The Papal Conclave: March Madness & the Gift of the Holy Spirit
I love the annual NCAA College Basketball Tournament, affectionately marketed as “March Madness.” Like many fans I rip out the page from the newspaper that has the teams in their brackets and begin to pick my winners. My best case scenario has North Carolina, my graduate school alma mater, going to the Final Four. But I must admit I also have a huge penchant for the underdog — even if it means a loss for Carolina.
So, when one of the many news shows expounding the upcoming election of the Pope labeled the papal conclave “March Madness” and flashed a set of brackets on the screen, it captured my attention. I was even mildly amused. In fact, there have been lots of light-hearted pope cartoons, clever captions and witty quips these past few weeks.
We use humor, don’t we, to help face our fears or to deal with the unknown. We do know that what begins this week in Rome is serious business. I keep trying to tell myself that the conclave does not really affect my life or the local church all that much. And that is partly true. As Sisters of Providence, we’ll keep showing up as church to pray and worship with one another, to carry out the mission with which we have been blessed by God. I have confidence in that.
I also have some deep-seated belief that a papal conclave infused with the power of the Holy Spirit has the potential to make all the difference in the life of our Church, our churches and our world.
Honestly, in my worst moments I feel that the odds of this happening are worse than one of my underdog teams making it to the Final Four. But then I remember, as others of my sisters have reminded me, the papal conclave that gave us John the XXIII. That elderly Italian papa, who had been chosen as a transitional figurehead and certainly not as someone expected to make waves, announced the second Vatican Council within three months of his election. He changed my life and the life of the church in the world dramatically.
Pope John the XXIII’s courage in calling the council may be matched only by Pope Benedict’s decision to retire. I suspect both were spirit-led. It has been written that throughout the Second Vatican Council the bishops spoke of the unexpected presence of the Holy Spirit.
We need to invoke the Holy Spirit this very day to fill that Sistine Chapel with an unexpected presence, to be with our cardinals, to imbue us with the power to truly be the People of God.
A Holy Spirit song has made its way into my Lenten prayer.
“Holy Spirit, breath of the love of Christ, you are always present. “
Join me through your own prayer, your own song. Who knows where the spirit could lead us this time!