I was on my way to work when I first heard "Habeamus Papem!" on the radio. Yes, chills ran through me & I couldn't help but feel caught up in the excitement the people at St. Peter's & around the world were no doubt experiencing. While I remember Pope JP2 & converted under Benedict XVI, Francis feels like "my pope" specifically. I can't explain why...
Today I got to watch his first Mass & was surprised by a few things: many of the cardinals didn't sing or respond, though there were definitely some who did. When the camera panned through the rows, many seemed genuinely bored, some looked mildly annoyed & too few others had a look of reverent repose on their faces. These are the men who lead us... these are the men who picked our Pope... and I feel torn. I could envision mountains of scandal passing before some of their eyes unchecked or ignored. Many of them seemed woefully indifferent. One of the men who accompanies Pope Francis reminds me of a young Mr. Burns (of Simpson's fame)... From the time he stepped out on the balcony, he appeared frustrated, watching the Pope's every move like a man (unsuccessfully) trying to potty train a puppy. He was present again at the Mass & I'm not growing any more fond of him each time I see him... Though I've been a Catholic almost a year now, I must admit, I'm still suspicious of many who represent the Church on the world stage... Maybe they were all just exhausted. The lot of them are senior citizens afterall... I imagine all that travel & ceremony would be taxing.
That aside, I like what I know of Pope Francis thus far. While he may be visibly humble, simple & dedicated to the Gospel of Christ crucified, he's also got quite a streak in him. He's not timid about letting people know what he stands for. In 24 short hours, he's forged his own path, boldly moving beyond "traditional" expectations of pomp & circumstance. As long as you haven't been living under a rock this week, you know he took the name "Francis" after that great saint, Francis of Assisi. He declined the red papal cape & gold pectoral cross most popes don when they're 1st introduced to the world. Instead, he appeared in a simple white cassock & wore the cross he had always worn. His movements were not boisterous like other popes before him. He was very still when he came out & when I watched the video later, I tried to imagine what was going on in his head... was his heart beating out of his chest? Was he thinking "Oh crap?" Ok, probably not. "Good evening", is what he finally said after a long awkward pause & a smile. He invited the crowd to pray an Our Father, Hail Mary & Glory Be for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Later, before extending his blessing to the people, he asked them to pray for him first. The crowd fell silent as he bowed his head... He spurned the papal car & rode the bus with the cardinals afterwards. He postponed his 1st Mass the next day because he wanted to go to a basilica & ask for Mary's intercession instead. He doesn't strike me as the superstar the media & even the Church wants to make him out to be. He is one of us, a face in the crowd. Even at his first Mass, he didn't draw attention to himself. It was almost as if he wished to melt into the wallpaper. Clearly, he wasn't interested in being singled out or adored.
What will become of his pontificate? Will the Church, Her clerics & the rest of the body pay attention? Or will we just yawn & go on about our business as usual? After all, isn't our "royalty" the equivalent of say, British royalty anymore? The way some Catholics treat the sacraments & live their lives, you would think so.
May God bless Pope Francis.
Viva il Papa.