In 2005 when Pope Benedict XVI was elected at the papal conclave, I was ... somewhere else. I don't remember anything about the conclave or the news stories that followed it. I recall hearing about "Cardinal Ratzinger" before the conclave started. News media said he was a shoo-in, and that he was VERY conservative. At the time, I was not, so my thoughts were, "Oh great..."
I will admit that I had a sort of detachment to Pope Benedict XVI. I can't say why precisely. I just never felt an interest in him, as I did in Blessed John Paul II. Maybe it was because I had the opportunity to see JPII in Toronto in 2002, and I was still mourning the loss of the man who had been The Face of The Church for my entire life. Maybe it was because I still had many misunderstandings and misgivings about my own faith. I don't know.
I never expected to get as excited as I did when I realized that Pope Benedict's resignation (is that the correct term?) meant that I would get to experience a conclave, and this time I would really pay attention to it. And I did!
I was at work a week ago today, watching the Vatican's live feed on YouTube, waiting for the smoke to come, and Tweeting like a madwoman. I waited... and waited... and waited... and then, there it was! WHITE SMOKE! I remember my heart started pounding, a huge smile crossed my face. I knew what was coming next: HABEMUS PAPAM! But who, who would it be? The news media had said there was no real "front-runner". I hadn't expected the white smoke so soon! And then I waited... and waited... and waited... and then Cardinal Tauran appeared. And I sat still.
In anticipation of the conclave, I had pulled up YouTube videos of "Habemus Papam!" videos for Bebe and I to watch. We watch the announcements and first words of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict the XVI. I knew the format: The announcement of, "Habemus Papam!" then some Latin, then the new Pope's first name, more Latin, then the Pope's last name, more Latin, and then the name the Pope had chosen to take. In both videos we watched (multiple times) as soon as the new Pope's first name was announced, the crowds went absolutely bezerk.
So when Cardinal Tauran named Georgium Marium.... I was surprised at how QUIET it was. But Cardinal Tauran continued and said the name Franciscum for the Pope's name... and it was still fairly quiet. I know, I myself said, "WHO?" I did not know who Jorge Mario Bergolio was before that moment when I heard his name.
Then I waited... and waited... and waited... for what felt like an eternity. And then, there he was.
I can't even describe how my heart swelled when I saw him. Many of you are probably nodding your heads knowing just what I mean. And THE HUMILITY he showed, when first he asked us to pray for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and then asking us to join him in praying for HIMSELF? I was knocked over. Completely. I can't even describe it, but at that moment, I was SMITTEN.
And one week later, I'm still smitten. Pope Francis has already brought a new energy to The Church which is hard to explain. Non-Catholics have expressed curiosity in him. They've heard my excitement and they've lent an ear--they want to know who he is, what he stands for, etc. Friends who are Catholic in name more than anything are finding hope in him. His humility, his simplicity, and his steadfastness in major tenets of the faith are admirable. It's his commitment to LOVE ALL ABOVE ALL that is ringing through loud and clear already.
I absolutely LOVED picking up Bebe from school and telling her, "We have a Pope!" Sharing my excitement with her was contagious. When we got home I pulled up the video and we watched together. I hope it's something she'll never forget. I know it's something I won't.