I'm not Catholic and I'm never going to be Catholic. I've sung at Catholic weddings... in all honesty just so that I can go to the Catholic wedding receptions. I've been to a couple of masses and I always sat when I should have stood and vice-versa. Truth be told, I once counted it as my cardio for the day. Pathetic.
I don't understand them, at all. I taught trumpet at a Catholic seminary in college and I was always a little spooked by how quiet the halls were, a little intimidated by the reverence paid to everything, a little freaked out by all of the statues and paintings and the whole "Dead Poet's Society" vibe. And I never really got the Pope thing. Oh, I understand the history and politics behind it, but in a day and age where royalty is granted to pop singers and moody movie stars, I guess I just kind of found it antiquated... Until today.
There was no tweeting from the conclave. Social media had nothing to do with it. Neither did popular vote, polling or pontificating pundits. In fact, the Catholic church communicated using smoke signals... literally. There was no campaigning, no persuasion, no money changing hands and no empty promises. There was smoke, but it was not being blown to block out the truth; it was being blown to notify the world that there was a new pope.
And he didn't step out to meet the people, meet the world after a fanfare. He wasn't garbed in gold or draped in finery. He spoke his first words, and that's truly when I started watching this man who seemed to be draped instead in humility. I knew that I was seeing something incredible when he asked for people to pray for him before he offered his first blessing. My breath caught in my throat... I was stunned... his smile was welcoming and genuine as he did something that people don't do anymore: admitted his weakness.
Everything about him spoke of being a servant. I realized a very important thing watching him. There is an epic difference between being a servant and acting servile. This man is a servant in a world full of masters. Yet he seems to have more power than any of us, a man who could stand in front of the whole world and smile a lazy, gentle smile without a hint of egoism or self-involvement. I like him and I like what I perceive that he stands for, something that we don't talk about or teach our children about anymore: he is the epitome of humility.
He is the embodiment of giving the benefit of the doubt, holding your tongue, using restraint. He is the portrait of being willing to sacrifice your wants and needs and desires for another person. He is not concerned with what he gets, how he looks, how people feel about him or how others perceive him. We don't value those things anymore. I know that we don't... because I teach our children and there are very few of them who know how to do any of those things; there are even fewer who do it. I'm guilty of it... but I am going to try to stop.
Because how many of us could greet a world that loves us before they know us without allowing our hearts and heads to swell a little bit? Had that been me standing on the balcony at Vatican City, I would have totally done a crowd surf. But he is a man who, when he became bishop of Argentina refused to live in the mansion, refused the limo drivers, rode the bus to work and found a small apartment. Who does that?
I'll tell you who does that; someone who GETS it. Someone who understands that the actions of one affect the happiness of many. Someone who understands that talent is a gift not to the one who possesses it, but to the world. Someone who doesn't need an entourage to confirm their every menial decision because they would rather speak quietly to a heavenly father. Someone who doesn't need flames and pyrotechnics and legions of dancers to impress people but need only speak from their heart and jaws and pretensions drop. Pope Francis seems to be that kind of man. Listening to his voice is like listening to music; his eyes are kind and warm. He seems to be open and at the same time he is firm about his beliefs and feelings.
But it all comes back to his humility, his humbleness. What a precious treasure he will be to his faith and to the world. If only we can ever, ever look past ourselves and see him...