Friday, September 25, 2015

Our Baby-Kissing Pope

One Wednesday eighteen months ago in Rome (well, the Vatican City), my daughter and I stood outside the barricades (well, pieces of flimsy wood that we could have broken with our fingers) in Saint Peter's square (well, it's more round) to wait for Pope Francis to come into view.

I, the most sarcastic of ex-catholics, had to be talked into this by my daughter, who I raised with no religious education at all.

Expecting  Il Papa to come out of the basilica and wave from afar, we we stunned to hear yelling as a white open jeep headed our way through a path in the crowd. And there he was, the man who apparently loves his job more than anyone, waving and smiling and receiving all manner of swag from the crowd and tossing is all into the back of the jeep with a practiced hand (we assumed he later sold it all on eBay). The guy also grabbed any  glass of anything offered and took a sip, not the least bit concerned that he might get a cold from some stranger.

His progress through the crowd was rather stop-and -go because the driver was apparently under standing orders to "break for babies." Any kid that could be lifted by the security detail was offered up to the Pontiff. A kiss, a smile and back the babies went, the same baby but blessed forever by a really cool guy.

We got the feeling the Pope would have liked to put those little ones in his tiny jeep and give them a joy ride through the crowd, all of them laughing. But only if he could drive.

 I was tempted to offer up my 16-year-old, but I can't life her anymore. For years I had warned her about advances and kisses from strangers and there I was ready to hand her over to this elderly man with the most pleasant face on earth. I was also startled to find that I listen to his sermon on reconciliation and later even acted on it, obeying the Pope for the first time in, say, 45 years.

That day I was also confused by my cheery enthusiasm, my yelling along with the crowd, my rubbernecking to get the best glimpse of the Pope, my tip-toe-excitement at seeing him in person.

When I bought his up to my daughter she said, with a practiced cynical eye, at least when it come to her mother, "Mob violence." Indeed.

My daughter and I now consider Pope Frances a "good friend," "our" Pope, as it were. And with his visit to the US, I have been tickled by the secret service and the NY Times commenting on the Pope's instance on kissing babies and how that's a security nightmare. Too cute.

What I say is we got ourselves a baby-kissing Pope. It doesn't get any better, or more meaningful, or more hopefully, than that. When humanity is at its worst, we have this guy to make us feel better. And to tell us to work at getting better.

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