The Pope Who Came To Me

Kassie facebooked me the news this morning before I had even kissed my kids good morning and turned on the coffee pot. I thought at first that she must be wrong, there could simply be no way Papa B would bow out. But as I scrolled through Facebook and Twitter, the kids clamoring for breakfast, toast burning, milk forgotten on the counter, I started to feel like one does after a swift, hard punch to the gut. Like I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stand up straight, couldn’t take it in.

Pope Benedict is the only Pope I’ve ever known. Coming from a Protestant background, “in persona Christi” is an entirely foreign and much-despised concept. Who needs someone to be Christ for us when we have Christ in our hearts and the Holy Spirit to guide us? Well, I did. I couldn’t ever figure out what the Bible meant, and half of what I thought it meant seemed pretty heinous to me. Reading the Bible became, in my latter years of Protestantism, a form of self-torture. I started to hate the God of the Bible, because I couldn’t understand him or some of the awful things he said. My own interpretations were limited by my limited understanding of…everything. I wanted to believe, but I didn’t know how.

The Church unfolded before me gradually, starting with my friends, then teachers, the Mass, my godparents, my in-laws, and then that dear, beloved Cistercian. After my official conversion, the outer reaches of the Church began to open up for me. Bishops who wrote books and priests who blogged. Ignatius Press. George Weigel. First Things. The Anchoress. And Benedict XVI.

I had heard that he was “tenacious”, like a bulldog, a “conservative powerhouse” who would be “a champion for the return to orthodoxy.” But what I saw was a gentle, intelligent, humble man who astounded me above all with his love. His love for the Anglicans, the SSPX, the Eastern Orthodox churches. His love for the poor, the ill, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the disenheartened. And just in the last year, his love for my generation, my peers, in my country, in this time. He didn’t brush off the burgeoning world of the internet as irrelevent, but encouraged us to embrace it by embracing it himself. The whole world watched with something like a collective suspension of disbelief as the Pope Tweeted. It was truly remarkable. It is truly remarkable, to have the Pope’s words show up in my Twitter feed. To read a letter he wrote aimed specifically at bloggers and social-media users like me. To see the Pope be in persona Christi…not pontificating from his golden throne in the Vatican, but braving the hatred and abuse of the tweeting masses to say something to me.

Papa B, my Pope, has shown me what “in persona Christi” really means. It doesn’t mean always being right, inexorably driving the heathens back to orthodoxy or out the door, or rescuing the Church from the abysmal desecration of Vatican II. It means loving us, no matter who we are or where we are. He got on Twitter to meet us where we are. We’re not in Vatican City. We’re not filling up churches and cathedrals. He knows that. So, like Christ, he came to us.

The potential loss of that is what I felt so keenly this morning. In the end, it isn’t a great champion of Truth who will vocally drive away all dissenters and restore the Church to glory. It’s a man who comes to us humbly, and loves us even though we’re tweeting instead of going to Mass. Like Christ did.

I have faith in the Church, and even though it will be particularly difficult for relatively new converts like me to weather the changing papacy, I trust that it is for the best. But I will miss this Pope who with his tweets and letters serves as a reminder of what it truly means to be in persona Christi.


  • Kassie

    Excuse me while I go cry into my teacup.

  • Emily

    My only response to your post is: me too.

  • eliese

    Thanks for this reflection.

  • Dylana Skye


    But now I am bawling more than I was earlier. This is what I awoke to. I am so sad, but I know he made this decision for our good.

  • Lisa

    Beautiful, Calah. Thanks.

  • Sarah

    What a love you have for Papa B! This was beautifully written.

  • Michelle

    Thank you, Calah, for putting into words what so many have us have been feeling today. As a recent convert I feel adrift and can’t imagine our church without Papa B. While I know it is for the best, I will still miss him very much.

  • Dad of Six

    I know how you feel. I converted in 2000, and felt bereaved and empty at the death of JP2. But I wept with joy at the election of B16.

    Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the thy faithful and enkindle in them thy fire of thy love. Send forth thy Spirit, and they shall be created.

    And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

  • Maggie @ From the Heart

    Amazing words, Calah. I love the Catholic Church and believe in what she says, but the past few years she has seemed “foreign” to me. I never thought it totally cool that the Pope was using Twitter or that he came out with a new book or letter. But this post has caused me to stop and REALLY think on the beauty of the papacy that Christ left us.

  • Martha

    Totally agree. I felt abandoned when I heard the news…he’s the only Pope I’ve ever known. But I know he would never make this decision without great prayer and guidance from the Holy Spirit. I was just in Rome and seeing the light on in his papal apartments late at night, while I was walking through St. Peter’s Square, gave me great comfort. He will be dearly missed.