The world seems facisnated with the idea of the Papal Conclave. The Conclave represents power, religion, secrecy, nobility, and beauty. There is even talk of scandals following the unexpected resignation of Pope-emeritus Benedict. As usual, most people speculate about the outward appearances of the Conclave. They don’t really get down to the heart of what the Conclave is all about. The Conclave, and the Church itself, is not about outward appearances, but about inward realities. The Church is more that the ritual symbols, but about the truth represented by the symbols, the Presence of the Holy Spirit.
The Cardinals undoubtedly have discussed the politics of the upcoming Papal Election. Through their General Congregations, they have a sense of what the Church needs right now. They are aware of the challenges that the modern world faces, and that the institution of the Church faces. I hope that they pick a Pope that is up to meeting the demands of the day at hand. But, on a deeper level, I hope that the Cardinals have opened up their hearts to receive wisdom from the Holy Spirit to guide their choices. This is not a political decision. This is a decision made by God. God is working a miracle here! Are our Cardinals open to its unfolding? I pray that they are.
The Holy Spirit is the Advocate whom Christ promised to send to us. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. The Spirit will lead us to see what we are meant to see. The Spirit will lead us to do what we are meant to do. The Spirit guides the work of the Church. How do we know this? We know this because of Pentecost. The Spirit was sent on Pentecost, and it emboldened Peter to speak the truth to the world. Peter, who was a coward, was transformed into a bold preacher of Jesus Christ. His transformation through the Spirit immediately brought the conversion of many people.
Just like on Pentecost Sunday, when Peter spoke from a window of an upper room to a crowd gathered below, this week, Peter’s successor will speak from an upper window to a crowd gathered below. Just as on Pentecost, we will hear the Holy Spirit speak again through Peter. Pope-emeritus Benedict is reported to have said that the Spirit’s role in the Conclave is to prevent a total disaster on the part of the Cardinal-electors. Maybe the Spirit does not so much guide the conclave proceedings, as much as preventing an awful choice. But I hope that the Spirit, in addition to preventing a total disaster for the Church, will lay on the hearts of the Cardinals a certain way to go forward. I hope that they will pick the man they feel is best suited to lead us forward. I pray that this man is a servant of the Holy Spirit – that he intentionally listens for, and follows, God’s voice.
Let’s pray daily for the Conclave as it begins on Tuesday, March 12. They will make a decision that may affect us for 25 years. May we be fervant and intentional in our prayers.