Friday, April 29, 2005

I (Heart) Press Conferences


THE PRESIDENT: Americans don't have to place their funds in a private account if they don't want to.

OLD HAG INTERVIEWED MAYBE 2.5 SECONDS AFTER HE SAID THIS: I don't want to have to put my funds in a private account.

ME: (gun in mouth goes off)

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Surely Not I, Lord

Saw B16 in his new hoopty this week. It is a fairly respectable ride, although I myself would add spinners and a nice neon glow cushion. Also, Yosemite Sam mudflaps.

I was awed this week to discover that the Lord recently granted my prayers, the petitions of a person who once skipped Mass because she felt that a hangover qualified as a medical exemption, and not those of the man He had chosen as Pope.

Because he is a Truly Progressive, LOOOOOOOOOVE YOU!! type of fellow, one of my fellow Catholics proudly announced to praying "Anybody but Ratzinger," when Conclavealooza began.

Well, you weren't alone, Skeezix. The Big Raz was right there with him. He had several times asked The Deuce to grant him his well-earned retirement, eager to study and pet his cat and place his concecrated hands upon a typewriter’s keyboard rather than the heads of adoring throngs.

“Evidently, this time He didn't listen to me,'” B16 said in the days after his election. His homily to his brother Cardinals just before the conclave stung the Sistine Chapel air as he cracked the whip of his office, admonishing them that “(H)aving a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism… Being an "adult" means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties…We must become mature in this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith.” LOOK OUT! He's going to be... CATHOLIC!

Take me or leave me. But in using such stern language, he was begging them: Leave me.

“This one, this one, this one,” I said to the Holy Spirit as I watched the then-Cardinal deliver the eulogy to his predecessor. Something in the way he bracketed the story of John Paul’s life with the Gospel refrain “Follow me!” moved me to cock my head and say “I think I’d like to.”

Perhaps I was simply eager to restore my homeland papal bragging rights; the last German Pope, Stephen IX, dug up his predecessor’s remains, sat the body on a throne, held a shrieking trial in which he convicted the corpse of heresy, and then proceeded to dump it in the Tiber River. That's tremendous. Pardon me while I wave around my great-great grandparent’s German flag.

He is a shy and humble man, our new Pope, a retiring personality that juxtaposes his strong love of the Church. He is not a John Paul II clone and he knows it. Media coverage of his first Mass sniffed that he “waved and smiled to the crowd but did not wade into it.” Shut up, media coverage.

His eyes as he sat watching the Catholic Olympics that was his inauguration Mass (banners fluttered from every nation, including, wonderfully, Israel) never stared at one aspect of the immense crowd in St. Peter’s Square, but took in the whole scene with an amazed curiosity, constantly roaming over his new flock.

But I remain struck by his answer to a journalist’s question posed in a rare 2003 interview: “I think that two things are essential,” he said when speaking of how the Church might address the United States’ pedophile priests scandal. “Conversion to a profound and deep faith with the life of prayer and the sacraments, and clear moral teaching and conviction of these teachings that the Church has.” Oooooooooooooh, hateful! Mean-spirited!

“The Church is young!” Benedict told us in his first homily as Pope. In the face of dour predictions of a musty old pontificate, he raises his head to a springtime of faith.

He sees this in the winter of his own life. “While his reign may not be long, we pray that it may be fruitful,” the pastor of my parish diplomated in this week’s bulletin. Christ's own ministry lasted only three years, and in that time He seemed to be...pretty effective.

The Fisherman’s Ring sits heavily upon Benedict’s hand. When he broke the seal of the papal apartments, throwing the windows open to fresh air and hanging his own crucifix upon the wall, he did so reluctantly but with the vibrancy of faith. What follows might be controversial. It might even be unpopular. But it will never be wobbly. In a world of Girls Gone Wild, Volume Eight Million and Twelve, perhaps non-wobbly is what we need right now.

“I once again have a papa,” a Guatemalan woman said when she heard the news. And we once again have a good one.

Vivat! at

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Be Sure to Forward Him That Very Useful and Totally True Email About the Woman Who Was Attacked By a Man Hiding in the Trunk Of Her Car

Our new Pope has an email address: This is both awesome and unsettling, as you just know he's going to open his inbox and find Viagra spam.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Papa Part II

Part I

There followed a week of relative media sanity largely featuring Michael Jackson, and then… Smoke Cam!

Smoke Cam, a trembling, closeup shot of the Sistine Chapel’s chimney nestled in the lower right-hand corner of my screen, lent great spiritual gravitas to discussions of the Dodgers and whom Donald Trump has most recently called an idiot. Fox News had Smoke Cam available for download on the Internet so as not to miss a moment of the Hot! Absolutely nothing coming out of the smokestack! Action! I virtually joined the pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square in the staring for a while, then, conceding that perhaps the conclave could proceed without my participation for the time being, switched over to a rerun of The Cosby Show. (It was the one where Vanessa wears makeup without permission! Only entertainment of that caliber could tear me from Smoke Cam.)

