Taking Down Benedict; Taking Down Woodward

One of my nun friends wrote to me yesterday that it felt strange and sad to remove Benedict’s picture from their walls at the moment of sede vacante, and I admit I hadn’t thought of it until she said it. All over the world, in churches, hospitals, colleges, food banks, monasteries, counselling offices, rectories and so forth, people were doing this:

That’s the subprioress of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey — where they will celebrate the first professions of two young women this month — and they processed this moment in light of the closed-door moments of their own lives:

It reminded us of the day we entered the monastery as postulants!

No matter how many times a man or woman visits a monastery, even living inside the enclosure, the day one formally enters to begin monastic life there is, for most monastic traditions, the symbolic entering through the formal enclosure doors of the monastery while family and friends look on. The postulant enters and then the doors are closed shut. Her new life, hidden in God, has begun!

The taking down of a picture, the formal closing of a door, these are just the small but meaningful rituals that reverberate in our hearts and — more powerfully — illustrate to us, and to the world, that time moves forward; it comes, it passes, the new moment is gone. Yesterday is not today; tomorrow forgets everything that seems to matter at this moment.

Any experience deeply felt makes some men better and some men worse. When it has ended, they share nothing but the recollection of a commitment in which each was tested and to some degree found wanting. [...] The consequences of the journey change the voyager so much more than the embarking or the arrival.”
― Murray Kempton, Part of Our Time: Some Ruins & Monuments of the Thirties

Yesterday, I wondered what the history books will say about Benedict’s vacated papacy, 200 years from now? Will they say this was a turning point — a moment when the church began to reclaim itself as a sacred entity that had hewn too closely to secular protocols and expectations, or lost itself by venturing to embrace the ever-passing, ever-changing times and trends? Or perhaps, vice-versa?

Then I looked at some of the political headlines, particularly that staggering business of mediafolk eating their own to protect their presidential squeeze-toy, and wondered, what the history books would say about yesterday, too. Would they say this was the moment the U.S. Press vacated its right to a public trust, by disallowing any challenges to (or demands of accountability from) a presidential administration?

A friend replied: “No one will remember what happened in America today…” And that is probably right. But watching the on-going goings-on among the mainstream journalists, I wondered if we ought not mark the day of the Woodward take-down as we were marking Benedict’s. Perhaps yesterday was a day when butterflies flapped their wings, and fomented distant calamities.

Back to Benedict: Although I understand, as some in the press appear not to, that he is utterly serious about withdrawing from the world (“I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences and so on. I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the Crucified Lord…”) I am rather hoping we’ll get a picture of the Pilgrim Pope Emeritus, in his simple robe and moccasins.

I have a sense it will be the most natural picture of him we have ever seen.

RELATED:
Fr. Dwight Longenecker
discusses what the new monk/pilgrim means to him and also addresses some of the stupid.

Rebecca Hamilton on the Washington side of things

Frank Weathers: To Embrace the Reality of Mystery

Ed Morrissey: the world’s most-watched job search

Thomas McDonald: Also thinking about passages and time

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://thedrawncutlass.blogspot.com/ Robert

    Yahoo News says Benedict will be listening to his CD’s and will resume playing the piano:

    http://news.yahoo.com/cardinals-begin-long-process-picking-pope-005711270.html

  • Pingback: Taking Down Benedict; Taking Down Woodward | CATHOLIC FEAST

  • Victor

    (((I admit I hadn’t thought of it until she said it.)))

    Anchoress! “IT” has to be taken down cause “I” have been told by “ONE” of Victor’s Ancestor Indian cell that he is no longer going to be protected from the holy see, or is that the holy sea? No matter cause if any of U>S (usual sinners) were to look HIM in the eyes, the so called Indian godly cells of twitter can’t be responsible for what might happen NOW for having taken a picture of HIS SOUL! Do what YA want with “IT” Anchoress butt Victor told U<S 92% godly cells that this is TOP secret so YA never heard "IT" from "ME", "ME" and "ME" if YA get my drift NOW!

    I hear YA Elisabeth! You're funny Victor! :)

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2013/02/28/saying-the-f-word-in-church/#comment-816821737

    YA will keep praying for me folks, NOW? :(

    Peace

  • Peggy m

    That bit about the cannabilistic media and their presidential squeeze toy is priceless.

  • Ann

    What a poignant image…and just when I had finally stopped crying after seeing how serene Benedict has been over these past few days!

    I have been thinking about how the city Rome will adapt to the new situation. I have always loved how the churches all display the current pope’s coat of arms on the outside of the building. I think it is a lovely tradition that would be appreciated on this side of the pond.

  • Subsistent

    What pope has ever spoken with such disarming informality as did Pope Benedict yesterday afternoon when he set down at Castelgandolfo and in greeting welcomers there, said: “I’m no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic church – at least, at 8 o’clock I won’t be – ….”

  • Cathy R.

    Elizabeth, I have this intense desire to join my poor prayers to Benedict’s. I think he has the right idea. I hope to be a wife, mother and contemplative with Benedict! To pray for the bruised church, the people of God, all of the countries and the world…Benedict is leading the way for me I hope I can keep up.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    “Yesterday, I wondered what the history books will say about Benedict’s vacated papacy, 200 years from now? Will they say this was a turning point — a moment when the church began to reclaim itself as a sacred entity that had hewn too closely to secular protocols and expectations, or lost itself by venturing to embrace the ever-passing, ever-changing times and trends? Or perhaps, vice-versa?”

    As I’ve stated elswhere, I have fears about this new precedent. I pray that I’m wrong.

    I hadn’t thought about the picture being taken down across the world either. That is sad. It makes me think what a happy day it will be when all the government offices are all doing that with Obama’s picture in a few years. ;)


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