Retirement has been something of a surprise so far. I expected that after the first week or so, the days would settle into a routine with one day pretty much becoming like another. This hasn’t been the case at all. During the first week or two, I spent significant amounts of time on the phone working out some paper work glitches with Social Security. Then, a doctor appointment or two came up, then some work on the house, then some dental work, then, then . . . It seems it’s been one thing after another and I haven’t settled into a particular routine. Oh yes, I started taking a walk every day during the first two weeks but then the county began working on the trail, right in the middle of my preferred path and since then the weather has been pretty uncooperative. So, another break in routine.
I guess I should be a bit more of Benedictine in my response to these disruptions, but after all, routine is a very Benedictine ideal and I wish things would settle down. I retired so I wouldn’t be so busy. Oh well, the best laid plans and all.
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One thing that’s come out of my retirement experience is a much greater and deeper appreciation of having some time of silence and solitude. I am not exposed, on a daily basis, to the noise that is ever present in the world we live in. I don’t watch much TV, don’t listen to music, I do try to work out and read and spend some more time in prayer. But mostly, it’s just quiet and I can focus, until this week that is, on matters at hand. It’s a nice change, and I strongly recommend it.
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“Processes of purification, which are as necessary as they are painful, run through the whole of history, the whole life of those who have dedicated themselves to Christ. The mystery of death and resurrection is ever present in these purifications. When man and his institutions climb too high, they need to be cut back; what has become too big must be brought back to the simplicity and poverty of the Lord himself. It is only by undergoing such processes of dying away that fruitfulness endures and renews itself. ”
This quote is from Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth. I find his expectation that the Church would need to return to the simplicity and poverty of Christ, and that that seems to be Francis’ number one priority at the moment to be a remarkable coincidence. At least, that was my first thought. But then I began to reconsider.
There have been seven popes in the Chair of Peter in my lifetime, beginning with Pius XII. Except possibly, possibly, for John XXIII, there has been a very strong element of continuity between the popes during that time. I except John XXIII not because he set out to change the teaching of the Church, I don’t believe he did, but because he set in motions events that got out of control for reasons he might not reasonably have expected. Vatican II was never intended, I believe, to be anything other than a refreshing of the Church, a return, as it were, to the essentials. Unfortunately, there were those who seized the opportunity and distorted their own ideas into something they called the “spirit of Vatican II.” They were deeply misguided and led many people astray.
What I’m trying to get at is that it shouldn’t be surprising if Francis essentially follows in Benedict’s footsteps, if he takes up projects Benedict anticipated but couldn’t carry out. We were given another example over the weekend with the appointment of a council to review and reform the Curia; according to Fr Z, this was also a project Benedict began which, unfortunately, was derailed by the reaction to the Regensburg address. (Story here). Yes, his style is going to be quite different from his predecessors, he’s clearly his own man, but I don’t expect him to be, say, another John XXIII. I think he will come to be viewed as a very worthy successor to Benedict and John Paul II.