All the talk about who will succeed Pope Benedict XVI can be summed up in two words: Holy Spirit. As Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki told the Catholic Herald, “The Holy Spirit is in charge of the church. It’s this confidence we have in the Spirit to guide and direct the church that’s going to guide and direct these cardinals in the conclave.” Read the whole story here

March madness: The Women’s Ordination Conference informs us that it is one of 22 organizations seeking the “selection of a justice-seeking pope, one with a pastoral vision to heal, reform and renew the Roman Catholic Church.” Does anyone believe the cardinals would select someone who isn’t “justice-seeking” and who doesn’t have a “pastoral vision to heal, reform, and renew the Roman Catholic Church”?

Numbers: If you like ’em, there will be plenty leading up to the conclave. Of the 117 cardinal electors, 67, or 57 percent, were given the red hat by Pope Benedict. The U.S. has the second largest number cardinal electors — 11. The Italians have the largest — 28.

Speaking of numbers, in case you aren’t convinced that the Holy Spirit will have the final say on who is elected pope, you can get one bookmaker’s odds for the papal election at Not only can you bet on your choice for pope, but, like the Super Bowl, they offer prop bets for papal name, country of origin and length of conclave. 

Excellent timing: John Thavis, who covered the Vatican for Catholic News Service from 1983-2012, has written “The Vatican Diaries: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Power, Personalities and Politics at the Heart of the Catholic Church.” This will be a great book to have read as people start asking and discussing, “What will the Vatican be like under the next pope?” and “What kind of leader does the church need?” It is a fascinating look at how the church works — and doesn’t work. Published by Penguin Group (New York, 2013), it is due for release Feb. 25.

Sports as religion: I’m not presuming that all Canadians are hockey fans, but if Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec is elected pope, might we see hockey at the Vatican? I’d like to hear Milwaukee Admirals’ announcer Aaron Sims do play-by-play of a game in which the pope is playing.

PETA’s fishing lure: It’s not unusual for businesses and organizations to take something Catholic and to twist it into something that serves its purposes. The obvious ones are Christmas and Easter. But the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are trying to link Lent to their cause. They wrote that “a growing number of Catholics are giving up meat — and for longer than just during Lent.”  The group “is asking Catholics to not only avoid meat during Lent but to go vegan as a way to show compassion for all beings and to honor Jesus’ words as set out in the beatitudes, ‘Blessed are the merciful.'”

Given that several of Jesus’ apostles were fishermen, and given that Jesus prepared some of the fish for them to eat, PETA is fishing in the wrong lake with the wrong bait.

Blessed are the fish fries and those who prepare them and those who attend them!

Simply Lent: Pray, sacrifice and do good deeds.