It’s hard to be sure since I’ve only experienced two in my living memory (the first two taking place when I was less than six months old), but sitting in bed last night it occurred to me how similar to pregnancy an interregnum is. The watchful anticipation; discerning signs of impending activity; the breathless anticipation as we wait for the appearance of this person. The buzz I felt yesterday. sitting with my colleagues and waiting for the new pontiff’s appearance, was not unlike the anxiousness I have felt while my wife has been in labor. Even now we must take the time to get to know our new Holy Father — not unlike receiving a new child into the family.
Of course some are already celebrating him; some are already decrying him. I suspect this is nothing new in the history of the Church as all manner of people seem to have an opinion on what a new pope should do — not; should say — or not. Personally I tend to take a more cautious approach. Attestations on Twitter that “We love him already!” make me uncomfortable, as it should anyone who knows the history of the papacy. (There’s a reason so few popes are listed among the saints, and why Dante listed so many as residences of Hell!) That’s not to impugn the character or sanctity of Pope Francis, but simply to point out that the papacy is more about the office than the person holding it. Popes come and go; Peter’s chair remains.
Of course I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pleased by his choice of name, which I share (yes, that F. stands for Francis). My connections with the poor man of Assisi run deep, having been baptized by Capuchins and educated by OFMs. My brief defection to the Dominicans in graduate school only deepened my love for Francis’ mendicant spirituality. I hope that Pope Francis will speak on his own relationship with St. Francis, which I suspect is strong.
So, for now, we watch and wait and pray for our shepherd. At Mass this morning our pastor was practically beaming as he announced that we would be celebrating a Mass of thanksgiving for Pope Francis. I hope that joy remains for a long time so that the world might see the faith the Church has — not in this pope, but in Jesus Christ who has provided again for this little flock. Deo gratias.