I’m still so moved by the events that unfolded on March 13, 2013. Clearly, the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work. I’m so grateful for the election of Pope Francis. In just the handful of minutes in which he appeared, I was so moved. If he did nothing else in his Papacy, that moment would be cherished for ever in my mind.
A Change in Technology
At 2:07 pm EDT, I was sitting in a meeting with my iPhone propped up on a coffee mug with the live camera feed from the Vatican on the new The Pope App. While we concluded the meeting, I immediately knew there was smoke because I could see it, live, from my phone. Wow, how connected our world has become!
At home, my daughter had just woken up from a nap and my wife put on a live feed from her computer on EWTN just in time for them to see the white smoke. Incredible.
In 2005, I don’t remember the smoke. I don’t remember watching Benedict appear before St. Peter’s square. I was a teacher in a Catholic school. We had a TV, no cable, and not even the antenna worked. We had a computer with Internet, but there was no way to live stream something and I don’t even know if there was a service for that. Wow, how things have changed in just a short time.
This image from NBC news captures it all:
Everyone Loves an Underdog
So much has been made of the secular coverage of the conclave. It was hardly bearable to listen to the commentators and bystanders from the crowd talk about what kind of Pope that was “needed” in the Church as we waited to see who was elected. From sex abuse scandals to fiscal responsibility to “modernization” of the Church, they had no idea what was in store for them.
How did the Holy Spirit and the cardinals respond to these great needs?
The cardinals offered up a simple, humble man from Argentina who took the name of saint Francis of Assisi. According to the Conclave app I have on my phone, he wasn’t even in the top thirty. Most of us thought with such a short election, it must have been the top seed. Boy were we wrong.
So much happened in such a short time. I had to hold back tears and continue to hold them back when I talk about his first address and papal blessing. On ABC News Archbishop Wilton Gregory was teary-eyed and speechless. He summed up how I felt and how I hope millions around the world felt as well.
At night my wife and I watched the other recent addresses of JPII and Benedict XVI. I don’t want to compare Francis to his predecessors, but it is hard not to think of the first sight of the popes of centuries past with elaborate vestments and the papal crown. Then compare that to this simple man from Argentina who wore only his white cassock. No elaborate red regalia. No stole until he imparted his blessing. His hands were not raised in triumph or blessing. He simply waved with a simple smile. The giant banner that was to display the papal coat of arms showed only a simple, white canvas with nothing on it.
A Pope of the People
So much has already been said about this moment, but it truly was incredible. I wrote down a few things right after he finished his short speech and blessing:
Pray for me the, your bishop
The most moving thing he did, as we all know, was ask for our blessing before his imparted his blessing on us:
“And now I would like to give you my blessing. But before I do, I would like to ask you a favor: before the bishop blesses the people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that He bless me…. the prayer of the people for a blessing upon their bishop. Let us take a moment of silence for you to offer your prayer for me.”
Clearly, this man who takes the bus to work each day, is a Pope of the people.
Personal Highlights of the Day
Here were my personal highlights from the day:
- Seeing the smoke on my phone while sitting in a meeting.
- Talking to my 3 year old daughter over the phone who was so excited to tell me that the white smoke appeared this time!
- Seeing Pope Francis for the first time.
- Seeing Archbishop Wilton Gregory, of Atlanta, speechless and in tears.
- The excitement my oldest daughter had that her youngest sister now shared the same name as the pope!
- Hearing that my second daughter heard the crowd yell, “Papa, papa,” and had to call my father-in-law to tell him that he needs to come out of the door soon. She couldn’t figure out why her grandfather wasn’t coming out. They were all shouting his name!
- Having dinner then celebrating mass with a family that is curious about the Catholic faith, but unbaptized.
- Watching YouTube recordings of past popes appear for the first time with my wife.
- Watching Cardinal Dolan share a joyful insight into his first conclave experience.