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“Praise Father, Son and Holy Goat. Baa-men”

April 18, 2008

All this news fuss about the Pope’s visit to the States has got me thinking. Reminiscing, actually. I haven’t got much to say about Pope Benedict (numeral i don’t know); i’m not Catholic, and i can’t say i’ve been paying very close attention. Though i can say that all of my Catholic friends in college were definitely unhappy about his election. Though my Catholic friends were among the most progressive/liberal people i knew – contrary to popular thought on Catholicism – as well as being the only very close friends i had who were really, seriously religious. Interesting, but irrelevant side note…moving on.

But i was thinking about John Paul II, because that is who i think of when someone talks about the Pope. I think he may always be “the Pope” to me; something about formative years, i’m sure – he was Pope when i was born, and until very near my college graduation. And, while i don’t claim to actually know anything about him, i have always had a kind of soft spot for him. I’m sure the media is at fault for that, but no matter.

Again from a rather ill-informed and purely sentimental perspective, i rather like Catholicism. Perhaps because of my mother, who has always loved rosaries, and who has a sort of intellectual/spiritual interest in all religions with no hint of actual conversion. Perhaps because ritual has always been my favorite thing about religion. Perhaps because of that time in South America when the traveling priest came to our tiny town. I couldn’t take communion, of course, because i was Methodist (and only Catholics can take Catholic communion…probably something to do with transubstantiation), for which the priest was profusely apologetic. My friend did get to take communion because she was Lutheran, which the priest said was, “close enough.” I love that. I also just realized that most of my foreign travels have been to very Catholic countries.

Which brings us to the story i was initially meaning to tell: my backpack has been blessed by the Pope.

Me and one of my (Catholic) college buddies ran around Europe together for a weekish. When we were in Rome, we went to see the Pope (John Paul II) give his weekly…talk thing, i don’t remember exactly what it was called. But, every Wednesday, if he was in Rome, the Pope would give a noontime open to the public speech, and would do a sort of open blessing on all of the things people brought to be blessed. So of course we went. Because how often do you get to see the Pope? And how much longer was this Pope going to be alive? And, right, my buddy was Catholic. I bought a rosary to have blessed, for my mother – i still think it’s one of the best gifts i’ve given.

So i got to see Pope John Paul, as it turns out less than a year before he died. It was in St. Peter’s Square, and it was totally packed. When the Pope appeared (in the Popemobile) the crowd went fucking wild – everyone standing on their chairs, trying to get pictures, trying to see, yelling, excited. It was amazing! And it really was so exciting: I saw the Pope! He did a whole circuit of the crowd, and then went up to the dais in front of the Basilica to give his speech. He gave a short, couple sentence thank-you, welcome in something like twenty seven languages. Which was pretty freaking impressive. Also, he sounded like the Godfather, as my friend pointed out. That was pretty cool, too, even though i’m sure it’s because he was really old and sick. And then he gave his speech. Which was all in Italian, which was about the point it stopped being fun. We sat in the sun for about an hour and i almost got sick from it; i was pretty woozy by the end. But our backpacks got blessed by the Pope.

Also, the Swiss Guard are real. Real awesome:

Lady Brett
“The Doxology” – as sung by a church buddy back in high school. No, i can’t hear the Doxology without stifling a laugh. Ever.

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