I admit I’m biased. I’m a Stephen and ever since I was a little boy and learned that the man who becomes pope forgoes his birth name for one entirely new — as a sign of leaving his life behind as did the Apostles and giving it entirely to the Lord, as Jesus renamed Simon to Peter, the Rock upon which He built His Church) — I’ve wanted a pope named Stephen. It was only a boy’s pride, to be sure, and Stephen’s Biblical meaning of “Crowned One” is fairly befitting of the Supreme Pontiff.
We haven’t had a Pope Stephen since the 11th century. That’s confounding since Saint Stephen, the first martyr and the patron saint of deacons, is held in such high regard among the Litany of the Saints.
The last Pope Stephen was Stephen X (also referred to as Stephen IX because a priest elected pope centuries prior took the name Stephen but died before he could be consecrated a bishop, which is required to assume the papal office). Stephen X lived from c. 1020–1058 and was Pope from August 3, 1057 to March 29, 1058, and was widely praised for his reforms.
My first chance at a pope taking the name Stephen was at the death of Paul VI, the only pope of my memory at that point. I anxiously asked my parents if they thought there was a chance the new pope would take the name. I got the enthusiastic response that parents give children who show great interest in such weighty matters — sentiments of we hope so and that would be so nice. Alas, he chose the first double name, John Paul I. When he suddenly died, I knew the new pope would not have much choice but to take the same name.
With John Paul The Great’s long papacy, I never thought much about a new pope ort what his name might be. Nor did I expect his successor — figuring it would be Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — to inclined toward Stephen. But times have changed in the eight short years of Benedict XVI’s pontificate. It’s time for a Stephen. Here’s why.
Choosing a papal name is no esoteric exercise. Joseph Ratzinger chose Benedict for a reason — to signal his intention to re-evangelize Western Europe (and the world) as Saint Benedict instituted Catholicism in Germany and the order he founded spread it around Europe and, eventually, the world. Benedict’s New Evangelization is proof of his intention and the fruit is growing. Now, the Church faces challenges unique to this age (or at least era). We know them and the list need not be enumerated nor debated here. What we do know is that the next pontiff will need all the strength, courage and wisdom that he can summon from the blessings of the Holy Spirit to confront and conquer these challenges. It wouldn’t hurt to have as his patron and intercessor Saint Stephen.
Choosing that name would inspire new vocations and boldly convey to the world The Truth of The Faith in the face of secularism’s twin permeating evils — the culture of death and the dictatorship of relativism — just as Stephen faced those who hated Christ in the first century. For it is written in chapters 6-8 in Acts of the Apostles:
The whole assembly approved of this proposal and elected Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. …
Stephen was filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people. Then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, some from Cyrene and Alexandria who were members of the synagogue called the Synagogue of Freedmen, and others from Cilicia and Asia.
They found they could not stand up against him because of his wisdom, and the Spirit that prompted what he said. So they procured some men to say, ‘We heard him using blasphemous language against Moses and against God.’
Having turned the people against him as well as the elders and scribes, they took Stephen by surprise, and arrested him and brought him before the Sanhedrin. There they put up false witnesses to say, ‘This man is always making speeches against this Holy Place and the Law. We have heard him say that Jesus, this Nazarene, is going to destroy this Place and alter the traditions that Moses handed down to us.”
The members of the Sanhedrin all looked intently at Stephen, and his face appeared to them like the face of an angel. …
(Stephen said), “Can you name a single prophet your ancestors never persecuted? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Upright One, and now you have become his betrayers, his murderers. You stubborn people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears. You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. In spite of being given the Law through angels, you have not kept it.”
They were infuriated when they heard this, and ground their teeth at him. But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand.
“Look! I can see heaven thrown open,” he said, “and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.”
All the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they made a concerted rush at him, thrust him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul.
As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Then he knelt down and said aloud, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And with these words he fell asleep.
It’s time for a Pope Stephen — a name of strength, dignity, intellect, leadership and courage — because of the times. The new Holy Father will need will need the courage to speak to the evils of secularism, despite the great power it wields — not physical death, but its power to ridicule The Faith and poison multitudinous souls in retaliation (or instigation). But not only to speak, but to speak forcefully and irrefutably, and with courage. As John Paul The Great urged us — Do not be afraid. Take courage. Be stout hearted. It was what a brother cardinal reminded Cardinal Ratzinger as he began to fear his inevitable election in 2005.
News reports indicate the College of Cardinals, during the days of its congregation before the start of the conclave, basically mapped out the characteristics it want sto see in the next pope. Where better to find them than the story of Stephen in Acts? And what better name?
I thought it was going to be easy to put into words the celebration of the beatification of Blessed Pope John Paul II. It wasn’t going to be many because I found two videos — and moving pictures, as in rolling video as well as emotional scenes — speak much louder than 10,000 words. But the general sketch in my mind wasn’t translating. After all, a weekend of powerful and intense prayer, celebration and Mass defies mere human expression. Frustrated, I was about to step away for a few hours to let my mind regenerate the idea. Then, it hit me. Why is it that I am overwhelmed when I talk about him, when I see documentaries about him, when I see millions assembled in his honor? Could it be six years since he went to the Father?
