Prayer works – and the Pope is ready for some hard work!

Prayer works – and the Pope is ready for some hard work!

The papal abdication or renunciation of the Petrine Ministry has been in the daily news, the world over, since this past February 10/11 – depending on which side of the world you live in.

Pope Benedict XVI is stepping down from The Chair of Saint Peter (the sacred office of Vicar of Christ which we celebrate this February 22) for the reasons he himself so clearly stated: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-benedict-xvi-announces-his-resignation-at-end. But he is not done. No, he is far from being done serving the Lord and His Church.

The Pope still has a lot of work to do for the good of the Church to which he has devoted his entire life. Even in this next phase of his priestly and episcopal life he will be teaching us by way of example: by praying! He is aware that “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” (James 5:16) and is teaching us how to pray. Here again, we can learn a thing or two from our Holy Father regardless of how close or how far we might each be from retirement and from the limitations of age and physical and mental frailty.

Prayer works! And the work of prayer is something we must all engage in actively: praying more this Lent than last; year after year deepening our intimacy with the Triune God through personal and communal prayer, both oral and mental prayer, scriptural and devotional prayer, making regular use of every prayer method available to us, especially the supreme act of prayer – the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which flows from and leads to the Holy Eucharist, without neglecting, rather perfecting!, our intimate communion with God and the Saints through the Holy Rosary and lectio divina.

Contemplative prayer especially can go very far: the impact can be massive even if not felt immediately or directly. The Pope is not looking to be in the spotlight, but his example of embracing a more contemplative life sheds light on something we too often forget and neglect, underestimate and undermine with our overly-busy lives. The message of a bumper sticker I once saw applies all too well to so many of us: “If you are too busy to pray, you are simply TOO busy!” We would all do well to heed the advice of a sign in the parking lot of a local parish: “Slow down.”

The Pope will soon slow down, retire, retreat, withdraw, remove himself from the active life in order to embrace a contemplative life. Martha now becomes Mary, the one who chose the “unum necessarium”, the one thing necessary, “the better portion which will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:38-42). And not only will he benefit from the “better portion”, but perhaps this cloistered Dominican nun’s appraisal will prove to be true. Mother Maria Angelica believes that Pope Benedict’s decision to dedicate himself to a life of prayer will enable him to impact people who might not have listened to him as Pope: “When he lives this monastic lifestyle, his prayers will reach those who maybe were unbelievers during his papacy.” (Catholic News Agency) Amen!

Though we may not see the Pope much in the months and years ahead nor witness the fruit of his labor right away, we will surely see the fruit of his active service and his contemplative prayer for all eternity.

May he enjoy this new assignment from the Lord and may we benefit from his continued service of love to the Lord and the Church he has served so well for so long.

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