To get us ready for the events of mid-March, the UK’s indispensable Catholic Truth Society is releasing Msgr. Charles Burns’s 36-page booklet “Conclave: Step by step through the Papal Interregnum” as a free download. You will almost certainly clear-up a lot of cocktail-party confusion by spending an hour reading it. From the Introduction:

The Papacy is a dynasty: it claims to be an unbroken succession of Popes, onwards from the Apostle Peter in the first century of the Christian era, so is possibly the oldest institution surviving continuously to the present day.

Unlike royal dynasties, however, the next in line to the papacy is unknown until he is elected to the office. The election of a new Pope arouses interest worldwide, not only within the Roman Catholic Church, but indeed with many of other faiths and of none.

The public gaze will soon be focused on the Vatican, where the Cardinals assemble in seclusion to decide the succession. For centuries this has been termed the Conclave, derived from the Latin words cum and clave, meaning ‘under-lock-and-key’. Literally they are locked in and others are locked out.

And the Knights of Columbus have erected a website devoted to “Prayer for the Church.” If you’re looking to finish strong this Lent, you might simply pray these words daily:

O Lord Jesus Christ, Supreme Pastor of Your Church, we thank you for the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI and the selfless care with which he has led us as Successor of Peter, and Your Vicar on earth.

Good Shepherd, who founded Your Church on the rock of Peter’s faith and have never left Your flock untended, look with love upon us now, and sustain Your Church in faith, hope, and charity.

Grant, Lord Jesus, in Your boundless love for us, a new Pope for Your Church who will please You by his holiness and lead us faithfully to You, who are the same yesterday, today, and forever.