Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I feel hopeful

As the Cardinal electors gather in Rome, I feel optimistic for the church. The church remains the hope of the world.

Governments and nations change leadership during times of political upheaval and war. Political realities are temporary, but the church endures. While subject to upheaval, it strives to communicate the message of Jesus Christ. It endures. It remains a symbol of hope for believer and skeptic.

We look at the intrigue that is Rome and we wait because we know a divine mystery unfolds in the process of electing a new leader. Just about everyone wants the church to change. Conservatives want to grab a hold of structures to stop the progress of secular advances. Progressives want to see that the Church's constitution, the Second Vatican Council, has a chance to breathe and live. Everyone has stake in the election and we wait to see what the Holy Spirit will give us. No doubt, some will be disappointed, but we can be sure the Holy Spirit won't give us the worst choice or perhaps even the best. We will get someone who will be adequate. Why would we expect more? Governing the worldwide church is very difficult. In all humility, no one these days can do it well.

That the cardinals are assessing the state of the church amid all the scandals is very encouraging. They want to determine the extent of the chaos before they can elect someone with qualities who can best serve the increasingly complex reality of the church. This gives me hope. This makes me appreciate the Cardinals. It makes me realize they love the church and that they want to take a pastoral approach to leadership. This is a definite switch in their perceived usual way of proceeding.

Information technology has toppled monarchical governments. It has altered the way the monolithic church has operated. The Vatican has tried to update itself in recent years, but it lacks the resources to make swift enough changes to satisfy the public's curiosity. To many the Vatican seems like an infirm grandfather who can no longer play with the grandkids, yet we want the church to be vibrant, vigorous, engaging, strong, and youthful. Maybe even playful. Maybe even pastoral. We want the church to relate to the world the way the final document of Vatican II says. It is often the "how" not the "what" that is important. "The style is the man."

Vatican II is taking hold. The world has changed greatly since the Council was called. Society changes the church as church changes society. It dialogues and sees itself a part of one another. This is far different from standing above and against the culture of the times.

Let the cardinals talks as long as they need. Fruit arises from listening and then engaging in dialogue. It is a good sign. Regardless of who they choose, it may be a set back for a particular perspective but an advance for another. These tensions have always been part of the church since the cultural and religious split at Antioch and Alexandria. We will always have them. The cardinals may clamp down and say they don't want dialogue and we will be disappointed, but they have made a choice and there are reactions and responses. The dance between the leaders and the believers continue.

I hope something different is happening. I sense optimism that the church wants to respond pastorally.   The church needs our prayers - that it can continue to mediate mercy, compassion, reconciliation, beauty, and hope. We want it and need it to find a way to be relevant now and in the future.

I am full of hope.


  1. Thank you John, you have helped me to feel more optimistic today.

    1. I'm glad you are starting your day with optimism.

  2. The world needs us to be optimistic about the future and the church needs us to be in prayer that the Holy Spirit will be present and active at the conclave and that the cardinals will listen humbly. As a church we all need to listen humbly to the Holy Spirit. Thanks for this post.