, no! To be with Jesus means to be crucified with Him for the salvation of the world. The love we share with Him is an outpouring love.
We are grateful to Pope Emeritus Benedict for giving us such an affirmation of our own cloistered contemplative vocation by himself becoming one with us. We join him before the throne of God to pray for the coming conclave and the one whom the Holy Spirit will reveal as our new Holy Father. May he be a man after the Heart of Christ, strong and humble, courageous and prayerful, like his predecessor!