What It’s Like to Actually Care About the Conclave

It is very, very good to be Catholic. We have the remarkable capacity to actually care about the conclave. The media, bless them, cannot fathom the explosion of love happening here, and are doomed to report with all the banality, divisiveness and cluelessness with which one goes about reporting an American presidential election. They’re talking about the conclave, sure — it’s political ramifications, the potential ideological leaning of the next Pope, the “necessary” changes the Church needs to make in order to stay relevant — all with a detached sense of irony over the fact that “these things still happen?” to the point that it’s easy enough to play Bingo with the whole situation:

But to the Catholic, the conclave is not just a reportable event. It is that event which ensures the continued existence of the universe, and Eternity’s continued love for us fickle, finite creatures.

“God so loved the world that he sent his only Son,” and that same Son of God told his disciple “I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18)

God — in a radical display of trust that we do not deserve — builds His Church on a man, and thus grants to man what was said of him: The power to speak with authority. In the election of another Peter, we are all embraced by Heaven. In the Pope, Christ is represented on Earth, in the true sense of that overused word, re-presented, despite all human sin, weakness, and idiocy. Our Creator and Bridegroom binds himself to us as he did 2000 years ago, saying to his flock “where you go I will go,” shocking Creation with his impropriety. But lovers aren’t known for sensible behavior.

“I am the good shepherd” Christ says, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (John 10:14) But who will be our shepherd now that our Christ has ascended into Heaven? This is the question that the conclave is answering, a question answered by Christ when we took aside Peter, the first Pope, and said “feed my sheep,” (John 21:15) “tend my sheep,” (21:16) and “feed my sheep.” (21:17) We belong to Christ, and Christ has chosen to speak through man, and now we are fed heavenly food by a Church lead by the Vicar of Christ.

This is what it’s like to actually care about the conclave: To be stunned in the realization that God is among us, and to delight in the pomp, secrecy, and reverence that surrounds this intimate action of love. God bless this wonderful Church! God bless this Church that has clung to Christ for 2000 years and passed on his authority, unbroken, 266 times:

