Thursday, March 14, 2013

Habemus Papam!

Today was an incredibly special day.  By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we have a new shepard for our beautiful, universal, holy, apostolic Catholic Church!  With joy we can exclaim, "Habemus papam!" which means, "We have a pope!"  And believe me, I did. 

News media had expected the conclave to take a week or more to decide on the new pope.  So, I thought I had plenty of time before I needed to start gluing myself to the television.   After all, yesterday we saw nothing but black, disappointing smoke billowing from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.

But today, as I turned off EWTN and departed the house with Liam to run errands and enjoy a holy hour of adoration with him at a different parish, I hesitated, standing still for a moment, as I had a thought.  It was this:

Since Pope Benedict's resignation was so unexpected and so sudden, and assuming this was either the perfect or permissive will of the Holy Spirit, one would hope that God needed church leadership to change immediately, for beautiful, providential reasons that we may never know until Heaven.  And so, it seemed reasonable to say that the Holy Spirit would also act quickly upon the cardinals, nudging their prayerful, pliable hearts to elect the specific man who was called to be our Supreme Pontiff NOW, filling the Chair of St. Peter, our first beloved pope, the metaphorical rock upon which our Church is built.

I should have let that thought sink into me a bit longer.  Had I contemplated it more, it may have kept me back at this house instead of having me pulled over on the side of the road, checking the text messages that came flooding into my phone, as beloved friends texted me updates and included photos of their television screens.  My girl friends were crying tears of happy joy as they watched that white smoke happily puff out of the chimney, and I desperately wanted to feel what they were; but, instead, I had to focus on traffic lights and merging lanes.  Blah.

My heart ached to be in front of a television screen for this historical moment; and, as Liam and I made what felt like an endless journey home, I had serious thoughts about pulling into a hotel parking lot and begging the clerk behind the desk to let me into a room just to flip on the TV for a few minutes.  I also considered Italian restaurants, wondering if they'd have a TV back in the kitchen somewhere, and would they mind me squeezing in to watch, along with my baby?  My eyes searched for a Best Buy or an H. H. Gregg.  Surely they wouldn't mind tuning one of their many televisions to the Vatican news coverage, right?

I forewent these ideas, figuring that I ought not to be a pest to local businesses.  Then a new thought emerged, which brought me peace.  Juliana's text of, "I'm so excited that I'm shaking!" was my first clue that something was up, and she had sent it to me just after Liam and I had gotten into the car after our holy hour.  Jools said she texted me just a few minutes after she saw the white smoke on TV.  This means, you see, that our holy father was selected WHILE Liam and I were in prayerful adoration of the Blessed Sacrament!  What serendipitous sinchronicity, which only God could have weaved together for us!  I must be grateful for what I was given and not remorseful about what I was not!

When we finally made it home, EWTN was kind enough to be in encore mode, replaying segments of the beautiful moment when our new Pope Francis emerged on the balcony.  Liam and I watched with utter captivation.  And I'm not kidding about Liam being enthralled.  He was desperately hungry and was nursing feverishly while I watched, but the moment that he heard Pope Francis' voice, he turned and lifted his head, ready to sit up and watch contentedly.  And so we did.

The first thing that struck me was the man's sense of humility.  It was, somehow, visible.

Later, I would come to realize that indeed that impression was correct.  Michael told me that Pope Francis is known for living in a simple apartment and taking the bus into work each day, rather than to accept the private chauffeur and apostolic living quarters which were reserved for him.

The rest of the cardinals--whose faces yesterday had been somber, as they carried the burden of important decision-making--tonight appeared light as air.  They were no doubt thrilled with their decision of electing the cardinal from Argentina...and perhaps equally relieved that the spiritual responsibility of the whole world wasn't on their shoulders.  This picture of them--huddled on another balcony near Pope Francis, all vying to have a look down upon the crowds of the faithful below--I find cute.

Pope Francis is the first Argentinian pope, the first pope that isn't from Europe, the first Jesuit pope, and the first pope to ever bear the name Francis.  How beautiful that he chose as his patron the same patron that Michael chose for his confirmation!  Even Michael's mother bears the name Francis and the saint's patronage!

EWTN news anchors admitted their complete surprise with this outcome, remembering again that with God, all things are possible, and that includes the unexpected.  It is HIS Will, not ours.  He is, as I so often like to say, the God of surprises.  :)

For some reason, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, Canada had struck me as a very holy and humble man, and so I wondered--and still do--if he doesn't have a future calling to be pope.  In any case, when this photo appeared in popular news websites, I smiled.  The two are clearly friends and had decided to go on a brief walk together, during a break between meetings prior to the start of the conclave.  Pope Francis is reported to have said something like, "Pray for me.  I am feeling a bit nervous."

What strikes me in this photograph (other than poor Cardinal Ouellet's humorous struggle with a severe gust of wind) is the ordinary nature of the man that would soon be called pope.  I look at his plain jacket and at the well-worn briefcase in his hand, two ordinary items that have already been taken from him and which he may never see again, as he sheds his simple life for a more profound one.  Clearly, taking the role of Supreme Pontiff is both a joy and a cross.  

With love, hope, prayers, and the belief that he will serve us well, I embrace our new Holy Father.  May he always retain the wisdom and humility that graced his early life.

The late Great Pope John Paul II embraces the one day Pope Francis!

Tonight I learned that Pope Francis was the runner-up after Pope Benedict was chosen in the Conclave of 2005.

I loved several things about our new Holy Father's first public address.  First, he began by leading us all in prayer.  What a terrific example of what it means to be a Christian!  What a terrific example of showing how such a momentous event calls immediately for prayer!  And he generously prayed the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be for our Pope Emeritus Benedict, immediately honoring his predecessor.  

Secondly, his humility was evident from the beginning.  He began by showing that he seemed just as surprised by God's will as the rest of us were.  I could tell from his countenance that he was calm but took his new vocation very seriously.  Still, the smile that occasionally came over his face revealed his joy for being God's servant.

Third, he asked us to pray for HIM before he blessed us.  And he reverently bowed down for the crowd and all of the world to silently pray over him.  How beautiful!

Fourth, he has devotion to Our Lady!  He said in his address tonight, "Tomorrow I want to go to pray to the Madonna, that she may protect Rome."

Fifth and finally, he acts like our father.  He concluded his address by saying, "Pray for me and I will be with you again soon.  We will see one another soon.  Good night and sleep well!"  

My dear friend Britta responded to this by saying, "My heart totally melted!  He seems like such a father, who--on his first day--just 'tucked in' his children and wished them a 'goodnight.'  I have such a good feeling!"

What a beautiful reflection.  I have a good feeling, too.