Yesterday afternoon I was talking on the phone with my friend Lou when a news alert pinged my e-mail inbox shortly after 1 p.m. I read the headline that white smoke had risen from the chimney at the Vatican -- the College of Cardinals had elected a new pope.
Lou and I cut our conversation short, and I turned on television.
As a Catholic, I have to admit that I was excited to watch the live shots of the crowds standing in the rain, waving flags and thumbing rosary beads, awaiting the appearance of our new pope.
I flashed back to my one and only trip to Italy, when I visited the St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel with my friend Ligaya in March 2004. It was an amazing trip to a beautiful country.
Yesterday, from the comfort of my living room--in St. Peters, Missouri--I waited for our yet-to-be named Pope to appear on the balcony at the Vatican.
As the wall clock clicked off minutes and the grandfather clock chimed twice, I wondered how long it would take before the identity of our new pope was revealed. I hoped it would be before I left at 2:25 to pick up my grandson from school.
Even the announcers on news stations sounded excited as the Swiss Guard assembled, a band began to play, and everyone watched for movement behind the balcony curtain. I switched from station to station to see which camera had the best angle and which commentary was most interesting. I settled on two channels, the primary being EWTN, the "Catholic" channel.
Minutes before I had to leave the house, a cardinal, dressed in scarlet, stepped from behind the white curtain and announced, "Habemus Papam Franciscum." Memories of Latin class kicked in, but still I wondered, did he just say, "We have Pope Francis"?
Yes. That's right. Our new pope selected the name of Francis, which brought to mind St. Francis of Assisi, the gentle saint, and patron saint of animals.
As I stood at the door, keys in hand, I took time to listen to Pope Francis' blessing. In the car, listening to the radio, I heard him recite the Our Father and Hail Mary in Italian, although it sounded like Latin to me.
On the parking lot of All Saints, while I waited for my grandson to come out of school, the church bells began to chime, celebrating the selection of a new pope.
When my grandson got in the car, I told him about our new pope, and he told me he already knew because his class watched it on TV in their classroom.
I read this morning that Pope Francis has already sent his first Tweet. I pray for our Church and for Pope Francis -- the first pope from the "new world"-- while I wonder what changes lie ahead.