Because I have been studiously avoiding what the secular media and our disgruntled Catholic brethren have to say about the Holy Father, I have only heard echoes of some of the unhappiness that seems to be floating around out there, but I think I've picked up on the main themes. One sad thing that I read on Amy Welborn's blog (Love that banner photo.) is that there are apparently a lot of people comparing Francis to Benedict in a way that makes Benedict look bad, and then, I know there are plenty of people who are complaining that Francis does not live up to Benedict's standards. This must be incredibly disturbing to both of these men.
While I was thinking about this earlier today, I was reminded of a conversation between Tinidril, the Green Lady of C. S. Lewis's Perelandra, and Professor Ransom. Tinidril, for anyone who has not read this book, is the Eve of Perelandra (Venus) and she still possesses original innocence.
"What you have made me see," answered the Lady, "is as plain as the sky, but I never saw it before. Yet it has happened every day. One goes into the forest to pick food and already the thought of one fruit rather than another has grown up in one's mind. Then, it may be, one finds a different fruit and not the fruit one thought of. One joy was expected and another is given. But this I had never noticed before--that the very moment of the finding there is in the mind a kind of thrusting back, or setting aside. The picture of the fruit you have not found is still, for a moment, before you. And if you wished--if it were possible to wish--you could keep it there. You could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other."
Further along, she talks about how joyous it is to her to have discovered that God has not compelled her to chose the good things that He has sent, but has allowed her to chose to accept those things, to, "plunge into them with my own legs and arms, as when we go swimming. . . . It is a delight with terror in it!
So this is the choice. We can, still cherishing Benedict with all our hearts, accept with gratitude this new good that is given, or we can send our souls after the good which we have learned to expect, and invest the good we have been given with insipidity by clinging to the other. This is a delight with terror indeed.
Part of the real sadness of this situation to me is that we seem, as usual, to be determinedly sundering that which should be bound together. All the gifts of Benedict and Francis are gifts that we need. They aren't at war with one another. It's we who are at war within ourselves. We don't seem to be able to hold the paradoxical elements of the Faith in balance and so when we forget that we are created in the image and likeness of God, the Holy Spirit sends us John Paul II to remind us of our human dignity; and when we get so chummy with Jesus that we forget that He is due reverence and right worship, He sends us Benedict XVI; and when we forget that the poor are the real treasures of the Church, He sends us Francis.
Of course, it's hard to change. Believe me, I know this. I like things to be the way I expect them to be. When my friends get their hair cut, I can't even look them in the face for a week. But the Lord is always calling us on to something new, something more difficult, something more beautiful, something we aren't ready for--further up and further in. And further along in Lewis's story, Ransom says to the Lady, "And have you no fear that it will ever be hard to turn your heart from the thing you wanted to the the thing [He] sends?"
"I see," said the Lady presently. "The wave you plunge into may be very swift and great. You may need all your force to swim in it. You mean, He might send me a good like that?"AMDG
"Yes--or like a wave so swift and great that all your force was too little."
"It often happens that way in swimming," said the Lady. "Is not that part of the delight?"