In which the Holy Spirit plays a part

“Do you have parties and canvassing?” McTurk wrote teasingly to Philippa, and “You forget, we keep silence,” Philippa wrote back. There was partisanship, of course, but it was characterized by extreme quietness. Each nun had to decide for herself and make no declaration, indeed, giving no inkling of what she was deciding…and in these days it was as if every senior, each member of the council, was held in a brilliant light…Which? Will it be you? It won’t be you. It might be you.

Rumer Godden, In This House of Brede

This is an example of the sort of stories we’re seeing come out of the MSM.

Of course there are things the cardinals may want to look for in the next pope. But electing a pope isn’t like electing a president.

Catholics believe that God chooses the Pope. Indeed, George Weigel’s excellent book about the death of John Paul II and the 2005 Conclave is entitled God’s Choice. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, the cardinal electors choose that man. There is no canvassing. There is, of course, talk among the cardinals, in the periods when they are allowed–within the conclave, there are periods, if the voting reaches certain points, when there are breaks, and the cardinals can talk. The ballot is secret, between only the elector and God, and it is a solemn moment, this, when the elector casts his vote before Michelangelo’s great painting of The Last Judgment.

Michelangelo, Last Judgment

Michelangelo, Last Judgment

To modern ears, this sounds preposterous. But it’s really the only way to do it. The first pope denied Christ three times. St. Paul, in Mother Angelica’s wonderful turn of phrase, “couldn’t have been elected dogcatcher.”

There have been popes who are saints, and popes that Dante cast into his inferno. There have been middling popes, and popes that gave birth to TV shows on Showtime.  The Church is made up of human beings, and we are all imperfect. But when it comes to conclave, we really do try to let the Holy Spirit take us where we should go.

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