I was born without religion, at least in the sense that my parents didn't practice any religion. Through a babysitter, my first experience with the church was with the baptist faith. Eventually when my mom remarried, we started going to a methodist church on a somewhat regular basis and that continued through high school. In college, I never went to church and that carried on for a time after I left for my first job. After a few years though, I began to hunger for something more meaningful and began attending a lutheran church mostly because I knew several people who already went there. After a year or so, I took steps and joined the lutheran church.
About that time I left that job and moved to another state. There was another lutheran church in that town but it wasn't the same feeling without knowing anybody and so I found myself only attending rarely. Eventually I met and married a Catholic woman and though I was resistant to converting at first, the more I attended church with her, the more comforting I felt with the church. In the fall of 2005, I made the commitment and joined the Catholic church which was headed by Pope Benedict XVI. Although I grew up knowing who Pope John Paul II was, I wasn't attached to him because I wasn't attached to the church. In a sense, Pope Benedict has been pope my entire Catholic life thus far.
So it was with a sense of sadness that I watched him abdicate his powers yesterday and leave for a life of seclusion. It was shocking that this all happened in the first place. It wasn't shocking that he was the first pope to abdicate in 600 years but for me, it was shocking that a man who lead 25% of the world's population would voluntarily give up power. I guess that goes to show that he truly was a messenger for god and not for himself. I think it very admirable that he did abdicate when he felt he was unable to carry out his duties to make way for someone younger and more able.
Now begins a period of uncertainty as no one yet knows when the conclave to elect a new pope will begin. I suspect it will happen sooner than the traditional 15 to 20 days of waiting since all the cardinals who will do the electing are already at the Vatican and we are in the midst of Lent when leadership is desired. Like many people, I hope for a more progressive pope to tackle the problems within the Catholic church of sexual abuse and birth control. However since Benedict His Holiness elected 67 of the 117 cardinals voting, it is not likely that any changes to be made will be large. I suspect it will happen with time like most things.
So 'my pope' is now gone and more than likely I will never see him again. Like most Catholics, I will pray for the cardinals now in hopes that they will elect the best cardinal to lead our church into the future.