Tuesday, March 12, 2013

conclave day one - black smoke

Dear Family and Friends,

Mass this morning with the Cardinals was wonderful – just like a mass with the pope – but one thing was missing: the Pope. One of these 115 men will become Pope, but for now, they are still just Cardinals.

Cardinals Processing In - Dolan, Kasper, Rigali
After Mass, the Cardinals had lunch, siesta time, and then headed over to the Pauline Chapel – a stone’s throw away from the Sistine Chapel.  The whole conclave isn’t like your typical political vote. It’s actually more a liturgy service aimed at helping the Cardinals “pray their way” through the voting.

Cardinals Processing Out - O'Malley
I was leafing through the booklet the cardinals used this afternoon to begin the conclave. It’s 100% Latin. They begin with a small prayer in the Pauline Chapel, and then process over to the Sistine Chapel as they sing a litany asking God, the Blessed Mother, and all the saints for help. Once there, they sing the 9th century hymn Veni Creator, imploring the Holy Spirit for his aid. After taking an oath of secrecy together, and then ratifying it individually on the Bible, they listen to a meditation on the importance of acting with right intention and having only God and the good of the Church before one’s eyes.

Saint Peter's in Prayer for the New Pope
Then comes the voting process, which is very slow and thorough. No hanging chad in the Sistine Chapel, that’s for sure! After the vote, they all pray vespers together.

Sistine Chapel and Chimney
I was going through the Vatican Museums with some friends while the Cardinals were voting this afternoon, and we could see the walls of the Sistine Chapel from the outside – we were about 30 feet away(see photo). Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed like there was a spiritual charge around the place, an almost electrical charge or force field, as if the powers of good and evil were striving for the upper hand. The weather was like that too all day – sun before the mass, then rain and lightning during it, then sun after, then a driving rain just before the cardinals started their procession, then a few drops here and there during the voting, then everything cleared up by the end. I think it means we need to blanket these cardinals with prayer!

Sistine Chapel from the Outside during the Voting
We all headed over to Saint Peter’s for the smoke at 7pm. It was a long wait. The square slowly filled up, and here and there someone would think they saw smoke and shout out. When it did come at 7:41pm Rome time, at first it was a bit whitish, and everyone inhaled a bit, but then out poured the blackest smoke you ever saw, and everybody breathed out, laughed, and headed on their way.

Waiting for the smoke March 12th
Tomorrow there will be four votes, and if there’s white smoke, it should come between 10:30 – 11:00 and 5:30 – 6:00 pm. If it’s black again, it will come at noon and around 7pm.

House where the Cardinals are staying
A news channel from England – ITV News, interviewed me and my friends after the mass for their program “ITV News at Ten”. I haven’t seen the footage yet, hopefully it turned out well. Those reporters really dig into you with the questions! Also, ABC Houston interviewed my friends while we watched the smoke pour out.

Rare Notice at the Vatican Museums
I know I may sound like a broken record player, but honestly, prayer is the answer right now to all the questions in our hearts and it is what the Cardinals need most right now. So let’s keep it coming!

God bless you,
Brother Kevin

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