    1. St. Peter (32-67)
    2. St. Linus (67-76)
    3. St. Anacletus (Cletus) (76-88)
    4. St. Clement I (88-97)
    5. St. Evaristus (97-105)
    6. St. Alexander I (105-115)
    7. St. Sixtus I (115-125) Also called Xystus I
    8. St. Telesphorus (125-136)
    9. St. Hyginus (136-140)
    10. St. Pius I (140-155)
    11. St. Anicetus (155-166)
    12. St. Soter (166-175)
    13. St. Eleutherius (175-189)
    14. St. Victor I (189-199)
    15. St. Zephyrinus (199-217)
    16. St. Callistus I (217-22)
    17. St. Urban I (222-30)
    18. St. Pontain (230-35)
    19. St. Anterus (235-36)
    20. St. Fabian (236-50)
    21. St. Cornelius (251-53)
    22. St. Lucius I (253-54)
    23. St. Stephen I (254-257)
    24. St. Sixtus II (257-258)
    25. St. Dionysius (260-268)
    26. St. Felix I (269-274)
    27. St. Eutychian (275-283)
    28. St. Caius (283-296) Also called Gaius
    29. St. Marcellinus (296-304)
    30. St. Marcellus I (308-309)
    31. St. Eusebius (309 or 310)
    32. St. Miltiades (311-14)
    33. St. Sylvester I (314-35)
    34. St. Marcus (336)
    35. St. Julius I (337-52)
    36. Liberius (352-66)
    37. St. Damasus I (366-83)
    38. St. Siricius (384-99)
    39. St. Anastasius I (399-401)
    40. St. Innocent I (401-17)
    41. St. Zosimus (417-18)
    42. St. Boniface I (418-22)
    43. St. Celestine I (422-32)
    44. St. Sixtus III (432-40)
    45. St. Leo I (the Great) (440-61)
    46. St. Hilarius (461-68)
    47. St. Simplicius (468-83)
    48. St. Felix III (II) (483-92)
    49. St. Gelasius I (492-96)
    50. Anastasius II (496-98)
    51. St. Symmachus (498-514)
    52. St. Hormisdas (514-23)
    53. St. John I (523-26)
    54. St. Felix IV (III) (526-30)
    55. Boniface II (530-32)
    56. John II (533-35)
    57. St. Agapetus I (535-36) Also called Agapitus I
    58. St. Silverius (536-37)
    59. Vigilius (537-55)
    60. Pelagius I (556-61)
    61. John III (561-74)
    62. Benedict I (575-79)
    63. Pelagius II (579-90)
    64. St. Gregory I (the Great) (590-604)
    65. Sabinian (604-606)
    66. Boniface III (607)
    67. St. Boniface IV (608-15)
    68. St. Deusdedit (Adeodatus I) (615-18)
    69. Boniface V (619-25)
    70. Honorius I (625-38)
    71. Severinus (640)
    72. John IV (640-42)
    73. Theodore I (642-49)
    74. St. Martin I (649-55)
    75. St. Eugene I (655-57)
    76. St. Vitalian (657-72)
    77. Adeodatus (II) (672-76)
    78. Donus (676-78)
    79. St. Agatho (678-81)
    80. St. Leo II (682-83)
    81. St. Benedict II (684-85)
    82. John V (685-86)
    83. Conon (686-87)
    84. St. Sergius I (687-701)
    85. John VI (701-05)
    86. John VII (705-07)
    87. Sisinnius (708)
    88. Constantine (708-15)
    89. St. Gregory II (715-31)
    90. St. Gregory III (731-41)
    91. St. Zachary (741-52)
    92. Stephen II (752) Because he died before being consecrated, many authoritative lists omit him
    93. Stephen III (752-57)
    94. St. Paul I (757-67)
    95. Stephen IV (767-72)
    96. Adrian I (772-95)
    97. St. Leo III (795-816)
    98. Stephen V (816-17)
    99. St. Paschal I (817-24)
    100. Eugene II (824-27)
    101. Valentine (827)
    102. Gregory IV (827-44)
    103. Sergius II (844-47)
    104. St. Leo IV (847-55)
    105. Benedict III (855-58)
    106. St. Nicholas I (the Great) (858-67)
    107. Adrian II (867-72)
    108. John VIII (872-82)
    109. Marinus I (882-84)
    110. St. Adrian III (884-85)
    111. Stephen VI (885-91)
    112. Formosus (891-96)
    113. Boniface VI (896)
    114. Stephen VII (896-97)
    115. Romanus (897)
    116. Theodore II (897)
    117. John IX (898-900)
    118. Benedict IV (900-03)
    119. Leo V (903)
    120. Sergius III (904-11)
    121. Anastasius III (911-13)
    122. Lando (913-14)
    123. John X (914-28)
    124. Leo VI (928)
    125. Stephen VIII (929-31)
    126. John XI (931-35)
    127. Leo VII (936-39)
    128. Stephen IX (939-42)
    129. Marinus II (942-46)
    130. Agapetus II (946-55)
    131. John XII (955-63)
    132. Leo VIII (963-64)
    133. Benedict V (964)
    134. John XIII (965-72)
    135. Benedict VI (973-74)
