At 37,000 feet above ground today, I experienced an odd sense of jubilation. No, no, no. Get your mind out of the gutter. I experienced a profound sense of happiness and pride; one that I did not think a lapsed catholic could feel on such a day. But, indeed I did. I could not believe that no one else on the flight near me was catching the breaking news on CNN. I was working diligently away on my laptop while watching the live satellite CNN television coverage. That’s the best part of flying down to Atlanta so often. There is almost always WIFI and live television. As I was typing away on the latest grant (oh yes, those continue to be a thorn in my side), I heard the CNN anchors start asking “is that white smoke?” hmm? I was captivated. Was it white smoke? I actually waited with bated breath. What was up with me? I was, after all, a lapsed catholic. I mean, I have a Jewyorican for a son that is sent to catholic school with a Muslim nanny. I pay the enhanced rate as a non-Catholic to send my son to catholic school.
But today, at that moment, I felt catholic again. Was it white smoke coming out of that chimney? Yes, it was. Who would it be? An hour and six minutes later as we were descending rapidly and about to land in Atlanta, they announced it! We not only had a new Pope but we had the first South American Pope! I was overcome with joy and felt such an immense sense of pride. I just wanted to call my son and tell him about the major step we had gone through today. I was so overcome with joy that I didn’t even noticed that there was extreme turbulence and that we had to circle the airport a couple of times before landing. Meanwhile, the gentleman two seats over from me was gripping tightly to his seat. I looked over at him and smiled and stated almost comically “there is a new Pope.” He just started back at me as if saying “oh yeah, will he help us on this flight?”
As we started to learn more about the new Pope, I heard them exclaim on television “We are all Latino today.” Hmm. That did seem a bit overblown to me. But today, surely all Latinos, could rejoice? Although, as soon as I started sending out emails announcing who the new Pope was, I did get an email from a Hispanic colleague who seemed instead to express sentiments of shame. I didn’t get it. Can’t we separate our feelings about where the Catholic Church is at the moment from where it may go here on out? It is a major step to have a non-European, Latin-American Pope. Perhaps the flight’s turbulence led to my giddiness but I feel my joy was true. I didn’t even order my usual Rum Cordial on the flight.
I heard an actress on CNN just say that the new Pope, who took the name of Francis (meaning humility and simplicity; as well a protector of animals), was the “Pope of hope”. Will he be a reformer as many are touting? What does reform even mean? Does the fact that he takes the bus mean anything in terms of where he will lead the church? Will he move the church to be more inclusive? Will we ever get a female Cardinal? Only time will tell.
When I get home, I will look at the photo of me in my First Communion Dress and the joy I displayed on my face way back when. The church had been good to my family in time of need, when we were in deep poverty. I moved away from the Church as I grew up and found my own way. But I am tied again to it with the birth of my son. I may be a lapsed Catholic. But today, I feel good and will rejoice.
PS. Did you know that he has taught psychology? Just saying…