The first few months of Pope Francis' papacy have flown by, with surprises around every corner. Ellyn von Huben reflects a bit on the time since Jorge Mario Bergoglio took the name of a saint from Assisi and assumed the role of "Vicar of Christ." A self-proclaimed "Church nerd," Ellyn offers her signature perspective on how life in the Church has been since Pope Francis' election.
Where were you on March 13, 2013? I remember where I was. Unlike Facebook friends and bloggers who were sneaking peaks at the internet coverage of the Papal conclave, I was working in an office at a Catholic parish. Interest in the election of the new Pope was more than tolerated – it was encouraged. We gathered around a computer in one office; moving to a conference room with a TV as soon as the white smoke appeared. I was texting back and forth with my husband and children as well as my pastor, who happened to be at a meeting with many priests of the Archdiocese. Father wanted to know as soon as we saw the white smoke. In the confusion, I also managed to text the boss (the Father with the upper-case F) miscellaneous info about familial medical problems. Father was very kind in answering my question about Prednisone causing varied problems…and then politely asked why I was asking him. Well, that is a small glimpse of the happy chaos of that special day.
Someone found a bottle of wine of dubious quality and unknown vintage so we could be ready to toast the new Pope. We should have been better prepared – a new bottle of André would have been better than the bottle which we proceeded to open with a letter opener using the old, college desperation technique. But toast we did – all available church staff, the cleaning lady, the associate Pastor. All of us brought together as Catholics celebrating an historic moment. Outside of being in the Square at St. Peter’s, I can’t think of a place I would rather have been on that day. If I couldn’t be at home with my family (more accurate texting helped make up for my absence), to be with my Catholic work family was splendid and memorable.
When Jorge Mario Bergoglio (what? his name is Spanish and Italian?) was introduced to the world as Pope Francis we were together to rejoice. And, honestly, we were a bit stunned as this was a man who had not been mentioned in any of our little chats about the papabile.
We're all thinking it: Ok, now what? Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's graceful exit from the papacy yesterday left us sad, grateful, moved and maybe a little anxious about what comes next. But Word on Fire contributor Christopher Kerzich, in Rome to witness the events, has a few ideas about how to properly say goodbye.
Saying goodbye is rarely an easy task. Throughout our lives we have and will continue to say goodbye to friends, loved ones, bosses and neighbors. People will move away, pass away, change jobs and we may never see them again during our earthly journeys. It seems the more this person has impacted our lives the harder it is to say goodbye. As we know this is rarely a joyous task.
In these past days the world has been experiencing something quite foreign, saying goodbye to a pope. This is not the same “goodbye” that Catholics experienced during the fall of 1978 or the spring of 2005. This is a different type of goodbye since Benedict XVI is still with us in prayer. In one sense, it is easy for our hearts to be sad and confused over the resignation we witnessed yesterday at 8 p.m. in Rome. Watching the man we have come to know and love these years tenderly depart the Apostolic Palace brought tears to many eyes. Watching the helicopter circle the Vatican and head away from the setting sun brought heaviness to many hearts. Despite these emotions we must remember that our goodbyes can be accompanied by gratitude.
The most striking things about the final audience of Pope Benedict XVI was the apparent mixed emotions of many of us in the crowd. Surveying the crowd before the event I observed many sad faces. With the appearance of the Popemobile came a great swell of joy and gratitude throughout the square. Signs of “danke,” “grazie” and “thank you” flew over the heads of many. Flags of countries and Church movements flapped in the wind. Little Italian nuns were standing on chairs and young people were clicking away on their digital devices to capture one last encounter with this holy man we have come to love...