Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Year of the "Francis Effect"

One year ago today I stood with my little family under the left arm of Bernini's colonnade, squinting through the rain and craning my neck to keep the solitary smoke stack jutting from the roof of the Capella Sistina in my line of sight. As the crowd continued to surge, Romans and tourists alike pouring in from all directions in the dark night, mounting barricades and hopping over wrought-iron railings to secure a spot, I hushed my wailing 11 month old, fumbling in the stroller basket beneath him for the bottle of prosecco we'd brought along 'just in case.'

I had a good feeling about round 5 of the consistory's vote.

Suddenly a puff of…what was that? Was it black? No, it was grayish…it was, no, no…it was white! White smoke!

The crowd went berserk, us included. My heavily pregnant Italian friend and I shrieked and hugged each other, slapping high fives and whooping over the crowd noise. It was a roaring tidal wave of pure joy as voices in dozens and dozens of languages clamored and shouted for joy. And then there was only one language …in latin we heard those immortal words intoned for all the world to hear:

Habemus Papam.

We have a pope.

And while it would be close to an hour before he made his now famous appearance on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica, looking more like a stunned deer in the headlights than the charismatic leader of the world's largest Church, we didn't stop celebrating for even one of those 60 minutes.
Long after the last drops of the bottle of prosecco had been emptied out, and long past the bedtimes of the squirming toddlers we'd toted with us, he finally emerged to a roaring crowd.

And the first thing he asked? Do you remember?

Pray for me.

It was unprecedented. But then, so was his choice of the moniker Franciscus. And while we'd been certain the announcement of that seraphic name meant our boy from Boston, Cardinal O'Malley (himself a Franciscan) had been tapped for the big job, we nonetheless fell swiftly in love with our very first Latin American papa as he haltingly began his papacy from a rain-drenched balcony overlooking a square teeming with humanity…and iPads.

We loved him right away. And we've spent the past year loving him, being challenged by him, being shaken from complacency by him…and falling in love with Jesus all over again, at his invitation.

So one year out under the Francis effect, I say bring it on, Papa. Bring us the Gospel message of poverty, of radical engagement, of discomfort and even, dare I say, suffering? You are a breath of fresh air in an era stifled by selfishness, by sameness, by the tiresome parade of shock and awe trotted out by the secular culture in an attempt to reinvigorate a weary and wearisome world.

Christ  and His Church is more radical than anything you're reading on Huffington Post. And while Rolling Stone may have thought they captured his essence quite nicely with their hatchet job of a cover story last month…they didn't even come close to the real thing.

So keep stirring it up. Keep calling us on. Keep making people, by fits and starts, both insanely elated and intensely concerned. It's so good for us. All of us.

Happy anniversary, Papa.


  1. You bring me to tears, Jenny. I want to write just like you when I grow up.

  2. Love this. Love your enthusiastic, rousing, vehement, loyal, and honest heart. You're like St. Peter of the Blogosphere (and he was always my favorite) ;)

  3. Beautiful...can't believe it's already been a year!!!!!!!!! Love him to pieces and been in love with him since day 1...never met him, so can't explain it...but I <3 Papa Francisco! He's amazing!

  4. This is a really excellent post that sort of encapsulates how I feel about Pope Francis. (Plus, that's my brother's name, so that's cool too.)

  5. That is amazing you were there to witness it...what an awesome year it has been for the Church! Yayy Papa Francisco!!

  6. Beautiful. Thanks for capturing the excitement of that evening -- and the more weighty excitement that's come from the Holy Father's challenges to us on the days since.

  7. Ah, this made me cry. Beautiful.

  8. Awesome. So amazing that you were there for that moment...what a blessing!!

  9. So wonderful. This Protestant is a huge fan of Pope Francis! :)

  10. I love that you are Catholic! You have expressed my exact sentiments about Pope Francis. I love that he has rejuvenated, not only the Catholic community, but so many other religions as well. He is truly the world's Pope. I have never been more proud of being Catholic, and am so glad I found my way back to the church years ago. I am now raising my two children Catholic, trying to convince my husband (gently) to convert.


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