Benedict: The Burdened Do Not Shrug

A little fun. Because I am missing Rome desperately, particularly as I look out my window and gaze upon the silvery sky that promises more snow tonight, I reposted my lovesong to Rome’s Eternal Shrug:

Amid the mod socialists, less politically-minded Romans observe the gathering from the shady comfort of a cafe awning; they drink frothy coffee and when asked what the Communists are demanding, they smile and shrug. “What does every crowd demand? Attention; a little money so they can do better propaganda; the illusion of meaning!”

Tomorrow, there will be another demonstration, led by others looking for attention and drawing small, vague crowds, and Rome will observe them with a shrug and, unimpressed, turn its attention elsewhere. Movements come and they go, they are barely a blip in eternity, no more than a watch in the night, as consequential to Romans, and to time, as the ashes that fall from their lazily burning cigarettes.

The day begins with the pealing of a hundred church bells. They call to rise, call to prayer, they ring in the background of a noisy daily bustle, a constant back-and-forth of reassurances reminiscent of the Harmoniums of Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titans; they call “I am here, I am here,” and respond “So glad you are, so glad you are!” And all about, the Romans walk or ride, or zoom by like swarming wasps in their appropriately-named Vespas, eating gelato within yards of an incorruptible saint, carrying a bag of bread and wine in to Vespers

Whenever I think of Rome, and I do several times a day, I whisper up a prayer for our good pope in the Vatican, who is such an earnest, hard-working shepherd. He is wise and obedient in ways that continue to leave me almost breathless in humble wondering:

Although his meeting with some of the victims of the shameful sex abuse scandals was private and unseen, I suspect Benedict wore that same expression, and carried himself in that same resolute manner, as he allowed himself to be led where he would rather not go, placed into the presence of the church’s deepest wound — a wound of horror, confusion, evil, and betrayal. The terrible sin of some of our priests, compounded by their bishops, has been a source of sickening and unrelenting shame for us. We have felt the disgust in our bellies and wished we could push the whole story away, because the pain is so abysmal and vast. But it can be pushed away no longer, and Benedict said that even before his plane hit the ground at Andrews AFB, and every day after.

But speaking difficult words is easier than looking into the eyes of innocent lambs wounded and left to fend for themselves by neglectful and self-interested shepherds within the family. Benedict trusted and was led to look into those agonized eyes, and to tend the wounds, because it needed to be done if the flock is to survive.

Benedict is like a beast of burden, bearing enormous weight; he shrugs off nothing, and his walk is resolutely forward, his step firm. And all he’s asked for is prayer:

“Pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”

God bless and keep him.

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