So a few weeks ago now a short man in a tiny car tooted around three cities in the United States. And the Earth stood still.
I kept wondering what Barack Obama, President of the United States, was thinking about all of this. He who officially believes that Christianity should be eradicated because of all the harm it does in the world.
Christians shot in a mass shooting? Well, thank you for helping me clean up some of the mess.
He’s not subtle about his hatred of us.
But then this little, tiny man shows up. His little cape (a pellegrina, technically) blows up around his face. He snatches his little skullcap (a zucchetto, technically) off his head so the wind won’t blow it away.
And he just stands there.
He waves a bit. Looks down. Looks around.
He looks a bit like Droopy, the cartoon dog.
And he goes about his day, with about as much emotion as a housewife has when she strolls through the grocery store, squeezing melons, looking over the meat to see if any is really affordable today.
He shook hands.
He kissed babies.
He hugged people.
He prayed over the sick and disabled.
And people cried. And listened. And smiled.
And cried some more.
Thousands lined up to see him.
Journalists struggled to keep up with what he was doing.
The Masses. The secret little side trips. The snubbing of a Congressional meal.
What is he talking about?
Who is Junipero Serra? What’s all the fuss about?
Incomprehension. General and widespread.
Because Christianity is no longer a language we speak in America. In fact, if you are caught speaking it where it’s not safe to, you are soundly thrashed. Someday soon, perhaps, out tongues will be cut out for uttering words like, God bless you.
(I once wrote the words, God bless him, about someone in a comment on Facebook, and was advised to not say it so directly. By a number of people.)
But, in general, Pope Francis was indulged by the press. He was a cute, little gnome who was here to put hateful Republicans in their place about climate control.
Or show those uppity, self-righteous Democrats how they were headed straight to hell.
He was like a basketball star, driving home his push to finally and once-and-for-all trounce the opposing, enemy team.
Whichever one of those teams the enemy may be.
Because if it was one thing everyone could agree on, The Pope Of The Roman Catholic Church was here to hate.
The wrong ones.
But he didn’t hate.
He told people not to clap for him because he was no one.
He looked down at his feet when he wasn’t expected to speak.
He didn’t grab the spotlight.
He didn’t open his arms wide and soak in all the adulation.
He just did his job.
And I’m not sure very many people understood.
There was tolerance of him. Distorted stories written about what he was doing. There was a general finger-poking into his ribs to see if he was real. Really real.
But, still, and through it all, Francis just kept walking. And hugging. And kissing. And talking.
He did his job.
But he said things that, if you listened carefully, would make your jaws drop.
Roman Catholic Church: Tear Down Your Walls.
Well, that statement didn’t make any headlines, did it?
Then he heated the discussion of him up a bit, and got a bit of a reaction.
Don’t be afraid to welcome immigrants.
Who is he, exactly, to tell us what to do?
Or, alternatively, Exactly!
A radical change needs to be made on how we treat the Earth.
Ah, ha! I knew he was the devil in disguise!
Or, alternately, See, I told you so! He’s on OUR side!
Except people couldn’t see, apparently, that he had no sides.
That the only person whose side he was on was Jesus Christ.
Serve people, don’t judge them.
Say, what? Not judge people? That’s what we do! That’s why we get up in the morning!
And what is this, serve people, business anyway?
The only people we serve is ourselves. It’s our American right.
It’s in the Constitution, for Heaven’s sake.
I especially loved all the references to the Constitution, as though the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church was supposed to stay within its lines.
Whatever those squiggly lines may be today.
And Francis kept walking. And talking. And hugging.
Then a little story crept into the media.
That crazy woman in Kentucky, the one who hates gays, says she met with the Pope!
It was only minutes before another headline started its scream across the nation and the world.
The Pope hugged a gay man!
And the swords were officially drawn. Troops hunkered down behind their grassy knolls. Canons were dragged in.
Women began to sort through their clothes in case they needed widow’s weeds.
And no one gave an inch.
He shook my hand. He thanked me.
Not missing a beat, the other side let loose a volley.
The Kentucky woman forced herself on him! He spat on her and told her to do her job!
This expression of hatred was officially supported.
Well, the Vatican says. . . .
But one thing both sides agreed on: The Pope Hated Someone.
We’ll just have to arm-wrestle it out until we determine which one he hated: The Kentucky clerk or the gay men.
And, of course, what no one has written about is that Francis hated no one.
I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked on.
Who am I to judge?
As to questions about the Kentucky clerk, the Pope explained that people have the right to be conscientious objectors.
That it’s our human right to stand up for what we believe.
And the gay man was a former student of Francis. A friend. Someone of whom he was clearly fond.
And the upshot of this very real war?
No one won.
All were confounded.
Francis, like Jesus, loves people.
Wants the church to serve and heal people.
Wants the church to keep its doors open to people so that as many as possible can hear the teachings of Christ.
We want slammed doors!
We want hatred and judgment!
And Pope Francis just kept walking.