Sede Vacante

The Coat of Arms of the Holy See
During Sede Vacante

Sede Vacante.  It means "the chair is empty" and is a Latin reference to the chair, or throne, of Saint Peter.  As I write this something remarkable is about to happen.  By the time you read it, it will have already happened.  For the first time in the history of the Catholic Church, a pope has resigned strictly for health and age reasons.  It's never happened before.  Yes, other popes have resigned (abdicated the throne) in previous centuries, but never for the reasons Pope Benedict XVI did.  The sheer magnitude of the power he just voluntary relinquished is monumental.  The press has been left in awe.  They can't fathom a man giving up so much so willingly.  Desperately, in vain, they tried to find some ulterior motive, some "other" reason, some kind of explanation as to why a man would give up so much power.  For weeks they've been searching and they've found nothing.  Exhausted and empty-handed they are forced to concede that this man simply abdicated the throne of Peter precisely for the reasons he said he did.  They are beside themselves.

We are left with the testimony of a man who described his papacy simply as: "a simple and humble labourer in the vineyard of The Lord."  What he did, he told us; he did it for the good of the Church.  He did it for us -- faithful Catholics -- so that we will have a younger and stronger leader in the difficult days ahead.  Whatever storm he sees on the horizon, it must be a tumultuous thing, for him to say this captain is too old and too weak to hold the wheel of the Barque of Peter steady.  What does he see?  We can only speculate.

On the very same day Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, announced his intended abdication, February 11, 2013, on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, he invoked the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the "Mediatrix of all Graces."  This has very significant meaning in Marian doctrine, and it signals an about-face of the former Holy Father, because he previously preferred the title "Mediatrix" rather than "Mediatrix of all Graces."  What does this mean?  Is there a Marian connection to the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI?  Again, we can only speculate.

In the days ahead, the Church is left without a pope, and the cardinals of the Church will soon assemble in conclave to elect a new pope.  Who will he be?  What will he be like?  Again we have nothing but speculation.

In times such as these, there is nothing for faithful Catholics to do but pray.  So pray we will.  We will pray our rosaries, our chaplets, our stations of the cross, our Liturgy of the Hours.  What else is there to do?  To non-Catholics, observing from outside the Church, all of this must look like quite a spectacle.