It only occurred to me today: when Pope John Paul II died on Saturday, 2 April 2005, I was hearing Confessions for a youth rally at the former Holy Name High School. Today, Thursday, 28 February 2013, is the day when Pope Benedict XVI abdicated the Throne of St. Peter. At the very time his abdication took effect (2:00pm EST), I was hearing Confessions for the students of Berks Catholic High School, where Holy Name was located.
I was doing the same thing, at the same location, at the time of departure of both Popes under whose pontificates I have been a priest.
When I shared this curious fact with my online social network, one "friend" asked whether it was a sign of things to come.
Most assuredly, it is: I will continue to devote myself to "my Father's business" (Lk 2:49), the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor 5:18). The young people of the Church, who suffer the deleterious effects of original sin, personal and "social" sins, will continue to need--and appreciate--Our Lord's gift of His Precious Blood "shed for...the forgiveness of sins" (Mt 26:28) and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit for the same purpose (cf. Jn 20:23). Both offerings--of Our Lord's life and of the "Lord and Giver of Life"--are renewed among us through the ministry of priests like...me!
For which I am most grateful.
The question of "what you were doing when" our Pope Emeritus helicoptered out of the Vatican may not garner as much attention as did, say, "What...when the Twin Towers collapsed"; and rightly not, because the latter was a tragedy, while the Papal Abdication is a sad event, no doubt, but a choice that Pope Benedict freely and consciously made for the good of the Church.
Now the Church turns her attention to praying and sacrificing for the next Pope. Benedict's successor will be living in interesting times, times that seek to be more unprecedented and unparalleled than ever before. How to balance the sense that we can't rest on our laurels with the Lord's promise of Presence "until the end of the world" (Mt 28:20)?
Prayer and vigilance. Prayer: in and for the Church, for all who are outside the Church, for all seekers and for the indifferent. Vigilance: regarding our own personal attitudes and conduct, regarding the actions of our ecclesiastical and governmental leaders, regarding the needy of every stripe and every locale.