Today was mostly taken up with attending the Bishop of Rome’s Mass in St Peter’s. We all know Francis as the pope but there is one prominent reader who is insistent that Francis is the Bishop of Rome. Agreed, but I get tired of typing Bishop of Rome. Pope is just 4 key strokes. Many of us who know this reader will humor him though in that yes, we agree with him that Francis is the Bishop of Rome. Francis himself says he is the Bishop of Rome but seldom, and only in the third person, refers to himself as pope. Whatever we are going to call the dear man, today did show that there is a huge component of “Pope Craziness” going on in the world.
The Mass was due to begin at 10:00. I was up until 2 a.m. writing….once the impulse seizes me, I have to continue until I get it all out there on paper….but managed to get up at 7:30 and get on the road, literally, walking to the Vatican by 8:15. Messy undisciplined person is what I am but willing to let inspiration take the heat for staying up late. It really was a lovely walk from where I am staying. There were excellent panorama views of the city and the Vatican along a tree-shaded winding road. Nevertheless, I am no spring chicken so it took me until about 08:45 to get to Vatican Square. The line to get into the Basilica was all the way down one side and across the square, My inner conversation turned a bit negative at that point, thinking there is no way all of these people can fit in there. So, I started asking folks if they were going into Mass at St Peter’s and got varying answers. Did they have tickets? Some yes, some no. But they were all in line to go inside….hmmm. I just inserted myself in line in front of some folks who said they were not going to the Mass and be damned as there was just minutes to spare to get inside. What I saw was that once we did get through security, the door keepers were not looking to see if you had a ticket. Many folks got in without the ticket leaving those of us with tickets, including me, without a seat. I hate unfairness especially when I am the target and I had a lot invested in wanting to be at this Mass. I wound up standing at the back being pushed out of the way by these three women whose only interest in being there was to get pictures of the pope. At one point packed in among many people I was feeling stifled and just wanted to hang on to the barricade in front of them for a few minutes to ease my legs and keep from falling over. Nope, they would not budge. A tiny gal, who I later found out was Brazilian, scooted over and showed her concern for me. There are lovely people in the world. The 3 women had no interest in the Mass only wanting to see the pope process in and out. When he came in they took picture after picture after picture with their cell phones and i-pads. During the Mass it was selfies and pictures of each other. When the priest brought Communion down, they would not get out of the way for him to distribute to those behind me, despite his instructions and the attendant with him asking them to move and showing them with hand signals. I could not move out of the way to let people come forward as I was crammed in by these women. The poor little Brazilian girl was barely able to hang on. Many of us did manage to see Francis process in though but to do so we were all smashed up against the barricades. I was in a human sandwich. Yes, indeed the Living Body of Christ. He stopped about 6 feet from the barricade where I….and the 3 women with cameras going….were standing. The thing that I found interesting was that as soon as people could see him, cries of “Papa, papa” went up. My sense was that they were not crying “Pope, pope”. The security people hushed them.
Things did not improve after Mass as 10,000 plus….the Basilica can hold that many and it was full…wanted to get out into the plaza and get into place so they could have a good view of the window where he stands for the Angelus….to take more pictures. I was literally pushed along by these people. A woman behind me was pushing me with her hands. I eventually just put my feet down firmly in place and took a stance so that she could not move me. The people then went around me pushing me backwards against the barricades only there was another human there, a man from what I could tell at that moment. After all was over, I turned to see who I was snugged up against. It was a priest. I apologized to him. He was from Nigeria and spoke good English. “No problem” was his answer!
As all of you can tell, I do dearly love this man we have come to call Francis, Bishop of Rome. But I am not ready to mow people down or allow someone to faint at my feet and not help them just because I need a picture of him with MY camera. It is good that we are all so supportive of him. Well….at least a goodly number of us. He has taught us and shown us many things but I think he would not find this kind of adulation flattering at all. So why are folks engaging in the “Pope Craziness”? I am not sure I have a good answer but I suspect it is more a sick symptom of our culture. Whether he likes it or not, he has become a powerful image in our world. Our culture has taught us that power, any kind of personal power, is what is attractive about someone. We see this in how we emphasize our sports figures and actors and actresses. Francis has a different power. His strength is in his humble witness. I had a good experience of that right after the Angelus was completed and I had managed to un-sandwich myself from the crowd in front of me and the padre behind me. Another set of women came right up to me, and I have no idea why, and said to me, “We are from Argentina”! Their command of English was not too good, but my first reaction to them was to say to them, “You have given up something special and that has to be painful for you”. One women got tears in her eyes. They said they knew that but that he was Argentina’s gift to the world. My sense was that they loved him very much and had real grief in seeing him leave his homeland. That speaks volumes to me of his humble witness of a shepherd with the smell of the sheep. We all need to have very deep respect for this great gift from Argentina. The best way to do that is to not make him a rock star but to listen to his words and watch his actions, knowing that it isn’t about him. He is showing us what Jesus is about. Then he asks us to go do likewise. We need to get to work and stop being “Pope Crazy”.
The rest of my day was taken up with a very wonderful lunch at a place called Da Roberto’s, a Vatican fixture that has been there many years. I was introduced to this place last year by Robert Mickens. I then wandered back to the square to people watch and talk with whomever wanted to talk with me. I met many lovely folks, listened to stories. Many of them were on cruise ships that park off the coast by Rome about 40 miles away. The cruise then gives them free time in the city. I doubt there was a Catholic in the bunch….I talked with 5 or six of them. They were curious about me as well. When I told them what I was doing in Rome, they would brighten up and say “We really like this man who is now pope”. There is something to be understood in that reaction and a lesson to us…..love the man before the pope.
Things are beginning to heat up in regards to the Synod. This Friday and Saturday brought interesting events in a monsignor who works in a “doctrinal office” coming out that he is gay, has a lover and feels the Church needs to stop obsessing about it. He lost his job. Then a short video surfaced of Francis speaking with a Chilean reporter after a General Audience last summer as to why he has not backed down on the controversial bishop he named in Chile. You can find both of these articles on
Crux. Also, Francis is reportedly going to place on trial an abuser from Spain, a lay teacher. The timing of these events, especially the first two plus the Kim Davis fiasco have me a bit worried that someone is trying to discredit him or to at least distract the Synod process. Keep PF in your prayers…..he will certainly need them coming up in the next three weeks. Me too.