The last day of February...normally not a remarkable day, at least not for me. The odd month, you know, with 28, or 29, days, but not remarkable in any notable way (end or first of the month bills due a few days earlier -- urg).
On the first day of February, I don't think any of us could have foreseen the month ending the way it is. Sadly. Our Papa is going away. It's so abrupt, but then I think quicker is better -- like ripping off a band-aid. My own papa went quickly -- here one moment and gone the next, with no warning. It's hard in some ways, but much easier in others.
Anyway, about our Papa in Rome...I was going to make a "goodbye" post, but what am I thinking? The Pope does not read my blog. But I do want to say I will miss him, as I'm sure you will, too. This morning in the wee hours I was lying in bed thinking about him, and about how different he has been from Blessed John Paul II...Josef and Karol. Pope Benedict XVI, to me, has been like a big bear (the bear is a very traditional German symbol). He can be a very gentle bear and usually is, I imagine. But he is fierce if provoked -- a defender of the Church, and allows no testing. Did you know his coat of arms has a bear on it, which I learned this week researching the Pope for Faith's lapbook?
What I did not know was this, which I looked up just this morning:
Finally, a brown bear loaded with a pack on his back lumbers up the upper right-hand section of the shield. The bear is tied to an old Bavarian legend about the first bishop and patron saint of the Diocese of Freising, St. Corbinian. According to the legend, when the saint was on his way to Rome, a bear attacked and killed his horse. St. Corbinian punished the bear by making him carry the saint's belongings the rest of the way to Rome. Archbishop Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo said the bear symbolizes the beast "tamed by the grace of God," and the pack he is carrying symbolizes "the weight of the episcopate."
The pope said in his memoir, “I have carried my pack to Rome and wander for some time now through the streets of the Eternal City. When release will come I cannot know. What I do know is that I am God's pack animal, and, as such, close to him."
I'm not saying I know anything about Pope Benedict, but thinking of him as a bear was pretty spot-on. Pope John Paul II was, to me, like a deer. Not timid, but gentle and friendly. I am not into personification of animals, or I guess in this case the reverse, but Blessed John Paul II was not intimidating. He was humble and he gently touched so many people, but just as quietly stayed hidden and unobtrusive, like a peaceful, watchful deer. He was lovable, as is Pope Benedict XVI but in such different ways. I guess I'm a bear kind of person. I love Pope Benedict's German ways...stubborn and unrelenting in what is right. I love his deep set German eyes and his gorgeous silver white hair. He looks like a father should. He acts like a father should. He has been a good, good shepherd, and the hardest part of him leaving is knowing he will probably not be seen hardly at all, if at all. And now I shall stop or I will cry.
Cardinal Arinze (who, I must say would absolutely have been my choice for Pope if he had not just turned 80 -- I could listen to him talk all day) said it best, I think, about how we feel about our Papa and how he is teaching us a good lesson by leaving and staying cloistered:
Cardinal Arinze said he hoped that Pope Benedict's decision to resign would "help many to get more mature in our faith ... help all of us to be deeper in our faith, to be also, let us say, less sentimental."
"Our faith is not on the pope, it is on Christ who is the foundation of the church," the cardinal said. "The pope is a servant. Indeed, one of his titles is 'servant of the servants of God.' ... So his act yesterday was like saying, 'I am a servant. I think another servant should come on.'"
The pope's resignation "can also be a very good example for all of us," Cardinal Arinze said. "Not only bishops. There are politicians, there are heads of state, there are heads of government" who refuse to yield office even when doing so would serve the common good.
"So the pope's action yesterday could, we'll hope, deliver a lesson to such, whether in the church or the state or a university or a corporation," the cardinal said. "Anyone in authority is there to serve."