The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

The pope, mostly.

Hey, remember that time the pope resigned?

Neither do I.

That's because it was in 1415 -- or maybe 1294, depending on which questionable papal resignation you think was least questionable. And there was that one guy in the 1050s who sold the papacy.

The point is that there has never been a papal resignation in modern time. It's a literal lifetime appointment kind of a thing, where the only way you stop being the pope is in death. That's kind of amazing.

So Pope Benedict XVI has done something unbelievably unprecedented -- particularly from within an organization who has a millennia of precedents.

Did you read his statement? I thought it was beautiful. Read it here.

His commitment to the ministry to which he has been called is so deeply faithful. I mean, really, you guys, he's the Pope. Of course it is. To read his words of feeling that he cannot fulfill the important work that the ministry of Peter requires chokes me up a little. This statement tells us that he is not there to be the most powerful Catholic; he's not there to issue a bunch of decrees and be detached from his people.

It's possible that we've never had a pope resign because, in the past, having a pope become less and less publicly visible wasn't as obvious. Our insatiable desire for 24-hour information has led us to feel entitled to exactly what's happening at all times and in all places. So when a pope was dying and his camerlengo was running the office, it was fine. Now, we'd likely be up in arms that someone other than the man elected to the office could possibly be doing the things required of that office. There's a certain dignity to allowing the pope to remain the pope in his last days. That the faithfulness and even holiness associated with his position do not end when he's no longer physically able to keep up appearances.

That being said, there's also dignity in Pope Benedict XVI leaving this office at the time he feels is most appropriate and best honors the office itself. Being the pope is much more physically taxing than it once was -- the first 262 popes never boarded an airplane, and the last four popes have criss-crossed the globe. I mean, the first pope to visit The Holy Lands was Paul VI in 1964! They've come a long way. Certainly some popes commanded armies (which is a whole separate story, really) and did all sorts of physically taxing things. But they also weren't 87 years old when they did.

I think this is a fascinating time to be alive.

I could really just post that every day, frankly, but I think that this is a particularly fascinating time to be alive as a person of faith. That in one decade we are electing two leaders of the ancient Roman Catholic Church is still not seeming fully real to me. I'm not Catholic, of course, but that's where this man unintentionally transcends denominations.

When I stood in St. Peter's Basilica in March 2003,  I wept. It was Palm Sunday, and I was 15 years old, and I was in this place that had been held as holy by people for hundreds of years, upon a tradition that spans thousands. In that moment, it didn't matter that the man for whom my Church is named objected to the construction of the building in the first place, and in particular to the fundraising strategy (blah blah blah selling of indulgences). It just mattered that I stood where millions of pilgrims had stood, touched what millions of pilgrims had touched, breathed what millions of pilgrims had breathed.

That human connectedness is why we do what we do. And Pope Benedict XVI showed incredible humanness yesterday when he tendered his resignation to his cardinals. Politics and ideological differences cast aside just for this one moment, I find myself deeply affected by his departure.

Peace be with you, Holy Father.

Practice, practice, practice.

In the midst of the darkness, shining -- Luke 9:28-43