Classroom Vacante! Hey, aren’t you guys supposed to be in class?
“Francis, go and repair my house, which you see is falling down.”
-Christ to St. Francis of Assisi
I kind of felt bad for Charles. But then again, I don’t think he minded so much.
You see, he was giving a presentation about what it means to be a human person, especially the dignity that comes with that, based on images found in today’s culture. But then all of a sudden, I heard some talking in the back of the class, then they yelled out, “We’ve got a Pope!”
No way. Everything I read said this was going to take a few more days to happen. And then the kicker: our student senate president was running through the hall ways, yelling, “HABEMUS PAPAM! HABEMUS PAPAM!”
Yup, there was white smoke.
So we went running out of the classroom (I think Charles himself was one of the first ones out!), bounding down the hallways into the Rec Hall to see, yes indeed, there was white smoke! HABEMUS PAPAM!
So we were the first ones to the tv, and then slowly the whole community arrived as we waited for the new Pope to come out. Every shadow moving on that balcony, every twitch of the curtain, we were laughing and yelling with anticipation. There really is nothing like watching the end of a Conclave at a Seminary (just like watching the same with Laura at Catholic Club will always be memorable!). I never clap and cheer at a TV (well, ok, maybe for the Lakers sometimes), but this was so different.
This was the introduction to the world of our new Papa, Francis. Most of us had no idea who Jorge Bergoglio was. “He’s a Jesuit! He’s a Jesuit!” was all we were getting. And then we saw our Spanish teacher speechless, on the verge of tears. She’s from Buenos Aires, and she knows this man well. But then Cardinal Bergoglio came out on the balcony, wearing that white cassock for the first time, the simplest version he was allowed. He was seemingly overwhelmed, quiet, and then he asked us to pray for him. He bowed his head to us. The Supreme Pontiff bowed his head to us.
He’s not who I was expecting. He’s not who I was hoping. But he may very well be who we need.
I have no doubt that this man, coming from a people struggling for dignity and for life, the son of a railroad worker, and, yes, with a past that seems very complicated because of the great fight against poverty and violence in his homeland, is a beautiful answer to prayers in a way I was not expecting. For those of you who were with us at the Life Night where we talked about the Pope and the Conclave, you’ll remember we talked about a Spiritual Bouquet. This was our chance for some act of charity, to be a part of the Church’s great prayer for a new leader. Well, I have told no one about this until now, but my practice, the thing I gave up until we were once again united as a Catholic people by a Pope, was to sleep not on my bed, but on the floor of my room (don’t worry mom, I was plenty comfortable, enough! And yes, I cheated and slept in my bed at home last weekend). While it was only a small gesture of giving up something I take so for granted every night, it moved my heart in ways I’m only now beginning to see.
At first, I wanted the Conclave to hurry up and start, and to get a new Pope as soon as possible, so I could sleep in my bed again. But then I listened to some of the Cardinals saying how this could not be hurried, how this must be done right. Suddenly, it hit me that I would be on the floor for as long as it took, and I prayed that my inconvenience would not rush it. It dawned on me that my little part of “suffering” could be so intimately connected to the emptiness our Church felt without a Pope to unite us and remind us of Christ’s unfailing presence to us pilgrims. My heart rejoiced to know that I could express in this way our longing for a good, loving man to stand up for us and say, “I cannot do this on my own, but by the grace of God and the love of Christ, all things are possible.
And so I am firmly convinced that my simple act of prayer of setting aside my bed for two weeks has borne fruit, and has at the very least made me aware of the great love and simplicity of this man we now call our Papa, Francis. I am now sleeping in my nice, comfortable bed again. But those two weeks were a tremendous moment of simplicity for me. And I have no doubt, based on what we’ve seen from this man, our brother, Francis, that that simplicity that we have shared in through our Spiritual Bouquet of fasting and good works, has been answered by our God in a most beautiful way. It’s almost as if God has taken us by the hand and said, “See, I do listen, and I do make all things new.”