In just over two weeks, there will be a vacancy in the papacy until the college of cardinals elects Pope Benedict’s successor. Some of us may be wondering what we as lay people should be doing, if anything, during this time.
In his 1996 apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, Blessed John Paul II addressed this question directly in paragraph 84:
“During the vacancy of the Apostolic See, and above all during the time of the election of the Successor of Peter, the Church is united in a very special way with her Pastors and particularly with the Cardinal electors of the Supreme Pontiff, and she asks God to grant her a new Pope as a gift of his goodness and providence. Indeed, following the example of the first Christian community spoken of in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Acts 1:14), the universal Church, spiritually united with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, should persevere with one heart in prayer; thus the election of the new Pope will not be something unconnected with the People of God and concerning the College of electors alone, but will be in a certain sense an act of the whole Church. I therefore lay down that in all cities and other places, at least the more important ones, as soon as news is received of the vacancy of the Apostolic See and, in particular, of the death of the Pope, and following the celebration of his solemn funeral rites, humble and persevering prayers are to be offered to the Lord (cf. Mt. 21:22; Mk. 11:24), that he may enlighten the electors and make them so likeminded in their task that a speedy, harmonious and fruitful election may take place, as the salvation of souls and the good of the whole People of God demand.”
Prayer at all levels—individual, family, parish, archdiocese, and beyond—is what the Church asks of the faithful as the cardinals convene to elect a new Pope. Here is one such recommended prayer that draws upon our rich liturgical tradition, courtesy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
PRAYER FOR THE ELECTION OF A NEW POPE
Veni Creator (Come Holy Spirit)
Come, Holy Spirit, Creator, come
From thy bright heavenly throne,
Come, take possession of our souls,
and make them all thy own!
Thou who are called the Paraclete,
Best gift of God above,
The living spring, the living fire,
Sweet unction and true love!
Thou who art sevenfold in thy grace,
Finger of God’s right hand,
His promise, teaching little ones
To speak and understand.
O guide our minds with thy blest light,
With love our hearts inflame;
and with thy strength which ne’er decays
Confirm our mortal frame.
Far from us drive our deadly foe;
True peace unto us bring;
And from all perils lead us safe
Beneath thy sacred wing.
Through thee may we the Father know,
Through thee, th’eternal Son,
and thee the Spirit of them both,
Thrice-blessed Three in One.
All glory to the Father be,
with his co-equal Son;
The same to thee, great Paraclete,
While endless ages run. Amen.
V. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.
R. And you will renew the face of the earth.
Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful. In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in your consolation. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord God, you are our eternal shepherd and guide.
In your mercy grant your Church a shepherd
who will walk in your ways
and whose watchful care will bring us your blessing.
We ask this through Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.
I will raise up for myself a faithful priest; he will do what is in my heart and in my mind, says the Lord. —1 Sam. 2:35