    136. Benedict VII (974-83)
    137. John XIV (983-84)
    138. John XV (985-96)
    139. Gregory V (996-99)
    140. Sylvester II (999-1003)
    141. John XVII (1003)
    142. John XVIII (1003-09)
    143. Sergius IV (1009-12)
    144. Benedict VIII (1012-24)
    145. John XIX (1024-32)
    146. Benedict IX (1032-45) He appears on this list three separate times, because he was twice deposed and restored
    147. Sylvester III (1045) Considered by some to be an antipope
    148. Benedict IX (1045)
    149. Gregory VI (1045-46)
    150. Clement II (1046-47)
    151. Benedict IX (1047-48)
    152. Damasus II (1048)
    153. St. Leo IX (1049-54)
    154. Victor II (1055-57)
    155. Stephen X (1057-58)
    156. Nicholas II (1058-61)
    157. Alexander II (1061-73)
    158. St. Gregory VII (1073-85)
    159. Blessed Victor III (1086-87)
    160. Blessed Urban II (1088-99)
    161. Paschal II (1099-1118)
    162. Gelasius II (1118-19)
    163. Callistus II (1119-24)
    164. Honorius II (1124-30)
    165. Innocent II (1130-43)
    166. Celestine II (1143-44)
    167. Lucius II (1144-45)
    168. Blessed Eugene III (1145-53)
    169. Anastasius IV (1153-54)
    170. Adrian IV (1154-59)
    171. Alexander III (1159-81)
    172. Lucius III (1181-85)
    173. Urban III (1185-87)
    174. Gregory VIII (1187)
    175. Clement III (1187-91)
    176. Celestine III (1191-98)
    177. Innocent III (1198-1216)
    178. Honorius III (1216-27)
    179. Gregory IX (1227-41)
    180. Celestine IV (1241)
    181. Innocent IV (1243-54)
    182. Alexander IV (1254-61)
    183. Urban IV (1261-64)
    184. Clement IV (1265-68)
    185. Blessed Gregory X (1271-76)
    186. Blessed Innocent V (1276)
    187. Adrian V (1276)
    188. John XXI (1276-77)
    189. Nicholas III (1277-80)
    190. Martin IV (1281-85)
    191. Honorius IV (1285-87)
    192. Nicholas IV (1288-92)
    193. St. Celestine V (1294)
    194. Boniface VIII (1294-1303)
    195. Blessed Benedict XI (1303-04)
    196. Clement V (1305-14)
    197. John XXII (1316-34)
    198. Benedict XII (1334-42)
    199. Clement VI (1342-52)
    200. Innocent VI (1352-62)
    201. Blessed Urban V (1362-70)
    202. Gregory XI (1370-78)
    203. Urban VI (1378-89)
    204. Boniface IX (
    205. Innocent VII
    206. Gregory XII
    207. Martin V (1417-31)
    208. Eugene IV (1431-47)
    209. Nicholas V (1447-55)
    210. Callistus III (1455-58)
    211. Pius II (1458-64)
    212. Paul II (1464-71)
    213. Sixtus IV (1471-84)
    214. Innocent VIII (1484-92)
    215. Alexander VI (1492-1503)
    216. Pius III (1503)
    217. Julius II (1503-13)
    218. Leo X (1513-21)
    219. Adrian VI (1522-23)
    220. Clement VII (1523-34)
    221. Paul III (1534-49)
    222. Julius III (1550-55)
    223. Marcellus II (1555)
    224. Paul IV (1555-59)
    225. Pius IV (1559-65)
    226. St. Pius V (1566-72)
    227. Gregory XIII (1572-85)
    228. Sixtus V (1585-90)
    229. Urban VII (1590)
    230. Gregory XIV (1590-91)
    231. Innocent IX (1591)
    232. Clement VIII (1592-1605)
    233. Leo XI (1605)
    234. Paul V (1605-21)
    235. Gregory XV (1621-23)
    236. Urban VIII (1623-44)
    237. Innocent X (1644-55)
    238. Alexander VII (1655-67)
    239. Clement IX (1667-69)
    240. Clement X (1670-76)
    241. Blessed Innocent XI (1676-89)
    242. Alexander VIII (1689-91)
    243. Innocent XII (1691-1700)
    244. Clement XI (1700-21)
    245. Innocent XIII (1721-24)
    246. Benedict XIII (1724-30)
    247. Clement XII (1730-40)
    248. Benedict XIV (1740-58)
    249. Clement XIII (1758-69)
    250. Clement XIV (1769-74)
    251. Pius VI (1775-99)
    252. Pius VII (1800-23)
    253. Leo XII (1823-29)
    254. Pius VIII (1829-30)
    255. Gregory XVI (1831-46)
    256. Blessed Pius IX (1846-78)
    257. Leo XIII (1878-1903)
    258. St. Pius X (1903-14)
    259. Benedict XV (1914-22)
    260. Pius XI (1922-39)
    261. Pius XII (1939-58)
    262. Blessed John XXIII (1958-63)
    263. Paul VI (1963-78)
    264. John Paul I (1978)
    265. Blessed John Paul II (1978-2005)
    266. Benedict XVI (2005-2013)
    267. _________________

