Some of you may have watched with doubt, skepticism, and a detached indifference. Then came the white smoke, the crying people, and one very unassuming fellow. Peggy Noonan does a great job encapsulating how many of us feel — whether we’re Catholic or not:
I’ll tell you how it looks: like one big unexpected gift for the church and the world.
Everything about Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s election was a surprise—his age, the name he took, his mien as he was presented to the world. He was plainly dressed, a simple white cassock, no regalia, no finery. He stood there on the balcony like a straight soft pillar and looked out at the crowd. There were no grand gestures, not even, at first, a smile. He looked tentative, even overwhelmed. I thought, as I watched, “My God—he’s shy.”
Then the telling moment about the prayer. Before he gave a blessing he asked for a blessing: He asked the crowd to pray for him. He bent his head down and the raucous, cheering square suddenly became silent, as everyone prayed. I thought, “My God—he’s humble.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of it and said so to a friend, a member of another faith who wants the best for the church because to him that’s like wanting the best for the world. He was already loving what he was seeing. He asked what was giving me pause. I said I don’t know, the curia is full of tough fellows, the pope has to be strong.
“That is more than strength,” he said of the man on the screen. “This is not cynical humanity. This is showing there is another way to be.”
Yes. This is a kind of public leadership we are no longer used to—unassuming, self-effacing. Leaders of the world now are garish and brazen. You can think of half a dozen of their names in less than a minute. They’re good at showbiz, they find the light and flash the smile.
But this man wasn’t trying to act like anything else.
“He looks like he didn’t want to be pope,” my friend said. That’s exactly what he looked like. He looked like Alec Guinness in the role of a quiet, humble man who late in life becomes pope. I mentioned that to another friend who said, “That would be the story of a hero.”
And so, as they’re saying in Europe, Francis the Humble. May he be a living antidote.
Read the whole thing here, and find out why he selected the name “Francis.”