Accompanying Smoke Cam were detailed explanations of what was going on in the Papal conclave, supposedly top secret but apparently subject to scrutiny by flyover CGI tours. Much discussed was the practice of the cardinals writing the name of their chosen candidate on slip of paper, then placing it into a chalice.

“It’s sort of like,” one commentator explained brightly, “they do on Survivor.” Which would explain the leaked footage of the Archbishop of Utrecht holding up a slip of paper on which he had written “Big Raz!” and a smiley face as he whispered, “I really like Angelo Sodano’s work on 'Letter For the Celebration of the Italian National Liturgy Week,' but his performance in the Extreme Unction Immunity Challenge was, I’m afraid, less than papal.”

Following Jeff Probst’s appearance to transport the ballots across the Tiber River via JetSki, the smoke at last arose.

I missed it.

I heard the news not with the ringing of steeple bells but the sharp chime alert of a new text message: “HABEMUS PAPAM. WATING FOR REVEAL.”

I picked up my skirt and I ran to St. Peter’s Square.

I ran to St. Peter’s Square via CNN, where Wolf Blitzer was tap dancing like Gene Kelly on a rainy sidewalk. Forty-five minutes had passed since Smoke Cam had justified its existence, and he was running out of ways to say “We expect the new pontiff to appear any tiiiiiiiiiime… NOW! No, NOW! No…wait.” I sat on the floor of the campus bookstore, leaning against a display of cotton miniskirts and tipping my head back, a starving baby sparrow eager to glimpse my new Papa.

I saw Benedict XVI in his leisure papal array for the first time in a picture on The Drudge Report. I blinked, seeing a man not The Deuce in those heavy white garments, that thin sliver of a cap. Because, for twenty-seven years…he was popeness.

Benedict XVI, you are totally our guy! at

Sunday, April 24, 2005


It was April, and the Pope lay dying. I, banished from humanity with a fever of a hundred and three, lay amongst Kleenex and watched him go.

At least I thought I did. “He’s passed,” I said between coughs in solemn tones to a variety of concerned friends and family members when the crawl changed on CNN.

I had to call everybody back an hour later. “Yeah, sorry. He’s not quite dead yet.” You somehow expected the famously mischievous John Paul II—or, as I have long and lovingly called him, The Deuce—to stride forth on the balcony, fully mitred and white-robed, popping wheelies on the Popmobile and tipping both arms in the air the way he used to: “April Fool!” People ask me all the time why I traded a career in journalism for one in education, and I would like to introduce them all to Exhibit A: One of the most popular pontiffs in the history of the Catholic Church attains his eternal reward, and the world shall remember the moment in terms of a Monty Python sketch. Thanks, Fox. Nicely played, CBS.

Pope Death Watch 2005 largely consisted of laying claim to Catholic traditions I didn’t even know we had. This was new (big, pointy) hat to me. My mother, currently on her sixth Pope, served as the color commentator.

“When he does die, they’re going to turn the lights off in those windows, and close the shutters,” she told me as the cameras of the world focused on The Glasspanes of the Week in the papal apartments. My sister and Country The Brother-In-Law stayed up until midnight waiting for the moment; they went to bed disappointed. Non-Catholic friends offered to let me stand outside their homes while I watched them open and close shutters to my heart’s content, and were offended when I gently explained that it was, somehow, just not the same.

This was a man who shouted to adoring crowds of young adults, “Whoo-hoo-hoo, John Paul II, he love you!” and I have problems with the notion that he would not find amusing the specter of journalists clamoring to ask various priests and bishops what they felt was the most enduring aspect of, quote, “his twenty-seven year popeness.”

Indeed this pontiff, also once a college professor, loved the young, which is why I forked over an entire class period to a discussion of All Things Pope after I was well enough to return to my rightful place behind the overhead projector. My students, most of whom were not Catholic, had seen the Notre Dame pin on my Saint Mary’s College book bag. They had questions.

“So the guy who just died, he was Pope John Paul the Second, right?” one asked.

“Yes,” I said, drawing a big Roman numeral two on the blackboard.

There was a pause.

“So was his dad a Pope, too?”

I was up at four AM for the funeral, still coughing and hungry for nothing but Hawaiian Punch. You had to pick your network poison: The interpreter on CNN, having evidently learned Italian from an Olive Garden menu, translated maybe every eighth word, leaving us with the impression that the Pope “read… lethargic…seminary…war...God!” During commercial breaks, MSNBC was pushing the world premiere of “Keith Olbermann Counts Down the Worst and Most Bizarre Papal Conclaves in History!!” The CBS anchors wouldn’t shut up. EWTN had the best closeups of Jean-Pierre Raffarin's mole hair in order to capture over-the-shoulder shots of George W. Bush swaying back and forth and Bill Clinton casting nervous glances at the sky, but they had pre-empted something called Pope Fiction for the event and were clearly not to be trusted.

Meanwhile, on the simple cedar coffin, the pages on the book of the Gospel that rested there ruffled page on page in the wind until the last page had turned.

John Paul II, I miss you at:

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