If you are anything like me, I bet a ton of questions filled your heart and mind when you woke up on Monday, February 11, 2013 to the shocking news that Pope Benedict XVI was resigning as Bishop of Rome. My mind was racing . . . Is Pope Benedict seriously ill? Can a Pope resign? What? Why? How?
I know I was not alone in these questions but when I took the time to read Pope Benedict’s resignation statement I was comforted by his humility, vulnerability, and fearlessness.
Most of our teens won’t take time to read the Pope’s resignation and many will take what they hear on television, twitter, Facebook, or the radio as fact. It is our duty to walk with our teens during this time and help them discover the beauty of our Catholic faith; a faith Christ established when he named Peter the “rock” on whom He built His Church (Matthew 16:18-19).
Here are some ways you might walk alongside them during this time.
In the coming weeks estimations on who the future Pope might be, what country he will come from and whether he is “conservative” or “liberal” will be generated by a media influenced by world views rather than Church doctrine.
Teens are certain to hear a variety of opinions on our beloved Pope’s legacy, both negative and positive. We are called to focus our teens on the fact that the Holy Spirit is guiding this process, not world leaders, politicians or the media. We have to speak truth to our teens, help them see the gift Pope Benedict has been to our Church, and help them discover the importance of Papal succession while sorting through the images the media will attempt to paint of our Church.
Not About Power
In a country that just finished an exhausting election full of damaging campaigns and debates, it is inconceivable that our future Pope is not really interested in the power or the title. Men don’t become priests for power; they become priests and eventually Bishops, Cardinals, or Pope to wash feet and humbly serve (John 13:1-17). That’s why you won’t see campaign posters for your favorite Cardinal around Vatican City.
This is a position prayerfully discerned by the college of Cardinals through the power of the Holy Spirit and with humility and trust our future Pope will accept the Chair of Peter directing all glory and power to God, not self. How powerful it would be to watch teens embrace humility this Lent like our Holy Father. You can help guide them there through a careful examination of their pride and how they seek praise and glory from others.
Invite Teens Into Prayer
During a time when a select few will gather to elect our new Papa, we might feel powerless or outside the inner circle. I can’t imagine there will be any Twitter feeds with the hash tag #popewatch2013 coming from Cardinals inside the Sistine Chapel.
It’s at moment like this when we need to recognize the power of prayer. Invite teens, especially as we enter the Lenten season, to fast and pray for the college or Cardinals as they prayerfully prepare for conclave. Offer up a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament once conclave begins. Invite teen to daily Mass and offer up Pope Benedict and the college or Cardinals throughout the election process. Ask for Mother Mary to intercede on behalf of the universal church and trust in the power of her spouse, the Holy Spirit, throughout the conclave.
Help Your Teens Understand the Election Process
There is a process to electing a Pope that involves a lot of traveling Cardinals, an abundance of prayer and a pretty spectacular meeting room.
118 Cardinals are expected to gather in Vatican City and remain in the Sistine Chapel until they have reached a 2/3-majority vote. No one wears “I Voted Today” stickers, no blue or red states are identified, just honest prayer and voting until they have discerned of the same Spirit. Once the Supreme Pontiff says, “I accept” the white smoke signals and our new Holy Father appears at the central window of St. Peters Basilica.
In the coming days, we will post for download a Life Night and Edge Night for you to do with your teens and middle schoolers to help them understand this intricate process of electing a new Pope. We hope you will utilize these nights and create time to help your teens understand this incredible and historic event in our Church. Who knows the next time our church will see a resignation of a Pope or witness a conclave in Vatican City.
This moment in history can instill in your teens a new love and understanding of the universal Church. Take every opportunity to guide your teens the next few weeks and join us as a staff as we pray for our beloved Pope Benedict and his successor.