It’s called Domus Sancta Marta, the Latin for Saint Martha’s House, and it’s been my home the last forty-eight hours here in the Vatican, along with 114 of my brother cardinals.
You remember St. Martha, don’t you? She, along with her sister, Mary, and her brother, Lazarus, were among our Lord’s best friends, and he often enjoyed their company and hospitality at their home right outside of Jerusalem.
I do not exaggerate when I tell you that Jesus still lives here in this house dedicated to His friend, St. Martha. He has been here in our fraternity, our prayer, our laughter, our conversations, our meals, our shared faith, our mutual love for His bride, His Church, and now in our rejoicing with our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, who left this morning, and will move into the apostolic apartments.
As one of my brother Cardinals remarked, “We talk to each other with our different languages; we all speak to Jesus in the same voice.”
We came to St, Martha’s right after the magnificent Mass to Elect a Pontiff in St. Peter’s Basilica, on Tuesday morning. Each afternoon, and each morning, we took a little bus the quarter-mile distance to the Courtyard of Saint Damaso — — I’d prefer to walk, but it’s been rainy and damp — — there to disembark and walk into the Sistine Chapel for our duty as cardinal-electors.
The gardens and corridors of the Vatican were eerily empty. After all, the pope was no longer there. We “got the place to ourselves.” I always dreamed of spending some uninterrupted hours looking upon the walls and ceilings of the celebrated Sistine Chapel. Never did I think I’d be doing it this way!
One of the older cardinals, who went through the conclave of 2005, assured me I would sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in all of this. He was right. No, not in any brilliant rays of light, sound of wind, or tongues of fire, but in common and private prayer, oaths taken, words of inspiration, information, and encouragement exchanged, art and song working their charm, promptings sensed, and discernment going on.
And now the world knows the result of all this, as we have cheered the announcement, “We have a pope!”
It was all worth it. It is His (Jesus’) Church —- not mine, not the cardinal’s, not the Vatican’s, not ours, not even Pope Francis’ —- it is His Church! And upon the rock of Peter’s (and his successor’s) faith, He will build His Church.
Viva il Papa Francesco!