[Disclaimer because I’m a lawyer…I know this blog is usually humorous, and religion is a divisive topic. But I pay for this website, so you’re stuck with whatever I feel like writing about when I drink my wine. So, read on, or not…]
Ok, I’m not really live blogging the Pope’s visit.
For one reason, most of the marquee events are happening during the day, and since the law firm I work at is 80% Jewish, I’m afraid that if I watch it online I might get fired for creating a hostile work environment.
Secondly, there’s only so much to talk about. Like how when I see a bald man getting out of a Fiat, I expect it to be Pitbull singing about Fiats. There’s how he uses the giant crucifix thingy like a cane. There’s questions on how he keeps the beanie on his head, or what’s in the giant briefcase he carries around. Really, there’s only so many Pope jokes. (Unless he runs up the stairs and poses for a selfie with the Rocky statue. Then he is fair game. And a Pope legend. I bet $20 it happens.)
I was raised Catholic, like Catholic grammar school & university serious. John F. Kennedy plaque on the wall Catholic. But once I moved out to go to law school, I kind of abandoned it. Usually because I was hung over on Sundays from drinking copious amounts of wine alone. (Kinda sounds like my Sundays now. I never age.) I grew more disenchanted when I got engaged, and went to ask my childhood parish priest to marry us on New Year’s Eve, 1999. He refused, claiming New Year’s Eve was some kind of religious day, and wouldn’t even consider unless we went on his 3 day wedding retreat/bookselling tour where a celibate man tries to tell engaged couples what marriage is all about. So we left, somewhat jaded, and shopped around until we found the happy old Irish monsignor who was too happy to show us how pretty the poinsettias would be in the church. We started going to church pretty regularly, and then dropped off again after an election season where the deacon lectured about the evils of voting for Democrats.
We planned a vacation one year to go on a Baltic cruise. A few weeks before, Pope John Paul II died. We were suddenly glued to the tv in his last days, watching the pilgrims flock to Rome. I believe I had a vision of him the night he died. Whether it was because he was Polish like my grandmother, or reminded me of my grandfather, I’m not sure. I had the good fortune of hearing him address the 50th UN General Assembly when I was an intern. It was a jubilant occasion, but since I listened through translators it kind of lost some oomph. I may have also been distracted by the fact I was seated next to the royal family of Monaco.
But when John Paul II died, I suddenly missed him. We cancelled our cruise and rerouted our plane tickets to Rome, via New York-Reykjavik-Amsterdam-Rome on Icelandair. We stayed in a beautiful monastery/hotel oasis overlooking St. Peter’s Square. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, it was incredibly peaceful. A non-overtly religious couple, we booked behind-the-scenes tours of the Vatican grounds. We found out about the secret tour that leads you into the underground catacombs where St. Peter is buried. And we went to see Pope John Paul II’s tomb several times. Because it was only two weeks after the conclave, there were still thousands of pilgrims lining the streets and winding around the basilica. We learned quickly that if you went there went it opened at 6:30 there was no line, and the security didn’t rush you through.
There we were, on our romantic Roman vacation, and getting up at 6 am to walk over and line up. We found ourselves one morning with a group of Polish students, a few nuns and seminarians. In the silent hall of pope tombs, next to St. Peter. Totally silent. The most serene moment I’ve ever experienced. For a questioning Catholic, it was hard to comprehend, but everything felt right with the world in that moment.
We attended Pope Benedict XVI’s third papal audience. I never felt affection for him, but he did look right at me and bless me as the Popemobile drove by. So that has to count for something. Although I do question whether it was a legitimate papal blessing since he resigned. I’m questioning whether I need to go get another blessing.
It was only topped by walking back to the hotel room after dinner one night, and wandering into a deserted St. Peter’s Square as the bells tolled 11 pm. There was a guy on a Vespa, a few police officers, a seminarian or two wandering around eating gelato. And standing at the fountains as the bells tolled and the sky was filled with stars, I felt hopeful. Hopeful that I was where I was meant to be. Little did I know that three years later I would be a divorce statistic and marginalized by the church. I dropped out again then.
But there’s something about Pope Francis that has won me over. Maybe it is his environmentalism. Maybe because he used to ride a motorcycle, and seems like a badass Pope. If there was a test as to which Pope you’d like to have a glass of Argentinian Malbec with, it would be Francis. And being a big fan of St. Francis of Assisi and his love of animals, when this Pope may or may not have said dogs go to heaven, I was on board. I’m hoping I can get back to Rome for another blessing, because I think this Pope has some serious pull with the man upstairs.
And if he poses with Rocky, I’m totally in.