By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Two near-blizzards five days apart wiped out Bishop Robert W. Finn’s plan to visit Conception Seminary College.
So instead of spending the final moments of Pope Benedict XVI’s reign with seminarians, the bishop instead spent it celebrating a noon-hour Mass — the very hour that Pope Benedict’s resignation would take effect — at the downtown Kansas City Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception before about 80 faithful who also rearranged their day and came practically at the spur of the moment.
The congregation included the entire Stephen and Jennifer Connelly family, including daughter Meghan and sons Braden, Blaine and Liam, with Liam serving on the altar.
“We felt compelled to come and celebrate Mass with the bishop, pray for the pope and show support for the pontificate,” Jennifer said.
“We love Pope Benedict,” added Stephen, a certified public account. And yes, this is tax season.
The Mass was simple. No time for a choir, so no music, except for the bishop suggesting and leading one verse of “Immaculate Mary” as the closing hymn.
But those who came prayed reverently as they listened to the Gospel of Matthew proclaim Jesus choosing Simon as “Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” after Peter proclaimed his faith in “the Christ, the son of the Living God.”
From that moment, Bishop Finn told the congregation in his homily, the Roman Catholic Church has never been without a Vicar of Christ on earth, the pope.
“We come in thanksgiving for Pope Benedict XVI,” he said. “We have a whole mixture of feelings, and all of them are appropriate.
“But we should be thankful for his life, his obedience to God, his work; for his pontificate, for his teaching, and for his fatherly love,” Bishop Finn said.
“Let us pray for Pope Benedict XVI for his peace, for his health and well-being,” the bishop said.
“Let us pray for the church, for unity at a time when the church is vulnerable,” he said.
“Let us pray that we can persevere in the mission of the church to teach and to sanctify, to be the Body of Christ to meet the needs of the world, to be leaven,” Bishop Finn said.
Bishop Finn also noted that the College of Cardinals who will soon convene at the Vatican will have an awesome task before them.
“We pray for the cardinal-electors as God grants them his sanctifying grace, and his courage,” Bishop Finn said.
“Let us pray for the man who will be the next pope, that with this responsibility placed on his shoulders, he will be a sign of hope,” he said.
Bishop Finn noted that much will be written in newspapers and Internet blogs, and spoken on television and radio about the election, including speculation about the “politics” happening during an ultra-secret process.
That’s not important, he said, nor should it be a distraction.
“Let us stay focused on Jesus Christ,” Bishop Finn said.
“Let us use this time to draw closer to Jesus,” the bishop said. “He is the foundation. He is the one whose vicar will be chosen. In these days, we should pray for all the graces God wishes to bestow upon us.”
As is his custom, Bishop Finn ended by seeking the intercession of Mary, patroness and name sake, under her title of Immaculate Conception, to which the nation, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the very cathedral that serves at the heart of Catholicism in Kansas City.
“With us always is the Blessed Virgin Mary,” he said. “Guide us always on that sacred path.”