My blog neighbor Fr. Dwight Longenecker has a great insight into the two men in white now living at the Vatican:
Together, Mary and Martha represent prayer and action, and both are needed for the Gospel to move forward.
Now at this crucial time in human history, the Church offers in these two living popes an image of the unity of prayer and action. Pope Emeritus Benedict may have stepped off the world stage, but he still wears the white cassock of his office, and remains is a powerful presence behind the scenes in his Mater Ecclesiæ hermitage. Here, Benedict XVI’s life of prayer – like that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for whom the hermitage is named – will be one in which he withdraws from the public eye and, like her, “ponders all these things in his heart.”
It is also significant that one of the few public events at which the two popes presided together was the blessing of a new statue of St. Michael the Archangel in the Vatican grounds. Francis speaks much of the battle against Satan, and I believe both popes are very aware of ominous signs in the ongoing battle between darkness and light. Both popes are aware of the need for a powerful prayer presence behind the public ministry of Pope Francis. If Benedict is the contemplative “Mary,” then Francis is the active “Martha,” and just as the contemplative Mary needs the active Martha, the active Martha relies on the prayers of Mary.
Having just visited Rome for a conference on the New Evangelization, I can affirm that every street, every alleyway, every church and city square is crammed with history and seems to harbor a deeper level of meaning. So it is with the two popes – their chosen names and even their lodgings signify their identity and their role. The papal apartments in the apostolic palace stand empty. Both popes have chosen to live elsewhere: Benedict in a monastery dedicated to Mary, and Francis in a hostel dedicated to Martha.
Check out the rest over at Aleteia.