The little white helicopter glided across Rome’s spotlessly blue sky. It was moving day for our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Yes, it was a monumental never-to-be-forgotten moving day – one which had been thought over, discerned, and meticulously prepared for. Even the sky cooperated with is cloudless expansion of blueness – the perfect backdrop for this transitional flight.
“I am simply a pilgrim now,” he announced as he continued preparations for a new chapter of his very full life. Construction crews are renovating Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in a corner of the Vatican gardens – Pope Emeritus Benedict’s new home. For several years, various groups of contemplative nuns lived and prayed in the monastery. The last group left in October 2012. Construction began soon after.
A plane taxied down the runway in Argentina, silhouetted against Argentina’s equally blue sky. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was on his way to Rome to participate in the conclave which would elect the new pope of the Roman Catholic Church. I wonder if he bought a two-way ticket? A short time later Cardinal Bergoglio crossed the threshold of the Vatican’s papal balcony as Pope Francis, the 266th successor of St. Peter, the first pope. I can’t get that historic picture out of my mind. I continue to ponder its effect on me and probably on several other viewers throughout the plaza and the world.
First of all, to me there was something striking about his persona as he stood quietly on the balcony. He displayed a quiet strength. When the camera zoomed in a little closer, I noticed the rising and falling of his shoulders as he breathed strongly. I thought, “Is his heart racing?” or “Is he thinking of the future?” and at the same time, I experienced the palpable sense of peace that flowed out from him. It was obvious to me that this was a profound moment for Pope Francis.
As he stood there, did he think of Palm Sunday when Christ was honored so enthusiastically only to be alone and unsupported a few days later during the Holy Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday? Did he already feel the heavy responsibility of the spiritual welfare of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics? Did he begin to integrate and synthesize within himself all that was happening? Christ said to Francis, “Rebuild my Church.” Building and re-building. Healing. Forgiving and being forgiven. All in God’s good time, and it occurred to me that His time is now.
We stand with you, our beloved new Pope Francis, we the 1.2 billion Catholics of our world. May we become the leaven, the salt, the light we are called to be. Amen.