The Holy Spirit Has Done It Again
The anticipation was palpable as the Television media panned St. Peter’s Square in Rome. Despite the rain and the late hour, families brought their children holding them of their shoulders for all to see. Young Seminarians, religious sisters, and people from many nations lined the square. The Body of Christ in all of its beauty awaited the first glimpse at the new Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome.
They were not disappointed. So many things happened that the world-wide script had not included even after the first votes of the Cardinals in Conclave resulted in the disappointing black smoke signaling no decision yet. There were so many firsts. No mere human could have written a more surprising scenario.
Cardinal Brergoglio of Buenos Aires Argentina? Was he on the list of Papabile? The other Cardinals knew him well as the runner up to Pope Benedict in the last conclave. He had been dismissed by people in the know as being too old (76). Had they forgotten that Pope Benedict was approximately the same age when he was selected?
First impressions, it is said, are lasting. What a humble presence he provided. He stood almost like a deer in the headlights. No doubt he knew what he had gotten himself into. He realized that the adulation being showered on him in St. Peter’s square was not so much for him personally but the Holy Spirit who had inspired the Cardinals to select him; and for Christ whom he represented.
He is the first Latin American, first Jesuit, and first to take the name Francis. (Note he is Pope Francis not Francis I) As bishop, he sold the palatial bishop’s quarters in Buenos Aires to move into an apartment and he bussed to work each day. He even cooked his own meals. He reminded the assembled faithful in Rome and electronically around the world that his fellow Cardinals had gone half way around the world to find a new Pope.
In one of the most moving gestures I have ever witnessed in my lifetime, before he offered the traditional Urbi et Orbi (to the City and the World) blessing, he asked the faithful to take a moment of silence to pray for him as he took on the daunting task of being shepherd of a flock numbering over 1.2 billion souls. It was remarkable to see him bending low before the crowds asking, as it were, their prayer knowing that God would be blessing him through the prayers of the faithful. Many of us a world away, I am sure, took to our knees to join the faithful in praying for the new Holy Father.
Pope Francis represents a look toward the future as a the first Latin American Pope. About 70% of the continent considers itself Catholic and that represents about 42 million people. He is also one who has crossed swords with the secularists in the Argentine government in support of Church teaching on abortion, contraception, and the sanctity of marriage. My prayer for him is that he find the strength to do the administrative work he will be asked to do and retain his concern for the centrality of the Mass and the sacraments in the life of the church. The next World Youth Day will be in Brazil. How wonderful that the first Latin American Pope will be there to celebrate Mass with the faithful from his family’s adopted home. Why am I ever surprised?
The Holy Spirit has done it again.