Since Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation and retirement from his seat as Bishop of Rome, Theology classes at St. Augustine Prep have been booming with questions and activities surrounding this historic event. With the Papal Conclave set to begin sometime next month, Mr. Brenden Towell’s classes have been especially busy preparing to meet whoever the new Pontiff may be.
Starting last week, every student received a “fact sheet” to fill out about one of the Cardinal Electors. Everything from their country of origin, age, health, linguistic abilities, degrees, theological stances, and their ecclesiastical positions within the Church were to be researched and brought back for discussion. After two days of “getting to know” each of the Cardinals, students had time to pray and reflect before the next day of classes where the actual class conclave would begin. Doing their best to keep to the actual processes of the Papal Conclave, students entered into each class to the Latin hymn to the Holy Spirit, Veni Creator Spiritus, which asks the Holy Spirit to guide the Cardinal Electors in their decision as they enter the Sistine Chapel. After entering the class, several students were chosen to demonstrate the oath of secrecy, very similar to how the Cardinals will swear to keep secret the Conclave proceedings and to uphold the position of Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, should they be elected. Following the oath, the door to the classroom was shut in conjunction with the Latin phrase, “extra omnes,” to symbolize the dismissal of all extra individuals from the Sistine Chapel. Once seated in a choir-style format within the locked classroom, the voting began. Each student was given identical index cards and instructed to write only the last name of the Cardinal he was voting for and in all capital letters. During the voting process the, “Litany of the Saints” was played to reinforce the need to ask the holy men and women from throughout the Church’s history to pray for the Cardinals as they seek to understand the will of God in the election. Each ballot was folded and placed in a chalice on the mock altar set up at the front of the class, with Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” looking down at them from the screen of the SmartBoard. Finally, each ballot was counted by three students chosen at random in a fashion similar to how the Cardinals will count the ballots themselves.
It may have taken several ballots but each class reached the 2/3 majority needed to elect a successor of St. Peter. Once the majority was met, a student representing the Dean of the Sacred College read, in Latin, the formula of requesting if the Cardinal-elect accepted his canonical election. To no one’s surprise, all the students said “accepto.” That student was then clothed in white vestments and the announcement was made from the teacher’s podium that with great joy, “Habemus Papam!”
The class ended with the announcement of the Holy Father’s new name and a final prayer. The only thing missing was white smoke.