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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  • Teresa D.

    God bless him and keep him indeed. I would love to have that photo of him to hang next to my JPII picture.

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  • Annie

    Our dear pope…”Christ’s Donkey”

    “Augustine, his great master, had also chosen the life of a scholar but was called to be a bishop. Augustine wrote, “I am a draft animal for you, and it is in this way that I abide with you.” Ratzinger concludes his memoir with this: “I have carried my load to Rome and have now been wandering the streets of the Eternal City for a long time. I do not know when I will be released, but one thing I do know: ‘I have become your donkey, and in just this way am I with you.’”

    I miss Rome too!

  • Aaron

    Beautiful literary piece. God bless your soul!

  • Jeff

    Rome is okay. A little dirty. Austria is better.

    [The whole country of Austria is better than Rome? Well...I loved Vienna when I was there; it had been one of my favorite cities. But Rome...Rome had me at hello! :-) -admin]

  • Dr Rosemary McHugh

    Frankly, from what I have been learning, Pope Benedict XVI, when he was known as Cardinal Ratzinger and head of the office charged with protecting faith and morals for 24 years, continued the RCC culture of secrecy, in regard to clergy sex abuse cases.

    In 2001, he added the threat of excommunication for any bishop, priest, or lay person who would dare speak about priest sex abuse. It is my understanding that the Vatican disempowered bishops and priests from going to the police.

    As a family physician, I wonder why the Pope seems to lack insight into his personal role in allowing cases of priest sex abuse to flourish worldwide? I have not heard him admit his personal guilt in this mess that the Church is in.

    Loyalty to fellow priests and bishops seems more important to this Pope, than the protection of innocent children and the support of victims of priest sex abuse.

    One wonders if the Pope and bishops and priests were free to marry and have children of their own, would they be so uncaring of victims of priest sex abuse, especially the victims who were children and had their childhoods robbed from them?

    Rosemary Eileen McHugh, M.D., Wheaton, Illinois

  • LeonMX

    Fortitude is the word that defines him. Ever since he became Pope, the Church has been relentlessly examining itself, purging those noxious elements that have damaged the faith of many.

    The one thing I’m sure of is that, when the Lord calls him, our Church will be safer and more faithful. Perhaps smaller, but quality matters more than quantity.

    Benedict made me regain my faith. Every time I pray, I ask the Lord to give him wider shoulders, because his burden is great.

  • Sal

    The Pope is exactly three days older than my father. When I imagine Dad doing Benedict’s job, experiencing the calumny directed at him every day, making the decisions that affect the lives of billions of people- not just for today but for who knows how many years to come- I am overwhelmed by his strength, which can only come from one source.
    Wonderful picture, dear Anchoress!

  • dry valleys

    Italian Culture and Society:

    (No, it isn’t a spoof, this really is a winning campaign video by a government whose corruptions & scandals the Italian people “shrug” off… with dire consequences for their country I might add).