I’m watching. You probably are too. While thousands of faithful Catholics have been waiting in Vatican square for days, the white smoke invites curiosity and anticipation from all over the globe.
Why is that? The Pope is not the boss of me. If you are a Protestant, and atheist, an agnostic, a humanist, a Buddist/Muslim/Jew, then the Pope is not the boss of you, either. So why do we wait for this news?
In the course of this process, a Catholic official said that the new Pope would not just determine the future of the Catholic Church, but the future of Christianity on the whole. Many protestants I know got kind of het up about that. But whether we like it or not, it’s kind of true.
Those of us who practice other brands of faith often find it troubling that one man can hold so much power. And that, yes, he must always be a man. But the conversation taking place within that inner circle does not just affect practicing Catholics. Were we flies on the Vatican wall, I think we’d find that the exchange unfolding within mirrors the dialogue that is happening in wider circles, all over the world.
What is the role of the church in this dramatically changing time? How does our practice of faith shape the coming age? Do we still have a radical message of hope and transformation that is worth offering to the world? And, perhaps most importantly, how we do have to change the packaging, if we want that message to remain relevant and accessible?
I’m just guessing this is what those guys have been talking about. That, or, ‘do we really want to stick with red for the shoes? Tim Gunn says that is SO last millennium…’
We are not just waiting to see who gets to wear the pointy hat. We wait to see which way the wind blows. Will that white smoke waft the conversation into the future? Or, as Fitzgerald might say, “ceaselessly into the past?” While the Church–Catholic or otherwise–does not shape the direction of progress all on its own, the next Pope will certainly fan the flames …one way or the other. The unfolding changes will reach us, near and far and wide, as we continue to shape the language of faith for this generation.
What powerful sort of transformation might take place if the compassion, devotion and bent for justice that we witness among Catholics were to move into the future under leadership of, I don’t know, a nun? (Nuns are so badass). Or at the very least, someone who would ordain those faithful women, already? What other doors (or balcony windows) might be opened for those who come next? That wind of change would be a sight to see.
And the power of that wind would reach us all—people of faith, people of doubt, people of hope—wherever we might be.
Since I started typing, a new Pope has emerged. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio …of Argentina. That’s the sort of name we’ve never heard on that balcony, from a continent that has never worn the big hat. My prayer today is for this man of God to fill those red shoes with the dignity, the vision, the strength and the sort of grace that I witness in the ordinary Catholics I know. I hope, for all of us, that he lives into this tremendous power with a world-shaking authenticity and a booming prophetic voice, the likes of which cannot be contained in any institution, creed or title.
Pope Francisco…the new Bishop of Rome has named himself the Saint of the Poor. I hear that in great hope that the poor in Spirit might, in fact, inherit the kingdom of God. What good news that would be.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen