And I smiled. Really smiled. I smiled one of those smiles where you know you look silly because you are grinning like a Cheshire cat. But I didn’t care. I was happy. I was proud.
I was proud to be witnessing a fascinating tradition that is 2000 years old. I was proud of the way the whole Vatican news had been handled.
As a Catholic, I don’t always look forward to turning on the national news or opening my morning paper. In the last many years, there has simply been some horrible news to report. And some of the news has simply been reported horribly.
And so it is extra special when the Church that you love can again be seen in the light of its heritage, steeped in the traditions that have seen it not just survive, but thrive over the years.
It seems like the blink of an eye when the last puff of white smoke arose to a waiting world, signaling the new Shepherd of a Church of 1.2 billion Catholic sheep. But that blinking eye has actually been eight years of a new pontifical power. And those eight years culminated in a history-making retirement that lent itself to another round of majestic moments of tradition for a faith community and a waiting world. Perhaps it was the very essence of the practically unprecedented papal retirement juxtaposed against the never-changing pomp and circumstance of selection that fascinated me the most this time. The completely unexpected aligning itself with the comfort of the expected reminds us of both the mystery and majesty of God’s plans.
So I sat on a Wednesday afternoon with the rest of the world, completely transfixed by the whole glorious spectacle of the selection of a new Pope. I confess I would have to stifle a smirk when people would ask me if I thought the new Pope would be less conservative in his leadership. That seems a bit like asking if the new principal is still going to require that the students take math and English classes. But I loved the question. I loved the fact that it was covered to the degree that we saw.
And then I saw the puff of white smoke. I heard the announcement. “Habemus Papam!” And even I was surprised that my broad smile gave way to tears of joy for witnessing such a piece of history in the Church.
Once all of the “Who is the new Pope” stories have been exhausted, the Church traditions and teachings will no longer make the front pages. No, the front pages will go back to covering the bad news of the Church and the world And we all know there will be more bad news, because this universal Church and this world are made up of this species we call humans.
But I, for one, want to hang on to the good feelings of hope and pride I have for a little while longer. I just don’t want them to disappear in a puff of smoke.