Sunday Brunch

… a feast of photography and prose.

Pope Culture

I have adopted a cardinal of my very own, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko of Poland. It’s a big responsibility, but I think I’m ready.  I will pray for him during the conclave.

Screen shot 2013-03-09 at 12.13.01 AM

Thanks to Meg Hunter-Kilmer for this punny meme.

This is part of plethora of what I like to call ‘pope culture’ that has emerged as the world attends to papal election in the post-information age.  Media speculation swells – are the red shoes Prada or not?  Memes abound.  PopeAlarm.com promises subscribers an immediate text and/or email when white smoke emerges from the chimney atop the Sistine Chapel.  And, my favorite – NewAdvent.org posts a daily ‘buzz score’ for each cardinal, “based on a cardinal’s relative influence and visibility, and adjusted daily based on Google search activity in various languages.”

Catholic Vote encourages people to predict the new papal name, then pray for the pope-to-be.

Catholic Vote encourages people to predict the new papal name, then pray for the pope-to-be.

This is humorous and enjoyable hubbub. But we are missing the point if we approach the conclave as we might follow news on “Oscars Best and Worst Dressed” or “Decision 2012” or National Signing Day.  The papal election is not a vehicle for entertainment, much less speculation. Choosing who will step off the boat into the raging waters is no small matter.

The papal election is a time in which Catholics believe the Holy Spirit guides leaders of the church in prayerfully appointing the Successor of Peter.  The Spirit does not emerge in memes or buzz scores.  The Spirit moves as a still, small voice, akin to the voice with which Peter answered Christ’s question, “Who do you say that I am?”

It is in this Spirit that the next pope will be elected.  And he will be, in the end, a man, a broken man, vesting in a room named for the tears that have been wept there.

He will need our prayers long after the election.

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4 comments on “Pope Culture

  1. Meg Hunter-Kilmer
    March 9, 2013

    You’re welcome–but I stole it from Catholic Memes :) I love the last two lines of this post–exactly right!

  2. Arthur
    March 9, 2013

    No, Catholics do NOT believe the Holy Spirit guides the cardinal electors. This is a widely-held misconception, sadly even amongst apparently educated Catholics. They can elect a ‘bad’ pope, and indeed have done so on more than a few occasions.

    What we do believe is that the pope, when teaching all believers as universal pastor, is prevented by the Holy Spirit from definitively teaching error in faith and morals. Period.

    • sloand0709
      March 10, 2013

      Hm…thanks for the heads-up. I will look into this. Can you recommend a source?

    • piercedhands
      March 12, 2013

      The Holy Spirit guides the Cardinals as much as he guides anyone who’s prayerfully seeking his will. To say that the conclave is guided by the Holy Spirit is not the same as saying that the man elected pope is always the ideal candidate or that their vote is somehow infallible. God willing, the Holy Spirit will have his hand in the process. *Certainly* the truth of the faith will be protected whether our next pope is a saint or a Borgia.

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This entry was posted on March 9, 2013 by .
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