As Catholics we have many advantages over our non-Catholic brethren. One thinks of confession, devotion to Mary, the prayers of the saints, the graces of the Mass, and many others. Among these advantages is the Petrine ministry (cf. Matt 18:16). It is through this gift of Christ to His bride, the Church, that we remain one, that we remain Catholic, that we remain apostolic, indeed that we (corporately, if far too infrequently individually) remain holy. Maintaining these four ancient "marks of the Church" apart from the special graces given to Peter and his successors would be impossible (as has been proven by those groups that splinter off).
As great of a gift as the papacy is, we Catholics can become lax in our devotion toward and thankfulness for the See of Peter. Luckily, St. Josemaria Escrivá, in his spiritual masterpiece The Forge provides his readers with some great advice on how to cultivate the proper attitude towards our Holy Father.
|St. Josemaria, pray for us!|
When an average Catholic thinks about the pope, his mind typically first thinks of his office as the highest earthly teaching in the Church. To this end, St. Josemaria gives sound advice on how we can best receive those teachings to bear fruit,
Welcome the Pope's words with a religious, humble, internal and effective acceptance. And pass them on! (133)
The next time you hear Francis, or read any of the writings of any of the 266 popes we've been blessed with for the past two millennia, stop for a second and ask yourself if you are trying to receive those teachings with this attitude. More than that, are you ready and willing, even excited, to "pass them on"?
Of course the pope is much more than just an authoritative teacher. He is also,
... the foundation stone of the Church and, throughout the centuries, right to the end of time, he caries out among men that task of sanctifying and governing which Jesus entrusted to Peter (134)
Remember, the papacy is a gift from God to the world, not just the Catholic world, but the entire world. Having a pope, even during the papacies of "bad popes," is a blessing from God, one which the faithful ought to respond to with praise and thanksgiving.
St. Josemaria, however, calls for even more. The pope is the primary representative of Christ on Earth. He heads the Kingdom of God as Christ the King's prime minister. He is our Holy Father. For the man that wears the metaphorical tiara we must then pay the respect and give the love we would to our Earthly fathers. Indeed, we must give much more.
Your deepest love, your greatest esteem, your most heartfelt veneration, your most complete obedience and your warmest affection have also to be shown towards the Vicar of Christ on earth, towards the Pope.We Catholics should consider that after God and the most Blessed Virgin, our Mother, the Holy Father comes next in the hierarchy of love and authority. (135)
This reality, this thankfulness for the great gift Christ has bestowed upon His Holy Church, should, according to St. Josemaria, be on our minds daily, along with prayers for the men, sinners like the rest of us, who fulfill that highest of offices.
May the daily consideration of the heavy burden which weighs on the Pope and the bishops move you to venerate and love them with real affection, and to help them with your prayers. (136)
In short, thank God for our Holy Father, whoever he is and however you feel about him, and pray for him.