The Pope and I
By Susanna De A.
I was tossing and turning, unable to sleep because of the mosquitoes and the sudden advent of summer. Suddenly the lights came on in the living room, and my dad poked his head in my bedroom. “We have a pope!” I jumped out of bed, and we switched on the TV. It was 7.30 pm in Rome, and midnight in India.
The excitement and anticipation in St. Peter’s Square was tangible even across the world, in our living room. My parents, brother, sister and I stared at the TV screen. “Who IS it?” We waited impatiently, as the BBC newscasters kept talking. I was so grateful for the respectful commentary, knowing that most people hear nothing but comments about ‘sex abuse scandals’, ‘a Church increasingly out of touch with the world’, ‘outdated institution’, etc.
Finally, an old Cardinal shakily walked into the balcony. “Is THAT him?” we asked, shocked. “No! He’s too old!” Yes, he was just announcing the new pope. Unfortunately, all the Latin we know is ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’ and ‘Kyrie, eleison’, so we didn’t do too well with the translation. All I heard was ‘Franciscus’. “He’s from France! Oh no, a European!” Latin fail. Thankfully, the BBC newscaster immediately told us what was going on. (Many people in the crowd had no idea even after it was all over.) “It’s Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio from Argentina!”
They were all in shock—he was too old, it happened too fast, etc. Whatever. We didn’t care! We had a Pope! Habemus Papam! Still, we stared at him with eagle eyes, trying to get clues about what he was like. As our new Pope spoke, we were charmed by his comfortable speaking style (he had seemed rather stiff before he started talking, but according to my mum he was taking it all in, and thinking about what he should say.) And when he asked us to pray for him, and bowed his head, I had tears in my eyes as I prayed. A moment of closeness with our new father.
Anyway, I would like to share three reasons I have a special connection with our new Santo Papa.
1.) A few days before the election, my family was praying for the new Pope. Each one prayed for what they thought was important. They rolled their eyes as I prayed for a Pope with a sense of humour. I thought it would help the world relate to him. Oh yeah! Meet Pope Francis who told the Cardinals “I hope God forgives you” (for electing him), and while talking about a book written by one of the Cardinals, “That book has done me so much good, but don’t think I’m trying to make publicity of my cardinals!” You are all very welcome. That was me.
2.) More than a month ago I was asked to prepare a weekly intercessory list for a Lenten activity for the members of the Catholic covenant community that my family belongs to. I was supposed to look at the readings of the week, and write intentions based on them. This is what I wrote for this week: ‘We pray this week for a willingness to share in the suffering of Jesus.
We pray for an attitude of empathy and compassion with those who are suffering, especially the sick, the poor, the aged and the lonely.’ Pope Francis in his homily at his Inaugural Mass said “Being a protector (like St. Joseph)… means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.”
3.) Last night I gave my newsletter from January to a friend. (Yes, two months late.) As he read it, he said, “This reminds me of what Pope Francis said.” I looked at what I had written: ‘Jesus called us to love, serve, and be one with ‘the least of his brethren’—the poor, the weak, the ignored, the unfashionable, the unimportant. Like Jesus, we choose ‘downward mobility’ rather than the world’s way of ‘upward mobility’. It is so easy to stick with our own social group, the people who are ‘like’ us.
But that was not the way of Jesus. He especially befriended the ones who others shunned. The Lord called me to leave my comfort zone, and see people with new eyes- His eyes.’ Pope Francis had said in his homily, “(The Pope) must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison.” Pope Francis and I are in tune with the same Holy Spirit.
Pope Francis is mine, and Pope Francis is ours. In the U.S., in India, in Rome, we are one, united not just around our TV screens and collective excitement, but one in the Body of Christ, united around the Eucharistic table. The Lord has sent Pope Francis to us at this particular moment in history for a reason. As we switch off our TVs, and finish reading all the blog posts and commentaries about Pope Francis, let’s get back to our lives with a new love and faithfulness to our Lord and His Church, and a greater attentiveness to the Holy Spirit’s direction for our lives.
By Susanna De A.