Monday, April 04, 2005

It finally hit me.

I've become terribly facetious lately. To my shame, the first thought I had on hearing of the pope's death was not "may he rest in peace," but "The sedevacantists are right for once, like that stopped clock that's right twice a day." But I made it to mass Sunday, and his name's absence during the part of the post-consecration liturgy where it is normally mentioned hit my heart. The words "Let us grow in love with John Paul our pope" have been in every single mass I have ever heard. Indeed, the pope has been in office longer than I've been a Christian; I was less than one month in my mother's womb when he was installed.

The gloomy elderly deacon, who I wasn't entirely sure would outlive the pope, gave a nice sermon on how, unlike our recent papa, he would never meet a president. But he went on to give a very nice particularist reflection on how we could get to know and love those around us.

I was sick of the news coverage even before he died, yet today I tried to catch a glimpse of the pope's body lying in state for the view of curial workers.(I have heard his corpse will be opened for general viewing soon.) But the news would only briefly show his body, then cut to some expert who didn't know what he was talking about; frankly, I would rather watch the corpse in silence. It strikes me that Reagan's body was not shown on television. Indeed, despite its love for showing fake corpses on crime shows and medical dramas, I am struck by how little we see a good memento mori on television. Perhaps we'll see the occasional anonymous body of a third worlder who has been struck down by war or natural disaster, but the sight of a famous old man's recently living body makes the producers cut to other, more "appealing" images.

The upcoming conclave engenders no small amount of trepidation in me. I tried to acclimate myself to the idea of a papal interregnum a few years back by reading Ralph McInerny's bad novel _The Red Hat_, which kills off several popes in quick succession. My attempt didn't work, since all of McInerny's popes were pretty solid men. My worry is that the widespread flakery that has so infested the Jesuits, various priests, and sometimes a few bishops has infected even the cardinals, and we'll end up with a really crummy pope, which might have meant very little in the pre-media, pre-internet age, but now could do a great deal of damage. So I have simply added prayers for another good pope to my infrequent petitions, remembing some of the first words of John Paul II's papacy: "Be Not Afraid."

John Paul II, rest in peace, pray for us.

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