First Impressions

My first reaction to my dear Pope Benedict’s election was, exactly what my reaction to any change usually is: concern.

A knot of coworkers and I were watching the election on the little black and white TV that one of the secretaries kept handy for soap operas and The Price Is Right. I was half hoping Cardinal Ratzinger, a hero of mine, would be elected, and half afraid he would be elected. My concern was that he might be too divisive. When his name was announced, during all the cheering, etc., I went back to my own office and just sat there stunned, and worried about it. The secretary still teases me about it.

I worried even more at World Youth Day that summer. I was on one of the Volunteer teams. It was an international team with no definite jobs to do, so we were assigned wherever needed. On the night of the Vigil and on the morning of the Mass, we were assigned to security and crowd control very near the hill where the altar stood. After the Popemobile procession our duties were basically over, and from a clear vantage point I studied the new Pope. It was a shocking transition. No more of the long-running chants and shouting that marked the meetings between Pope John Paul II and his beloved young people. Instead, there was this quiet, humble man who spoke about, of all things, the Greek and Latin words for “adoration.” At World Youth Day! Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

How would this man appeal to young people? Well, we all know the answer to that question.

And even more telling are the tangibles–the young men and women committing themselves to religious vocations–and the less quantifiable, such as the edifyingly faithful young Catholic families that seem to be everywhere you look these days. And we all know that Pope Benedict will go down in history as the great ecumenist of our time, the one who did it right and well.

Every new Pope takes some getting used to, especially for worrywarts like me, and especially with the media constantly spinning everything, always in the direction of secularization. It takes time to see how they will succeed according to the grace of office. The world doesn’t believe in grace–but we do.
After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.