The first action of Pope Francis was to get all my laundry folded. I found out about the white smoke via Twitter and immediately searched up a live feed, then propped the computer on an inverted laundry basket and started folding the four loads on the couch.
As I was finishing the last, my daughter and two friends came into the living room. What are you watching? I’d already gone on the balcony and said, “Kiddo2! White smoke! White smoke!” and she’d cheered, then explained to her friends. So now they kind of hovered, and I explained we were waiting for the announcement of who the next Pope was.
Of the two girls my daughter had over, one is Jewish and the other is atheist. The atheist declared, “I don’t care who the next Pope will be,” and I said, “That’s perfectly fine. I didn’t ask anyone to care. I’m watching it because I want to.”
They started asking me questions, though. Yes, that balcony is called the Loggia. Yes, it’s raining in St. Peter’s Square. Yes, there are like a quarter of a million people standing there in the rain. No, it’s not nuts — people have done worse to get One Direction tickets. They all decided they wanted to be called back inside to watch when the “master of ceremonies” cardinal came out on the balcony to introduce the new Pope.
At that point my computer was running out of charge, plus the feed crashed, so I plugged it back in and had two computers side by side running separate news feeds, that way if one crashed we’d at least have the other (Catholic Geek in the Information Age, TYVM) and I settled on listening to CBS’s reporting but looking at Reuters’ pictures. The time came. I called them back.
There was a round of “Who?” when the cardinal announced the name, and then my daughter started shouting, “POPE! POPE! POPE! POPE!”
And then, so help me, her two friends started jumping and screaming, shrieking, “He’s here! He’s here!” and cheering. Kiddo3 was there too, staring with wide eyes. “This is history!” shouted the atheist friend. “This is so cool!” And for a minute, we had something I have to call spontaneous ecumenism. There was no preaching, no arguments with attempted conversion, no pretended “tolerance” while everyone glared daggers. There was just genuine rejoicing from three girls with different viewpoints, unrestrained joy that Catholics once again had a pope. And they listened to his speech, and they were pleased.
I was shocked. This was awesome. I looked up more and more about Pope Francis, and I related it to them, and they kept sighing. He rides the bus. He kissed the feet of AIDS patients in hospice. He lives in his own apartment and cooks his own meals.
Later that night, I said to my Patient Husband, “I feel like I should invite Pope Francis over for dinner. Except he might actually show up.”
“Oh, don’t do that,” he replied.
But I can see it happening — the Pope “just happens” to be in the greater Angelborough area, and we get a phone call: would it be okay to stop by for dinner? So I throw something together and invite Father G from the parish (“You really, really need to be here!”) and we clear out one of the Kiddos’ bedrooms for the Pope, and in the morning he wanders downstairs and I’m like, “Well, you can have a bagel or some cereal, your Holiness… Eggo Waffle, maybe?” and then the Swiss Guard comes in and glares at me, saying, “We’ll just be going now.”
He just seems like that kind of guy, you know? The kind of guy who collects his own luggage from a boarding house and pays his own bill rather than sending a Vatican flunky to do it for him. He might just show up for coffee, and if he did, I’d have to tell him how for a just a few minutes, he had three girls screaming about him as if One Direction were standing on the Loggia.