Conclaves and the Holy Spirit

Yesterday in my department, I had the privilege of leading our grad students' weekly Friday prayer, and focused on praying for the Roman Catholic church, and particularly for the Holy Spirit's guidance of the cardinal-electors and, as these cardinal-electors, properly understood, represent all of us within the Sistine Chapel. We were able to share both our numerous fears and our flickering, yet present, hope in the work of the Holy Spirit.

Joseph Ratzinger, who according to recent reports may be more papabile than previously thought, has some great words of wisdom on the role of the Spirit in a conclave, responding to a question of how the Holy Spirit can be said to "pick" the pope:

“I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the pope. ... I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined." Then the clincher: “There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit would obviously not have picked.”

This is from John Allen's column from yesterday on the coming conclave and "negative campaigning." He (along with his colleagues) is doing a stellar job reporting daily on the conversations he's able to hear in Rome, and is doing a great service to English-speaking Christians as a modern-day (and less anonymous) Xavier Rynne.

Regarding the Holy Spirit, it's helpful to remember that during the first descent of the Spirit on the disciples at Pentecost, they were also locked in their rooms and scared out of their wits...

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