Thursday, April 21, 2005

Habemus papam!

I've mostly been away from my blog during the past few days, which is unfortunate because these few days have been so interesting and exciting. But I wanted to share some thoughts about the new Pope, before the news about him and his election becomes stale and later events inevitably take over the front page.

I am not a Catholic, but have always been fascinated by Catholicism, and its history and ancient traditions. In addition, it appeals to my love of pomp and ceremony. (An aside: Speaking of traditions, if I were a Catholic, I would still want to attend Latin Mass. I recently read with great interest a newspaper article about some parishes in the Phoenix area that have reverted to this ancient practice. But what if I couldn't understand Latin? Well, in that case, I'd simply march over to Border's, purchase a copy of Wheelock's Latin, and learn it on my own, just like I did with Italian.) I count several Popes and a few saints among my personal heroes, and have always taken a particular interest in the papacy. Thus, the elevation of a cardinal to the throne of Peter is an exciting event for me, because in a very real sense, the man thus chosen becomes my Pope, too. And perhaps this is as it should be. I know the late John Paul II, for one, would have appreciated hearing this sentiment expressed by a Mormon.

In addition, however, I believe deeply in a God who loves and cares about His children, and in the existence of immutable physical and moral laws that govern the universe in general, and human conduct in particular. I am past fifty now -- gia' discendendo l'arco di miei anni, in the words of Dante -- and I find myself reflecting more and more about the brevity of life, and of how often I, in the course of my imperfect journey, have come short of what is expected of me by my the rules, tenets, and strictures of my demanding faith. But notwithstanding my personal shortcomings and failures, I take comfort in the knowledge that the laws and principles I try however imperfectly to follow have existed from all eternity, and will continue to exist from this time henceforth and forever. There is a part of me that will always point true north, as Peggy Noonan would say. I have also learned that to become a disciple of Christ, a true follower, is not easy, nor is it often popular. Long before I was baptized, I understood intuitively what the Prophet Joseph Smith meant when he said that any religion that did not require major sacrifice from its adherents lacked the power to generate the faith necessary for salvation.

Which brings up my thoughts about Benedict XVI. My impressions of him thus far have all been favorable, at least in part because so many in the mainstream media are portraying him as a doctrinaire archconservative, out of step with the times, and an opponent of gay marriage, abortion, or whatever other cause du jour happens to be fixating the liberals at the moment. But I believe this is the very thing that will ultimately make Benedict a successful Pope, and perhaps even a great one. This man is solidly grounded, and unafraid to stand for truth as he sees it. I, for one, find that very reassuring. The fashion of this world passes away, but I believe all of us, deep down inside, recognize what is really good and true and important, and will respect those who are brave enough to stand up for it. In the words of Bunyan,

Who would true valour see,
Let him come hither.
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather.

With all of that in mind, herewith a few of my favorite articles and posts on this topic, all of them gleaned during my most recent visits to the blogosphere:

For Barney Madsen's comments on Odd Bits, click here and here.

The Anchoress posted this. I recommend you follow her link to the full article by Jonah Goldberg. For that matter, check the other links as well. I have not looked at all of them, but The Anchoress is already well-established as one of my favorite blogs, and she always posts material that is informative and well worth reading.

For a glimpse of Benedict as a person, read this. (He and I apparently share a fondness for cats and cookies. I like to tell people that the Cookie Monster of "Sesame Street" fame was modeled after me.)

And Peggy Noonan had this to say, in a column I alluded to above.

Check this post again in a few days, because I may put in some additional links over the weekend.


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