Grieving without a funeral

When I express that this wasn’t the morning I was expecting to have when I went to sleep last night, I suppose I can take comfort in the fact that everyone can say that — even the Vatican Press secretary.  Since this is a holiday in the Vatican, Father Lombardi had to go turn on his own microphone before the conference.  This was not a foreseen event.

And while this news isn’t about me, this blog is, so I’m going to share my thoughts and feelings and worries.

I just finished teaching 2000 years of Church history a few months ago.  (My students immediately began emailing me this morning.)  I should be the first to point out that this Church has weathered many storms and has witnessed many crazy things- this being the least of them, really.  I mean, there was a time in the Church so dark that a Pope ordered the exhumation of the body of another Pope so his corpse could be put on trial.

It only takes a quick reading of a few key moments in our history to realize that we’re living in some pretty sunny days.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m still in a fog, have no appetite, and would like to go back to bed and pretend this didn’t happen.

It’s not that I don’t have faith in Christ’s promise.  I will be with you always. … You are Peter, and on this Rock I will build My Church.  And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

I know all those things.

I also know that the Pope is an office.  Which means succession.  Pope Benedict is a Pope.  There has been 265 Popes, and they’ll be a 266th.

Less than a month ago, I addressed the Nashville Diocesan of Catholic Women on Pope Benedict– my experience at his election, his life before his papacy, and what his papacy has meant to the Church.  I spoke about our feelings in the square at JPII’s funeral.  No one could replace the only Pope we had ever known.  John Paul II wasn’t just a Pope to us. He was THE Pope.

And now I have those feelings all over again. Except Benedict hasn’t died.  There’s no funeral.  And so the world isn’t grieving.

But I am.  I have written again and again about how much Pope Benedict feels like a friend to me.  And now this friend has made an announcement I can’t wrap my mind around.  Intellectually, I can understand it.  But my heart is breaking.

And yet if I say I’m grieving, I get chastised for not believing the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church.  I get looked at funny because I’m “too attached” to this man.

And so I try to go about my day like everyone else, as if the world hadn’t turned upside down with that text message that woke me up this morning.

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6 thoughts on “Grieving without a funeral

  1. Mom says:

    He is the Grandfather to the World. A young girl told him that, I think at the meeting of Families in Spain. We know that after Feb 28, we won’t see Benedict again until he dies. He will enter a monastic lifestyle and it will be as if he has died. For those of us who see him everyday on our computers, can read his words as he says them, this is a dark day. But we know he is acting in what he has prayed the best interests of the Church. But in his love for us, he knows we are sad.

  2. Amy says:

    This is grief! and loss! And those feelings are distinct from trust that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church.
    You were the first person I thought of, because I know how much of a Papa he is to you. Your presentation about him at the Forum a couple of years ago was the first time I experienced him as a Papa to me. That doesn’t mean I disliked him or didn’t think he was a “good Pope” or anything like that. I just was still grieving JPII and couldn’t make the emotional shift. I fully expected you’d be grieving your Papa…I’d think it was weird if you didn’t.
    My hypothesis is that he is in pretty bad health…much worse than we’ve known. We may not be waiting very long for a funeral. And that will be sad all over again.

  3. psullivan says:

    Joan,
    I am glad that we were able to share in your excitement and love for him when we went to Rome with you. It will always be one of my favorite times in my life. Thanks for sharing!
    Peggy

  4. Megan says:

    I am so sorry I woke you up this morning with my text! At least, I’m assuming it was me, although it very well may have been someone else. In my shock and sadness, you were the first person I wanted to talk to and in my haste, ignored all consderation of the time difference! So sorry!

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