  • Sabrina

    Goodness, why is John XXIII a blessed…

    • ladycygnus

      Why wouldn’t he be?

      • Sabrina

        He did fantastic work during WWII. But his calling of the Council I have my doubts with.

        • ladycygnus

          But that council gave us wonderful documents like Lumen Gentium, Dei Verbum and Gaudium et Spes. These are such beautiful documents affirming the truths of the faith. And given how crazy things went shortly after it was sorely needed – for an organism doesn’t typically suffer such a severe illness without some unseen weakness being present in the body. The fact that the council was called when it was shows great foresight.

  • Brenda Becker

    Raising a glass to all that!

  • http://www.facebook.com/eric.c.hefty Eric Christopher Hefty

    Almost of much importance as who the Cardinals, with the Holy Spirit as inspiration, are going to choose to fill the Petrine Office is what name the next pope is going to choose. My heart is on John Paul III.

  • gc

    Dear Mark, if I had to describe the conclave in 3 words I wouldn’t call it an “explosion of love”.

    It isn’t totally outrageous to compare the conclave to a presidential election. Certainly there are different factions supporting different papabiles. I doubt there is any self-campaigning, but different cardinals offer different skills. The cardinals ask the Holy Spirit for guidance but that doesn’t necessarily mean the best man is chosen…(although hindsight is a wonderful thing). It would be naive too to think that there aren’t some very ambitious cardinals out there gunning for the papacy.

    But I get your general point, most Catholics miss the point about what the conclave is about. I think this article puts its finger on how a lot of non-Catholics have mis-interpreted it: http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/columnists/do-not-bet-on-the-next-pope-being-a-moderniser.20467793

  • gc

    oops, I meant to say non-Catholics twice in that last paragraph!

  • Catherine Edmund

    That a boy Marc!

  • TheodoreSeeber

    According to Jimmy Akin, who has done a wonderful statistical analysis on that list, the next Pope will likely be John XXIV, Leo XIV, John Paul III, or Paul VII.

    Except by his statistical analysis, which does have a clear pattern to it, isn’t quite clear enough to give any of those names more than a 12% chance- and every other name on the list at least a 1% chance.

  • Ajay

    This is such a beautifully written article, I got goosebumps while reading it. This blog is amazing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mikegood1 Michael Francis Goodwin

    Marc. Wow! I so appreciate your writing! It is full of grace and truth. God bless you and be with you!

  • LittleLady

    My favorite are the speculations about the ‘First Non-European Pope;’ even if they don’t know some of the more obscure African popes, how on earth do they miss Peter of all people?

  • Tony

    Bingo!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mary.stafford.106 Mary Stafford

    Aaaaargh! I was so busy watching the Catholic channel, I didn’t go online and get a BINGO card! I lose! lol

  • Menno

    “But to the Catholic, the conclave is not just a reportable event. It is that event which ensures the continued existence of the universe, and Eternity’s continued love for us fickle, finite creatures.”

    And the CONCLAVE ensures this? You are an actual adult, right? Functioning brain? Because this may well be the stupidest thing I have ever had the misfortune to read.

    • Anne

      Yeah, the conclave is part of the continuation of the Church Jesus Christ established. If the Holy Spirit is not with the Pope, then He is not with the Church because the authority of the Pope is a vital Roman Catholic doctrine. If the Holy Spirit abandons us, we’re screwed… so Marc’s statement is not “stupid”. Are you actually Catholic?

  • Korou

    When it comes to talking about banality, divisiveness and cluelessness – well, we have one party pointing to appalling issues of corruption and waste, and the other talking about the mystery and beauty of it all.
    Please. Let the secular media talk more. They do a better job at being religious.


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