On Life

Conversations With My Children

Pope Francis I. Photo courtesy BonAppetit.com.
Pope Francis I. Photo credit: BonAppetit.com.

I was spring cleaning and stopped. My mother had called to say there was white smoke coming from the Vatican.

I turned on the news and sat to watch. We are practicing Catholics, and at some point we’ll stop practicing and do it for real. In the meantime, I watched with excitement as the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square, goosies appearing all over my arms as I couldn’t help but get into the spirit. Who would be the new Pope?

I’d been to the Vatican—it was one of our most splendid times in Rome and Vatican City. I’ll never forget that feeling of walking into the Sistine Chapel and looking up; tears started to flow down my cheeks. I had visions of Michaelangelo painting that masterpiece on his back, and the result was overwhelming. It is truly a sight to behold. As well, my husband and I toured St. Peter’s and the catacombs below. To know St. Peter is buried right there solidified my Catholicism. It was a moving moment.

So as my children walked in the house yesterday, I had the television on. It is not something I normally do in the middle of the day. I am usually occupied elsewhere, and yesterday’s occupation during my spring break was cleaning my very, very, very disheveled and messy office.

“Hurry!” I called to my son, who threw his backpack by the door. “Come and see! White smoke! We have a new Pope!”

Our church in Ellicott City, St. Paul's, where, incidentally Babe Ruth's second marriage took place.
Our church in Ellicott City, St. Paul’s, where, incidentally, Babe Ruth’s second marriage took place.

Having attended a mock Pope election at my church with our young, charismatic priest, we knew how this thing was going to go down. My son actually came over and seemed to be very interested. We watched as the newly anointed Pope Francis I came out in his robes and waved to the people.

“Why is the Pope wearing a yamaka?” he asked.

“It’s not a yamaka, thought it does resemble one,” I said. I looked it up. “He’s wearing a zucchetto. It’s a white skullcap. Little different,” I said.

We listened to the Pope’s speech and prayers, and then my daughter and her friend came in the door from school.

“We have a new Pope—come and see,” I called. The two girls snuggled into a chair, not caring too much about the new Pope, but rather wanting to go play in the tent upstairs. They were quite disinterested, but my son and I gave the two-cent wrap up and tried to get them engaged. They watched as we rewound the coverage and started again.

When the Pope came out onto the balcony, I said to my children, “If that were me, I would be tearing up! Look at all those people out in the square who have come to gather and meet the new Pope! It’s incredible! Daddy and I were there—it’s a huge square. Thousands and thousands of people are there! I would be crying.”

My daughter didn’t say anything, but my son did.

“It’s not like he just won American Idol or anything,” he said.

I was aghast! “I know,” I said, “it’s bigger than that.”

“I know!” he said. “That’s what I mean. It’s even bigger! He should be getting choked up!”

Phew. I guess his words didn’t come out right the first time. For a second, I thought I had a big issue on my hands.

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