I think I’m in love. When I first saw him step out onto the balcony last Wednesday, I was a bit stunned. Although I had a vague idea who he was, I couldn’t even pronounce his name, and he certainly had not been on my personal “short list” of possible successors to Pope Emeritus Benedict.
I was somewhat concerned that he wasn’t wearing the red cape and papal stole. Having lived through the ravages wrought by the “spirit” of Vatican II, my antennae go on red alert whenever I sense any back peddling on the restoration of tradition, so masterfully advanced by our beloved Benedict.
It didn’t help that he wasn’t smiling…our new pope. But, he seemed so peaceful, and I thought it took a good deal of courage and presence, to just stand quietly there, taking in everything and not gesturing or saying a word for several minutes.
Then he said “good evening” in Italian, and from there came smiles and more warm remarks, followed by the request that his flock pray for him, and he bowed low. Finally, he did put on the papal stole and gave us his first blessing as pontiff.
There was something lovely about him, yet I still felt a bit of concern. I spent the next few days reading blogs and news articles all over the Internet…and I watched him. Watched him as EWTN covered everything he said and did publicly, right through his Mass of Inauguration yesterday on the Feast of St. Joseph.
I read some appalling criticism, mostly from those who wish the Church to return to the 1950’s. Such mean remarks were made, and ridiculous observations…such as Pope Francis sporting buttons on his shirt instead of the more formal cuff links. This man, who has lived for so long among the poor and who has washed their feet, could possibly be forgiven for not wearing French cuffs.
I listened. His first thoughts on the balcony were of our Pope Emeritus, and he asked all to join in prayer for him. He visited Benedict a day or so after the election. (It has also been reported that Francis called him before proceeding to the loggia.) And, he did not forget him at the Inaugural Mass, but rather asked prayers and noted that it was Joseph Ratzinger’s feast day. I heard this morning that he will be having lunch with Benedict on Saturday.
This is lovely. He could do other things. I am sure there is much to learn when you are suddenly elected pope, but he is making time to reach out to and remember in prayer our esteemed former pope. What kindness, and what humility these gestures represent. He does not wish to leave our former Holy Father in a type of exile, excluded from all that is happening at the Vatican. No doubt, Francis will ask for advice from the venerable former pope. We know for sure that he will ask Benedict to pray for him…since he asks everyone to pray for him.
Watching Pope Francis yesterday, he seemed genuinely to be enjoying himself as he rode through the throngs of people in his open pope mobile. He strikes me as a vigorous man, in spite of his age…jumping down and walking up to the crowd. He has warmth. He likes to touch people, and he has a wonderful smile.
He strikes me as the kind of man, who if he wasn’t pope, could own an Italian restaurant in Rome, and would know the names of all of his customers, and would no doubt freely give out hugs and handshakes and hoist children to his cheek. He does so remind me of an affectionate “papa.”
This is a man who speaks his mind. Although rather small in stature, but robust, he seems unafraid of speaking the truth. By gosh, he has already mentioned the devil (gasp!) on several occasions. Apparently he believes in the teachings of Jesus and the Church, that there is such an evil entity. And..he’s not afraid to say so. I don’t think he is afraid of anything.
Watching him celebrate Mass, I find that he is very reverent. He elevates the Host and chalice for more than just a moment. He says the prayers of the Canon slowly and with recollection.
And, he loves Our Lady. He mentions her even more than he mentions the one whose head she crushed through her Glorious Son. He speaks of her so naturally, as though she is always on his mind. I smiled yesterday, as he stood before her beautiful statue at the end of his Inaugural Mass, and did not move until the entire Salve Regina had been sung. He just looked at her.
I think this is a man who listens to God, as Jesus listened to the Father. I don’t think he will compromise on anything significant. He has already demonstrated that he is a simple man who intends to remain true to his name, Francis.
I am secretly praying that he may, as time goes on, be willing to wear more opulent vestments for the celebration of Mass, only because this is the supreme act of worship to our God. But if he doesn’t, I will survive.
I am truly grateful to God for this good man of the people, who seems quite comfortable in his new role as Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church of Jesus Christ. I can’t help thinking of Our Lord’s words…that the humble would be exalted.
I see a man of peace….not just a peacemaker. But a man of great inner peace. A man who understands the words of his Spanish speaking sister in Christ, St. Teresa of Avila: Let nothing disturb you; let nothing frighten you; all things are passing away; God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.
Truth never changes. And, in my humble opinion, I think the Church and Truth are very safe with our new Holy Father…even if he never wears the red shoes…or French cuffs!