I know everyone’s doing it, but I need to talk about the Pope. I don’t want to talk about conspiracy theories. I don’t want to talk about streets running with blood and the fact that this is somehow the possible fulfillment of the Third Secret of Fatima. I don’t want to address the fact that the Pope MUST be hiding something since old age and infirmity can’t really be a valid reason for bowing out from under the weight of the Universal Church. Because, let’s face it, any other 85 year old man would have no problem serving one billion people.
Am I right?
Nope. Wrong. Fail.
But moving on. Other people can discuss all that. I just want to take a moment to be sentimental.
Here’s the thing. Most of my generation felt a strong attachment to JP2. And that’s fine. I think he was wonderful. He was holy. He did many great and much needed things. But I never felt a particular closeness to him.
Benedict, though, drew me in. He’s my Pope. I look at pictures of him, and just want to settle in and start chatting about all of the weird moral theology conundrums I like to think about, but will divulge to no one because they would think I am crazy. Seriously.
I love what he writes, and how he writes. I love the humor he seems to have. I love his weird hats and odd shoes and mischievous smile.
I love rolling the phrase Deus Caritas Est around in my head. It’s a message for the world; it’s a message for me to remind myself of every day. God is love.
Spe Salvi. Don’t tell my parents, but that message embedded itself so firmly in me that it’s tattooed on the inside of my left ankle. In hope we are saved. Just think about that for a moment.
And then there was the time I was in Rome, in St. Peter’s Square as Benedict led the Angelus. I was near the back of the crowd, since, as usual, I had arrived late. In utter contentment I surveyed the crowd around me. Nuns. Little kids. Smiling priests. Yammering Italians. And…
Oh. Whaaat? Are you kidding me? At the back of the square and off to one side was a biker gang. I kid you not. Huge Harleys. Leather tassels everywhere. Bandanas. Goatees. Bleached blond hair. Crazy weird tattoos. They were the real deal and, man alive, were they ever scary looking. And there were so many of them.
In one heart-stopping moment I became convinced that they were there to invade the Vatican and kill my Pope. I looked around frantically. Where are the Swiss Guards when a girl needs them?! I needed to faint in the arms of one, that’s for sure, but the rest could be left to deal with the bikers.
Then, as the Pope made a final wave and started to turn and go into his apartments, a deep roar began to swell around the square. It got louder and louder and louder and louder.
The bikers were revving their engines for the Pope. Their smiling faces and transparent excitement was in such contrast to their menacing (to this white girl, at least) exteriors, that I’m not lying: It was one of the most oddly beautiful things I have ever seen.
That one moment was symbolic of something Benedict fought so strongly for: unity. He really did try to bring everyone together.
He put an arm around the Anglicans and welcomed them back home and nodded over to the SSPX, making a move to heal the rifts.
Those glowing nuns, those energetic young seminarians, the rowdy kids, the frazzled parents, the people of every color and age, those scary looking bikers, the psychotic girl in pursuit of a Swiss Guard: on that day, as on all others, his outstretched arms welcomed everyone. His smile enveloped the whole crowd.
But that’s not the only thing. Guess what he did when the bikers got his attention?
Well, from where I stood, it looked an awful lot like the Pope gave a fist pump.