Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Life On Hold

We have plans to spend the next however many days it takes (1 more, by my official bracket position) making twice daily pilgrimages to St. Peter's Square to smoke watch with a couple thousand of our best friends. Today's itinerary has been completely designed around trips to the Square at noon and at 7:30, in fact, and I have every intention of picking up a bottle of prosecco to stash in the stroller basket just in case...

Last night I was blown away to see how jammed the piazza was, even in the cold drizzle that had been falling on and off throughout the day. There were easily 20-30 thousand people there, all craning their necks to catch a glimpse of the world's most famous chimney stack. Lucky for us, we had a stellar view of both the roof of the Cappella Sistina and the jumbotron screen, where a camera was trained on a (thankfully) lighted stove pipe.

As the first wisps of smoke started to emerge from the chimney, the crowds shifted and I couldn't see the screen for about 10 seconds. But I didn't need to; the universal 'oohhhhh nooooo's' were enough to tell me that a new Papa wasn't in the cards - or on the ballots, rather - for last night.

It was such an incredible energy, to be surrounded by all these happy, hopeful people, all drawn either by curiosity, faith, the lure of celebrity, or maybe a mixture of the three. There aren't too many watershed historical moments which are scheduled and predictable, you know. The fact that we have a printed timetable for when the smoke will make its appearance is equal parts ridiculous and awesome.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Conclave schedule, here is a brief sketch of smoking times:
  • Morning session and first vote: around 10 am. (Note: smoke will only appear if a new Pope has been elected. If the morning session fails to produce a 2/3rds majority, nothing is burned.)
  • Seconds vote: around 12:00 noon. At this point there will DEFINITELY be smoke, either black or white, as they will burn the ballots from both morning sessions at this point, adding the necessary chemicals to produce either black or white smoke. Black smoke, no pope; white smoke, new pope.
  • Afternoon session and first vote: around 4:00 pm, producing smoke around 5:30 pm IF a new pope is elected.
  • Final evening session: around 7:30 pm, producing smoke either way, as again, ballots from both afternoon sessions will be burned at this time.
So does that make sense? Though there are 4 possible times per day to see smoke, there are only 2 times per day we will definitely see smoke.

Jury's still out on whether we'll be making 4 treks to and fro today, but my money is on 'most likely,' because we're only a 20 minute walk, and let's be honest, it's a great cardio workout to push a double stroller loaded down with booze and sippy cups.

Tune into my facebook page for breaking, grainy cell-phone pictures and pithy, thoughtful commentary as always. Or maybe just grainy cell phone pics.

Come on, Papa!


  1. We don't know each other so I hope you don't mind that I fb friended you! It has been so neat following your blog during such an amazing time in our church...keep the posts coming! Oh and I gave up fb for Lent, but I've had two quick cheats and I hope God doesn't mind if I have a few more to check out your photos too (fingers crossed)! ;)

  2. I'm so excited that your family is experiencing this (even though I don't know you). It's just so awesome to think that your family moved there not knowing the wonderful, historical experience you would be witness to. Catholic awesomeness!

    FB friend request? Sent!

  3. John Paul FRANCIS, kissed by Benedict.

    What an incredible time to be in Rome with your dear family!

  4. I was checking the BBC for news on the Pope and saw you are quoted!

    :) from a fellow FUS grad

  5. Can't wait to read your post tomorrow!!! Francis I!

  6. I'm with Grace... hoping u don't mind the stranger from California befriending u on FB. But I do enjoy your quick takes on Rome.
    And now with our new Papa elected, wow!

  7. I have been thinking about you so much this week! I can't wait to read your next post on Papa!

  8. Jennie...
    Another comment from your fellow Rome mommy 'friend'. Just checked out your Facebook page. Are you friends with Anand B.? Small world... Then again, who isnt
    Friends with Anand. Where in Rome do you live? Perhaps not far from us. We are about 35 minutes from St. Peters by foot.


Is your email linked to your comment? I'd love to respond to you directly, but I can't if it's not!