It may be selfish, but it’s because I miss him. Still. I miss John Paul II as if I knew him or as if he was a relative. The power of his faith, his passionate exhortations — it’s easy to forget the earlier years of his pontificate, when he animated his homilies by waving his script or puncturing the air, accented by a warm smile, humility and a gentle sense of humor — transcended the ocean and miles. He was as present as our own pastors. He moves millions of us today: Be not afraid. Open up your hearts to Christ. That challenge to lift up your life amid earthly pursuits for the cause of Christ, his pontificate, his ministry all still resonate — not to mention the force of his will which in large part ended the enslavement of communism — make him the greatest man of the 20th century, a historic figure with whom we were privileged to share earthly time.
If anyone doubts the Holy Spirit, one need only undertake a cursory examination of John Paul’s life. If one doubts the power a Christ-like life, one need only witness the immense affect he had on the world and love for him, unlike that showered upon anyone else in human history. We loved him then. We love him now. How appropriate that his beatification Mass took place on the Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, which he instituted, and the feast on the eve of which he died six years ago. Six years? I miss him. Still. But now we know he remains with us. Blessed is he, John Paul The Great.
No news report needed. Only the awe of Pope Benedict’s pronouncement and the unveiling of the Blessed John Paul’s portrait.
For more detail, here’s a narrated report courtesy of RomeReports.com.
It’s been an eventful year and we feel blessed to have taken part in it with you. Thank you for joining with us as we’ve explored various aspects of the Faith and the culture. We very much look forward to 2011 and a more active, more involved, much improved RealCatholicBlog.com. We hope you join us.
Year-ends allow us to reflect and ponder, and look forward with renewed vigor. It’s good for all of us to take some time off and recharge and renew. Whether you are one to make resolutions or not, it is important to refocus and approach our lives with a new vigor. That includes our spiritual lives, which requires consistent introspection.
Why do we look forward to Christmas? Why should we? Please watch this short video from Pope Benedict XVI’s last general audience before Christmas.
Pope Benedict: The coming of Jesus is intended to “teach us to see and love events, the world and everything around us, with the same eyes of God. … The Word became a baby to help us understand how God acts, so we can let ourselves be ever more transformed by His goodness and His infinite mercy. …”
The increase in men praying the Rosary is great news, although it is odd that men should ever think the Rosary is a woman’s prayer. In school, it was taught as an important aspect of Catholic prayer life and priests and religious never, in my experience, emphasize it to girls over boys, women over men.
There are several ways in which praying the Rosary is encouraged: At an adoration hour, with your family, and after daily Mass to name a few. If your parish does not have an active group praying the Rosary and promulgating it, perhaps that is a project to take on in consultation with your pastor.
Unlike other prayers, the Rosary, with its devotion to different mysteries of the Gospel, has a certain draw and power. As the article states, the prayers are the same, but they can take on a different meaning each day as you meditate on the meaning of each mystery. It’s one reason the Rosary has a special place in the hearts of many — and many more, particularly men, are discovering that now.
Groups such as Real Men Pray The Rosary are sprouting up to encourage men to pray the Rosary.
Does 2010 have you down? Concerned over the decline in societal mores and government aiding and abetting that shove over the cliff? Our friends at CatholicVote.org produced a video giving us real reason for hope. It is a product of thousands of responses to its request for suggestions on what happened this year to give reason for hope in the future. It is, as usual with CatholicVote.org, an inspiring piece. We hope you enjoy it and provide us your feedback. Do you agree with the 10 reasons? What gives you hope for 2011 and beyond?
The Top 10 reasons for hope are . . . and none of them have to do with social justice.
As we go deeper into Advent, we are called to open our hearts and welcome Jesus, our Saviour, into our lives more fully. It also is an invitation to know Him better. So, how well do we know Jesus? How well do we know the Father and the Holy Spirit? Do we know — or accept — that Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit are one divine being? Michael Vorris from RealCatholicTV explains.
We cannot know everything about Him, but we can some things, even many things, about Him.
a Catholic intellectual presence and community at the University of Virginia, to make the richness of the Catholic tradition of thought and action available for public consideration by all, and to contribute to Catholic intellectual and cultural life in Virginia and the United States.
The St. Anselm Institute is a wonderful resource in an environment not usually conducive to cultivating Catholic thought. Through its Web site, sponsored lectures and other outreach, it is another organization fueling the revitalization of the traditional teachings of the Church throughout the laity. If you cannot attend the Weigel lecture, there are other events on its calendar and opportunities to learn through its Web site.
For those who have never seen it, here is an excerpt from the movie Witness To Hope the companion movie to the biography of John Paul II by the same name by George Weigel. It gives an idea of the depth of his research and writing.
Witness To Hope: George Weigel’s in depth chronicle of John Paul II in book and film. Now he follows up with a new work on the late Pontiff’s legacy.