The English translation was silent as the protodeacon announced the new pope. At first I was disturbed by this because I felt like I was missing out on something. But soon I came to appreciate it, and then embrace it.
There was no clamoring commentary to get my attention. Just me and my computer. The two toddlers were in the basement playing with their grandmother.
Not knowing Latin (or Italian), I thought I heard, "Francis," but could not be sure. A while later a man in full white regalia stepped out onto the balcony of St. Peter's Square. Our new Pope.
"Who the hell is this guy?" I said. I am the queen of bad first reactions.
But then I watched.
He wounded me with his gaze. The way he looked at the crowd in the square was both pastoral and loving. And when he talked, he made them laugh. He spoke in Italian only. He was communicating with his people as the Bishop of Rome. He made it local and personal. I had no idea what he was saying, yet I found a place in my heart for him. In that moment, he turned my mind to Christ.
It wasn't until later when I turned on some news stations that I found out what I'd already known--that he is a humble man and pastoral. He is not without his flaws, as the media is already telling us.
I cannot help but think that my experience of Francis I would have been so profoundly different has I been tuned into one of the major networks. I would have learned of his humility more from secondhand reportage rather than through my own experience of the moment. My heart would not have been wounded by the beauty of his demeanor. I would have been too distracted to bear the weight of it.
Still, I am grateful for some of the commentary. Often, I am too weak to trust my own experience alone and so I look to others to see if I'm alone in my judgment. I am not.
Still, this is a busy world we live in that looks more for solutions than for questions; for comfort zones rather than tenuous limbs.
They will ask, "What kind of a Pope is he?" but it's not a real question because they already have the answers they desire. But the truth is that none of the real answers fits into the ideological partitions we've grown accustomed to. The real question, the only one that matters is this:
"Does this man lead me to Christ?"
He already has.
I put this video together a few years ago, using the art of Georges Rouault for some of the images. The voice is Natalie Merchant.