Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop emeritus of Chicago stood upon the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica after having just elected Joseph Ratzinger to be Pope Benedict XVI as the 265 successor of St. Peter on April 19, 2005. Below you will find the picture that was flashed around the world. Ancient tradition demands that all the Cardinals gather on the balcony and await the presentation of the new pope to the world. Only they know who that is. In this world of instant tweets, emails and texts; in a world where every person has a cellular device in his pocket, the entire world waits at the Sistine Chapel for the most ancient form of communication—a smoke signal. The world waits breathlessly.
After the picture below was released, Cardinal George (first on right) was asked what he was thinking as he seemed to be looking in a very different direction from all the other Cardinals. His reply was that he was looking out upon the city of Rome, the ancient center of the mightiest empire of history. He was thinking about all those emperors, kings, potentates, Caesars, despots and pharaohs who had claimed to be of divine origin. Where are they now? Forgotten! Lost to history! Gone! Dust! No one following them anymore! And here 2000 years later the entire world was riveted upon the election of the 265th Vicar of Christ on earth.
Just behind those Cardinals, around the great Bramanti Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica are the words: “Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum” (“You are ‘Rock’ and on this rock I will build my Church; to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Mt 16:18) This was the promise of Jesus to St. Peter and the Church. No power on earth shall destroy the rock of the Church. The Church is here until Christ’s return. Many have tried, like Napoleon, like Hitler, and others will try in the future, but the Church is here until His return. We have His promise.
On this Pentecost we are once again given the assurance of the fierce and awesome power given to the Apostles at Pentecost, and to us at our Confirmation. This weekend our parish church will be filled to overflowing with native Spanish-speaking Catholics gathered to praise the Holy Spirit in prayer and song. They gather to celebrate Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. The Cardinals pictured here are the successors of the Apostles, entrusted with the unique ministry of shepherding the universal Church. You have already received that same Holy Spirit at your Confirmation to give you the courage, wisdom, fortitude, knowledge and piety to live and proclaim the message of our salvation in Christ Jesus. Don’t waste those gifts. Don’t leave them dormant. Open up these gifts of the Spirit and use them to change yourself and others.
“Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of thy faithful.
Send forth thy Spirit, and Thou shalt renew the face of the Earth.”
– Fr. Gerard Gordon