Sede Vacante

4 Mar


Some of us like to act like we’re smart. So, we use Latin phrases, like saying “sede vacante” to mean that there is no Pope. Literally, it means “the seat being vacant.” There is no one who sits in the Pope’s seat. There is no one who has the authority of the Pope, who exercises the role of the Pope, who holds the office of the Pope, who does the ministry of the Pope. You got it. There is no Pope.


We are popeless, but not hopeless. Benedict XVI has gotten up from the chair and has left it empty. But soon someone else will sit in that chair. The fact that there is no Pope makes for good conversation. The election of a new Pope provides entertainment. But we do not experience serious grief or anxiety over “the seat being vacant.” The sede vacante of the Pope doesn’t really immediately and intimately affect our lives.

What grieves us more are the empty seats in our own personal lives that will never be filled. There is that empty seat at the Thanksgiving table, because that was dad’s chair, and he is no longer with us. You sit in your pew at Mass on Sunday morning with an empty space next to you, because that was where mom sat, until she left you. There is an empty stool at the breakfast counter. There is the empty seat on the passenger’s side of the car. There is an empty chair at “our” table in our favorite restaurant.

Sure, we pray for our church, for the election of a new pope. But that prayer will be answered, and we will stop praying it. We will get a new Pope.

During the “sede vacante” it seems right and good and just to also acknowledge and reverence the empty chairs, the empty seats, the empty places in our own personal lives or in the lives of those who will never recover from the loss.


3 Responses to “Sede Vacante”

  1. chrisnunner March 4, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    This is SO good! Thank you for recognizing the “emptiness pain” from the loss of those we have loved, but are no longer in their chairs. Chris.

  2. Judy Hoffman March 4, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    Oh, so true!

  3. hopevoices March 4, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    For those who truly feel a part of the universal Church, it is more than just an empty seat and conversation. We do have an empty feeling within us. Though it’s not the same empty feeling as losing a loved one…we do feel the loss of losing a loved one in a different way. I can honestly say, “I love Pope Benedict!” His resignation as our pope leaves not only a vacant seat in he Church but vacany in my heart as well.
    JoAnne Lacey

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