Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Where do Popes come from? A parent's guide to answering adorable and bizarre questions.

Today is our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI's last day in office. Like so many of us, my little family has been praying over the future of our Church. We have even "adopted" a cardinal for whom we are praying. We've been digging up old pictures of our trip to Rome, explaining the hierarchy of our Church to our kids and delving into its beautiful universality.

And answering questions about the Pope's (possibly) secret holy superpowers.

Interesting and hilarious conversations have come up. Such as, "does the Pope live in a tower high in the sky so he can be close to God?" "Which special powers does the Pope have? Like, can he fly out of his window from place to place?" "Is the Pope-mobile for real???" Sigh. When we were explaining the Church's age old hierarchy, our eldest asked if there were any knights and pawns at the Vatican.  He wasn't joking, he is just really into chess.

Obviously, we discovered fairly quickly that we have not adequately discussed this aspect of our Catholic heritage with our young children. While we weren't expecting to have to let go of our beloved Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI so soon, his resignation does present a unique opportunity to share this historical moment with our children, and that part is exciting.

It would be impossible for me to do justice to 2,000 years of history. But if you are looking for a basic way to explain things, this may help!

                                            5 Things to teach children about the Papacy

1) The Pope is the earthly father of the Catholic Church worldwide.  The name "Pope" comes from Latin "Papa" and Greek "Papas" for Daddy. His position is designed to last for the rest of his life on earth.  This tradition began with St. Peter when Jesus said to him "You are the Rock on which I build my Church." The Pope's job is to guide the Church in matters of faith and morality in an ever changing world.

2) The Pope lives in Vatican City, which is its own country. Even though it is inside of Rome, it is not part of Rome.  (Cool fact: St. Peter's square is in the shape of a key, signifying the "keys" given to St. Peter to the Kingdom of heaven).

3) He is chosen from the College of Cardinals who form a Papal Conclave 15-20 days after a Pope dies or resigns. Here the Cardinals pray for many days together. They require a 2/3 majority in order to elect the next Pope. They meet in the Sistine Chapel.

4) If a candidate does not receive enough votes, the Cardinals apply a chemical to their voting ballots and send black smoke out of the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.  If a candidate succeeds in obtaining enough votes, they apply a chemical to their ballots to send white smoke out of the chimney, signifying that a new Pope has been chosen. Bells ring, too!

5) The winning candidate will be asked if he will accept his role as the Supreme Pontiff, and when he accepts, he chooses a new name for himself, and is lead into a room where he changes into his Papal garb for the very first time. It is then when the senior Cardinal deacon announces from St. Peter's square the following speech:

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum:
Habemus Papam!
Eminentissimum ac reverendissimum Dominum,
Dominum [First Name] Sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Cardinalem [Last Name],
Qui sibi nomen imposuit [Papal Name].
And for those of us with rusty Latin: 
I announce to you a great joy:
We have a Pope!
The most eminent and most reverend Lord,
Lord [First Name] Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church [Last Name],
Who takes for himself the name of [Papal Name].

And the whole world cheers and celebrates, "Habemus Papam," we have a Pope!!!!  

As we draw near the dawn of a new horizon for our Church, let us cherish all that Pope Benedict XVI has taught us, and as we continue to teach our children let us remember this: 
“Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world.”  
Pope Benedict XVI, pray for us! 

                                                 Me in St. Peter's basilica in 2005. I told you I was digging up old photos!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Prayer and Temperament

This week has reminded me of  Ecclesiastes 3:8.  There has been a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.  Many of us are still processing the resignation of our Holy Father Pope Benedict the XVI... and with Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Valentine's day and the first Friday of Lent happening in rapid succession...well, our minds and hearts have been on a bit of a roller coaster.

Even though I'm still a bit dizzy, I'm relieved to be entering Lent this year as a desperately welcomed chance to go into the desert to find Jesus and be still and listen.  To prepare for that,  I recently embarked on my first official appointment for spiritual direction. My spiritual director suggested that I should begin by identifying my prayer temperament (I had not heard of this before). She loaned me her well-loved copy of a book aptly titled "Prayer and Temperament" and I have been feasting on it ever since. I thought I'd share a little about it for those who might benefit, too.

The science behind "Prayer and Temperament" began with the Myers-Briggs Test Indicator in about 1974, which I've only ever understood in the context of Psychology alone. About 30 years ago, the author of the book Msgr. Chester Michael, worked on a study called the "Prayer Project" where he sought to find the connection between psychology and spirituality. Since then he has established an Institute for Spiritual Direction and his findings have been applied in thousands of retreats and workshops. If you would like to try this out, here is the MBTI online to help identify your personality type.

Of course, each of us are uniquely made, and no one person will fit into a box of human design. This is obviously not an exact science, but it can provide a good idea of where your strengths lie in your approach to prayer.

Msgr. Michael groups the main prayer temperaments within Benedictine prayer, Ignatian prayer, Augustinian prayer, Franciscan prayer, Thomistic prayer, but others are mentioned in the book such as Trinitarian prayer, Marian devotion and Teresian spirituality.  Once you take the MBTI, you can look here to determine which style you may fall under, and learn more about which forms your temperament may prefer. For cradle Catholics like myself who have not absorbed the beautiful knowledge and wisdom that so many others have strived to attain :) my advice would be to do a little reading and stretch your spirituality this Lent.  Allow yourself to experience a style of prayer that you have not tried before, just get your feet wet and see where God leads you. Reach out to your parish priest if you would like some guidance in getting started, and visit your parish library for great resources for your journey. Don't be intimidated!

Some prefer scripted prayers, some prefer contemplation and meditation.  Some enjoy spontaneous prayer and the holiness of daily work. Some marvel at nature. Some delight in music as prayer. Some enjoy reading, some enjoy writing, some are called to be speakers and leaders in ministry .  Our Creator has made us all to be different, but all of us come together in Mass as one family, one body in Christ, as servants to further His kingdom on earth.  Relish in how God made you, and offer your best to Him in prayer, almsgiving and service this Lent. May we all be blessed with a memorable and meaningful Lenten season!


How do you love to pray?