It has been a little wistful to see the final days of Pope Benedict. I, of course, did not know him, though I did meet him on several occasions. When I was a student in Rome he was already a very famous theologian who worked at the Vatican. He walked to work every day and if you passed him he would gladly stop and say hello, he really seemed to enjoy talking to us students on those occasions. Most of what he wrote as a theologian and later as Pope is way beyond me, I’ll admit it. But he was a very humble man, and that, in itself, is a great lesson (and one I can profit from). So, it is a little sad to see him go.
Now we have no pope. It is called “sede vacante” which means empty seat, referring to the empty throne of St. Peter’s. It is sadly accompanied by much idle and superficial chatter in the media about who will be next and how they will handle all the challenges which the Church is currently facing.
Here’s the truth: whoever the next pope is, he probably can’t do much more about the Church’s problems than Pope Benedict could. He can teach, he can provide direction and correction, he can appoint smart and loving bishop’s to do the same around the world. But he can’t magically “fix” the Church’s problems, anymore than any President could singlehandedly fix the Country’s problems.
The Church will be healed and made whole and grow healthy when we become only and all about doing what Christ told us to do: making disciples in our local parishes. The Church is rebuilt at the parish level by parishioners themselves, as they help make disciples.
And that is a job for each of us in the Church. All of us need to be doing that. How do we do it ? Two of the basic ways we do that is through ministry and missions.
Ministry is what we do in our church for our community, missions are what we do beyond our community, in the world. Both are essential to the discipleship enterprise and the health of a parish. Not everybody has to do both, but you have to do something. With the exception of new comers and guests, the infirm, as well as those who are taking a break because of a new baby or a crazy time at work, in other words, with very few exceptions, we need everyone in the parish serving. We like to say “every member a minister.” We cannot grow in our discipleship individually or as a congregation until the parishioners get out of the pews and start serving.
You could call it sede vacante.