The Bitter End

Twilight in Rome, via @CatholicNewsSvc

So (and, yes, I tend to begin most conversations with “so” – it’s a weird personal tic)…

In case you haven’t heard, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI announced today that he is resigning at the end of the month.  Like most, I am stunned.  This is the first papal resignation in almost 600 years, and the last one happened in the midst of a great Church schism that makes today’s problems look like child’s play.

I wasn’t planning on this being the topic of my next post, nor was I planning to write a new post so soon.  But, you see, besides being an historic moment for the Church and western civilization, it comes at a strange time for me.

Today I’ve been thinking a lot about commitment and fidelity.  I take that back, for a while now I’ve been thinking a lot about commitment and fidelity.  And I really don’t know what role they play, or should play, in my life.  But today’s events bring the dilemma into relief in a way I wanted to share.

On the one hand, it takes great humility, to admit your weaknesses and know when enough is enough.  It also takes a great amount of self-knowledge – the more the world knows of a person, the less a person often knows about herself.  And publicly admitting that you cannot go on any longer, despite generations of shoes to fill and over a billion eyes ready to judge and mock you, takes more courage than any one person should be expected to have.  In this way, today’s events have been an exceptional and unexpected dose of grace for a world that rarely takes its medicine well or without complaint.

But, on the other hand, what about commitment?  What about, despite it all, sticking to the oath you made before God and yourself to persevere?  What happened to suffering publicly, to sacrificing everything like Christ on the cross for others?  I think people, including myself, are much too easy on themselves and willing to compromise on their beliefs when they “can’t take it any longer.”  And while sometimes change is good, sometimes a person needs to follow through on his vows.

And see it through to the bitter end.

Like so many twentysomethings, I’ve felt myself at a crossroads.  And which path I should take is unclear.  Do I follow through on my commitments to myself and those I love?  Or do I cast these burdens aside, as more than any one man can bear, and reap the whirlwind?

…This would be the part of the post where it would be nice to have a profound conclusion.  But I don’t have one.  Like my Church in general, I don’t know what is coming next.  And like my generation in general, nothing is certain.  Yet, like everyone, all I can do is stand, take a few deep breaths, and face what comes next with as much courage as I can.  The future comes whether we want it to or not.

Regardless of the answer, thank you, Holy Father, for making me ask the questions.  And may strength carry you until life grants you rest.

With love,

–AJ

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