Benedict, Dante, and Chickens

You cannot leave one place without entering another. Yesterday was a day of beginnings and endings. As I watched papa Bene recede from the balcony of Castelgandolfo, I realized it was possible I’d never see him again in this world. There’s sadness in that, but as some of my fellow Catholic bloggers and I kicked around our thoughts about the day’s events on a radio round table with Sheila Liaugminas, we talked about how this sadness is momentary, but the gifts Benedict left behind will stand forever.

Sorrow is fleeting, and joy–which is the thing drawing us toward beatitude: which indeed is beatitude–is eternal. Pain passes away. Its passing is not easy, and we cannot simply shrug it off. I’ve been witness to enough suffering to know that much. But even suffering which lasts a lifetime does end. And when it does, something new is born.

The Church endures in the only way it can: through new growth. The seat is filled by another, as it always has been, and always shall be.  There’s something unsettling in that, but also something exciting. As I watched the live feed of the helicopter flying over Rome, I snapped this screen shot:

There it is: all in one image. The ruins of the Colosseum, where savage entertainments once were offered to a bored populace, and the blood of Christians soaked the sand. And there, high above, the man who represents the idea that made–and still makes–the powerful and worldly and “smart” tremble. Triumph.

Remember that image and what it tells us: we will always triumph. That triumph may force us through pain and suffering and darkness, but triumph we will. The world is spitting its venom at us right now, with each commentator and reporter trying to top the last for ignorance and hatred. Big deal. They always did.  They always will. Humanity nailed its own Creator to a tree. Everything else is pretty small potatoes.

Because that wasn’t the end of the story. It was only the beginning.

I can show you why yesterday was a day of mixed emotions here at Casa McD. Say hi to Dolly:

It’s like she’s staring right into your soul.

She’s a two day old Buff Orpington chick: one of the three we’re adding to our flock of chickens. She arrived here as Benedict departed, and was cheeping madly as he boarded his helicopter and ordered the pilot, “Once around the dome and home for tea.”

No, I’m not comparing the Holy Father to a chicken. I’m saying that life is always beginning again: either bursting up through the dirt, or cracking out of its shell, or crying in the harsh light of a hospital delivery room. The Church has to renew as well. The Old Peter steps down. The New Peter steps up. We don’t mourn that. We celebrate it.

It’s there in the epigram for Dante’s great forgotten love poem. It is the way he described his own emotional rebirth, and something we need to keep in mind in the weeks ahead: incipit vita nova.

Here beginneth the new life.