March 13, 2013

Conclave Surprise

He was ranked a distant number 31 on the New Advent ranking of most likely candidates. He was a 16-to-1 shot on a Vaticanista blog. And now he wears the white of Holy Father. Even John Allen seems to have mostly missed him, even though Bergoglio was said to have garnered a healthy 40 votes at the last conclave. Sometimes the next pontiff is right under your nose I guess.

How counter-cultural though. He wasn’t really on my radar because I’d thought the electors might go in a totally opposite direction, i.e. get a young “media star” like Dolan. Or at least a smiler like JP the first.

Pretty bold action to again go with a humble, somewhat shy pope like Ratzinger again. Seems like they’re going for the holiest perhaps, imagine that!

And I guess his age didn’t matter, or maybe was a plus. Maybe the cardinals are thinking that since everyone lives longer it’s necessary to have older popes so that the reigns are reasonable.


So many thoughts, but one that sticks out is how Lino Rulli mentioned that assuming this pope didn't get all 115 votes, that meant that different cardinals discerned the will of God differently. It just goes to show how difficult it is to discern God's will even among the princes of the Church! It makes me feel a smidgeon better for the times in my past and future where I will be mistaken in what God's will is. It's a humbling thing in a way.


So today I had a premonition at Mass that it was *the* day even though I'd predicted Thursday as the Habemus Papam day at the Fantasy Conclave last week. I picked the wrong guy (Schrer) on the wrong day (Thursday) taking the wrong name (Paul VII). So much for my prognostication skills. I was amused to see Amy Welborn go "out on a limb" and pick not one but three she thought would be pope, none of whom made it. She picked two papal names but understandably did not come up with Francis. I was surprised no pope has taken that name before.

So given my premonition I made a point of tuning into Sirius/XM radio's The Catholic Channel for the first time during a ballot period and I listened while I worked until that eventful moment when I heard Fr. Dave say the smoke was white. Whitesmoke! Then the long, killer wait for the who (and not the band). Seriously, like the drama was well-nigh unbearable. The work output of Catholics throughout the world surely dropped precipitously.

Then, finally, the name that launched a million Google searches: "Bergoglio". An older guy who humbly asked him to pray for us, which we did, and then granted us a fine gift in the form of an indulgence for receiving his first papal blessing even if we were listening on the radio! Now I really love modern technology. Most good I've ever gotten from it.


It's funny, but I thought how when he went to the Our Father and Hail Mary that he was doing it in order to have something to say. And yet Cokie Roberts on ABC News said she thought it was wonderfully inclusive since every Catholic grade schooler from here to Singapore knew those prayers (though they were reportedly in Italian but…). Anyway interesting how perspectives differ, and perhaps we're both wrong in that he wasn't aiming for inclusivity or to eat some clock but simply to orient us to where we ought be oriented: Our Lord and Our Lady.


You have to wonder what Pope Emeritus Benedict (if I write it enough I'll surely get used to it) was thinking. Maybe something like, “I step down and you elect someone almost as old as me?” However much Pope John Paul II was respected and admired, it does seem like the electors are allergic to long papacies now. One time, okay, but twice is a trend. Maybe they are more concerned, I think, over a long pontificate than the vigor and verve of the pontiff himself. It could be a healthy concession to the fact that popes live much longer these days.


A friend wrote me about how Benedict was a “dire disappointment”. Which is disappointing and irritating but I just said that if you wait long enough you'll get a pope that pleases you and I hope Pope Francis fits the bill.

Almost wrote “St. Francis”. Be awhile before I connect “Pope” and “Francis” given that they've never been connected before in a couple thousand years (although I believe the Dominicans refer to St. Francis as their “holy Father Francis”).


I'm sort of glad now I didn't overindulge in the great sea of pre-conclave commentary and exegesis given how 95% of it didn't focus on the man who would be pope. I did a search on the Catholic Blogsearch site and there were a pitiful 11 references to Bergoglio in the month up till yesterday. And most of those hits were just one liners at the end of a posts about him as a possibility, almost like a CYA thing.

I did find a translation of the Cardinal's Lenten homily on a Catholic blog and tweeted it. The sermon is old school through and through, a call to hard sacrifice in a bad age. Lip service not needed - rend not your garments but your heart. Say not the prayers but with your heart. He rather boldly suggests the “fasts” we do as a church are a bit tepid, especially if we do so in a spirit of compliance un-affecting the heart.


So an exciting day. The adrenalin was pumping overtime, that's for sure. Not every day you hear those immortal words, “Habemus Papam!” and the very rarity and historicity of the event concentrates the mind.

It was inspiring to read of his bio, of how he eschewed the limo service to the cathedral as well as the fancy digs. Lived in a simple apartment and took the bus to work! I crave new-old teaching in the form of coming talks and encyclicals. He's the ultimate blank slate - he wrote a book, it has an electronic version, but it's in Spanish and so I can't immediately gratify that urge to read him.


It seems like there's been a premium on sheer, high-wattage intelligence combined with devoutness lately in the papacy. JP II and Benedict were world class intellects and this Bergoglio guy is said to have some serious wattage. All the better to fight for faith and reason in a world gone somewhat faithless and mad.


Thomas D said...

A very apt and engaging summation of the day's events! Viva Papa Francesco!

TS said...

Thank you D!

Kevin Hammer said...

I was surprised Thursday morning how secular media was pretty much done with coverage, after the weeks of non-stop speculation. Decision made, time to move on!

TS said...

Secular media: "He's not going to overthrow church teaching on abortion? Then end of story!"

TS said...

That said, I am grateful for the quantity of coverage the night Francis was elected.