The Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist invited me to my old stomping grounds at Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary School last week to speak to the whole student body about vocations particularly a vocation to the priesthood. During the Q&A segment a fourth grader, Juan Pablo, raised his hand and asked, “Mr. Jaldon, have you ever dreamed about becoming pope?” The school erupted with laughter.
I don’t think any man who enters conclave is ever ambitious to become the Vicar of Christ. They say that a cardinal who enters conclave with ambition for the papacy, exits as a cardinal.
This fifth century saint who we remember today is known for his eloquent writings and his work is one of the most quoted in the Liturgy of the Hours and in many Christmas homilies. He was the pope who stared down the Church’s enemies from destroying Rome as he faced Attila the Hun.
Pope Leo was the first pope to be declared by popular acclamation of his time as one of the “greats” in catholic history following with two other popes Nicholas and Gregory. He was the one who convened the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and whose Tome moved the council fathers to the definitive formula of faith that Christ is fully human and divine.
While the papacy is adorned with regal attire, fine art throughout history, music such as Palestrina’s Tu Es Petrus, and Bernini’s Baldacchino di San Pietro, all of that exists for us. They exist for us to encounter the incarnational God through our senses and for humanity to excel in glorying the sovereign God in the arts as the definitive point of encounter with the divine.
These treasures are not for the man who occupies the Office. For from Leo the Great to Jorge Bergoglio from Buenos Aires, the vicar of Christ is an unprofitable servant, who carries out his duty because Christ has charged him with that great responsibility to care for souls. Keep in mind that in the Catholic imagination, the newly elected pope enters through the wall of Michelangelo’s Last Judgement, to a small room with no windows in which he dawns the white vestment. It is known as the Chapel of Tears, for from that moment on he is responsible for the universal care of souls.
And so for us, who may never be called to be that vocation of the universal care of souls. We are still called to be great. We are given gifts to be used. Let us use them well so that at the end of our lives, we may stand before God as unprofitable servants, placing before him empty hands and declaring to the Almighty that we have used all the gifts he gave us.