I’ll admit it: It was love at first sight. I have got a crazy pope crush – in an agape sort of way. He had me at “Hola.” Actually, he had me at “Francis.” And so far I’ve still got stars in my eyes. This is new territory for me. Don’t get me wrong. I loved John Paul II, the pope of my youth, and I loved Benedict XVI, the pope of my middle age, but I’m head over heels for Pope Francis. It’s verging on ridiculous, but I can’t help myself.
I know something’s eventually going to happen to snap me out of my papal delirium, but I’m kind of hoping it’ll be more along the lines of a minor annoyance I can live with rather than a habit so offensive I’ll have no choice but to break up.
Some of my non-Catholic friends have joked about my Pope Francis obsession, but I think even they can sense that there’s something really special here, something outside the papal norm. From the minute he stood on that balcony shyly waving and then bowed and asked for the people to bless him, I was hooked. He didn’t even need to buy me dinner, or celebrate a Mass.
And then came one thing after another — the lack of the usual red cape, the impromptu stop at the hotel to pick up his bags and pay his bills, the photos of him riding the subway in Argentina, the phone call to the stunned guy at the front desk of Jesuit motherhouse in Rome, the unusual blessing for non-Catholics and non-believers at his meeting with journalists. With every new thing, I found myself thinking, “This is too good to be true.” I was afraid to hope too much, to fall too hard, but then today, as I sat at my kitchen table drinking coffee, reading the news, and saying over and over, “I love this pope,” I knew I was a goner, regardless of whatever may come down the road. When the bottom falls out of this relationship, it’s going to be bad. Very bad.
I’ve already been on the receiving end of comments and questions and outright criticisms over my apparent blind love when there are issues others don’t like or want questioned right here and now, but I’m inclined to wait, to hear what the man has to say, to watch what he does, who he appoints, how he lives. I think good things are ahead, and I’m too happy and too hopeful to let anyone convince me otherwise right now. This is what I’ve been waiting for.
Of all the churches in all the towns in all the world, he walked into mine. Be still my heart, and sing my soul.