It was a pretty gloomy day here yesterday when we heard Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation. Like many of us, I was fairly shocked and my initial reaction was one of a childish “How could you?”. My heart was aching at the prospect of everything our civilization was facing, now having to be faced with a new father…not the one we knew, we had grown to love and more importantly grown to trust. Now at a time when consistency was needed crucially, we are being asked to change, to adjust, to start over with our trust. Our society is spinning out of control! Now, on top of all the calamity around us we have our shepherd retreating? Lord, to whom shall we go…if you also go?
Well, at least initially that was my gut reaction. I had just spent the weekend reflecting on Dr. Benjamin Wiker’s vehement article on narcissism and social media. The points he made were disturbing. Actually, they were downright scary to think about because in my gut I knew he was right. Dr. Wiker screamed through his literary wake up call that social media is the pedestal, the breeding ground for making narcissists out of all of us. Not what we so often refer to as narcissist, maybe someone with an ego problem, but true, deep seeded narcissism which in his words
“ someone who is so entirely self-absorbed that he has lost — or never had — the ability to love…I could sum up narcissism up most tidily by saying that, in being the opposite of love, it is the essence of sin.”
This is a very serious problem, when we loose the ability to love we loose everything. His words bothered me all weekend. Especially since I retweeted his article via my Twitter account. It wasn’t guilt I was feeling but this growing conviction that he was right. By yesterday morning, with warnings of our imminent societal collapse stemming from narcissim still fresh in my mind… I watched the video of Pope Benedict over and over again until his words of resignation were ringing in my ears. As the day evolved, I mulled over in my head what was happening in our Church and world and I realized how valuable of a lesson we are all being taught. On an extremely basic virtue 101 level this is (as everyone is pointing out) a lesson in humility. Humility, which as Dr. Wiker makes the case for, perhaps is the greatest lacked virtue out there these days.
I was starting to feel the need once again, for retreat from these superfluous or rather, false forms of communication. Facebook, FourSquare, Instagram and yes (sniff) Twitter: you are all just distractions that are hindering our ascent to heaven! You are doing nothing to help us gain ground on our sainthood and the little bit you may help is so entirely washed away in the deluge of distraction that it is pointless to even try to justify our need for you. Last night before falling asleep I thought that maybe B16 is showing each of us how to prepare to weather the forthcoming battle: Resign. Retreat. If we all put down our phones, stood up from the computer, turned off the tv and resigned to an interior retreat-what would be found? Also, as I winced internally at the prospect—how could we…I..even do it?
A famous chide from Thomas a Kempis goes,
“FLEE the company of worldly-living people as much as
thou mayest: for the treating of worldly matters abandons greatly the fervour of spirit : though it be done with
a good intent, we be deceived with vanity of the world, and in manner are made as thrall unto it, if we take not good
heed. I would I had held my peace many times when I have spoken, and that I had not been so much amongst worldly
company as I have been. But why are we so glad to speak and commune together, when we so seldom depart without
some hurt of conscience?
This is the cause: By our communing together we think to comfort each other, and to
refresh our hearts when we be troubled with vain imaginations, and we speak most gladly of such things as we most
love, or else of things that be most contrarious unto us.
But alas for sorrow! All is vain that we do; for this outward comfort is no little hindrance of the true inward comfort
that cometh of God. Therefore it is necessary that we watch and pray, that the time pass not away from us in idleness.
If it be lawful and expedient to speak, speak then of God and of such things as are to the edifying of thy soul or
of thy neighbours”
My brother-in-law made a thought provoking observation, “perhaps the gravely serious reason for resignation of Pope Benedict is not found within the Pope himself, but rather within in the world.” I could not agree more. I do not think as my initially emotional reaction felt, B16 is just walking away because the going is getting too tough. Clearly this man is closer to the Holy Spirit than any of us, and if his mode of action is time to step back & pray then I take that as a huge red flag : time to knock it off. To quit wasting my words, time, and energy on wasteful things. Time to buckle down, get serious and bring out the big guns. Time to re-educate myself on humility. It’s time to resignate myself to the graces I need and retreat from all that is preventing each us from gaining heaven. The time has come and the time is now.