"In 1294, Pope Celestine entered Rome after a 27 month conclave stalemated over the direction in which to take the Church. In the end, they chose an 84 year old monk who insisted on entering Rome on a donkey. Three months later, when the Cardinals refused to take over the daily administration of the church so he could fast and pray during Advent, he called a consistory and resigned on the spot.
The pope who succeeded him understood the power of the spiritual over the administrative. He refused to allow Celestine to return to his mountain hermitage for fear the gentle, prayerful monk-pope, would become a center of schism, a rallying point of holiness, in a church more given to pomp than to circumstance.
Now, in our time, the world has launched a period of authoritarianism, it seems, in order to control the chaos that change brings. But it isn't working. On the contrary. The control has only managed to breed alienation at every level.
Maybe Pope Celestine knew in the thirteenth century what people are now beginning to suspect: Simple holiness always trumps force.
From where I stand, it seems that history may well be repeating itself. This time the stakes are higher than ever. Let's hope we're all fairly alert to the fact that the purpose of the church is not control. It is holiness. The power of frailty is always more potent, in the long run, than the power of power.
Bring on the donkey."