"So, tell me about your Holy Father..."

 “Don’t become a blogger,” they warned me, “it’ll only lead to navel-gazing.”  “Rubbish,” said I to myself said I, “you won’t catch me posting about my holidays, recipes and dreams!”

So, I was seated in the south aisle of a large church, facing west towards an elevated narthex in which the Pope (recognisable as the current occupant of the chair of St Peter, Benedict XVI) was sitting, without attendants, in a throne also placed to the south of the narthex. 

My fellow congregants were also facing towards the Pope in the west, and nearby (immediately behind me, I think) was my friend Samantha (but who had about her a touch of another cronie, Hazel)*.  “Samzel” appeared to be reading out a document, or perhaps a part of Scripture, but was taking a pop at the Church in some sort of way.  Appalled, I turned and upbraided her, rather showily defended the Magisterium (or the person of the Pope, or whatever or whomever was being attacked by “Hazantha”) and made my way in protest up to the Pope’s seat in the narthex, intending to walk out. 

I made a point of paying proper obeisance and expressing my loyalty to His Holiness, kneeling on my right knee (not my left) at the Pope’s throne and, reaching for his right hand, kissing his ring.  The ring itself was, I was disappointed to note, to a modern design: a simple broad gold band pierced with a cross.  His Holiness smiled indulgently and paternally at me, and soon I noticed he had changed out of his pontifical clobber (a simple modern white Mass set with plain white mitre, as it seemed) and was accompanying me through the streets of what might have been Rome or some lesser ancient Italian town. 

HH was now wearing a plain dark-grey chunky woollen pullover over a white shirt with black clerical stock and full Roman collar, very informal but still somehow befitting his dignity.  I specifically remember the woollen jumper because at various stages I felt it under my hand as I escorted le Pierre de nos jours companionably around the old town, up stairs and through courtyards, etc., placing my hand gently on his back or supporting his arm as we went, laughing in a friendly way to one other.  The Pope’s English was flawlessly good, with what I took to be an undisguised Bavarian accent. [That I wouldn’t in waking life know a Bavarian from a Bolivian accent is neither here nor there.]

My overwhelming impression was of his informal, paternal warmth and humour—gentle, twinkly-eyed, intelligent, kind.  A very model of a Holy Father.  I also remember thinking that I must keep alert and try to remember the details of this very exciting and important occasion, but being anxious that this effort (and my being overawed by the whole situation) would distract me from conversing with the Pope in a natural way.

Notes: *Samantha is a feisty feminist friend from my philosophical past; Hazel a milder but still feisty companion and quondam office-mate.

 Conscious influences: 

  • Fr Basset’s light-hearted account of Rome during the first session of the Council (Vat. II, natch), Priest in the Piazza, which I was reading just the night before.  [Light-hearted because he couldn’t have guessed the trouble that would ensue… ]
  • The C of E’s synodical vote on “lady bishops”.
  • Recent blog posts on Benedict XVI (whom Dominus conservet et vivifecet, et beatum faciat in terra, et non tradat in animam inimicorum eius).
  • Gene Robinson’s sermon-heckler.

Unconsious influences

  • Er, how would I know?