It happens all the time.
We find a band that we love. No one else knows about them. Six weeks later they are on the cover of Entertainment Weekly and being played non-stop on MTV (if MTV still did the music thing).
We feel a little cheated. Like something that was ours, that was personal, was stolen away from us when it went mainstream. It feels less pure and ruined.
I kinda have that feeling about Pope Francis.
In 2005 when Pope John Paul II died many of my catholic friends asked me who I thought would be the next pope.
My typical response was, “I have no idea how all of that works, but there is this cardinal in Argentina who I really like. He rides the bus. He lives in a simple one bedroom apartment and cooks his own food. How neat would it be if someone like that was the next pope.”
I didn’t think it was a reasonable thought. I didn’t think it was something that was going to happen.
I love Pope Francis.
Everyday he does something that makes me laugh, something that brings a tear to my eye, and something that makes me want to be a better person.
I have seen how others lives and faiths are being transformed by his words, choices, and model of living as well.
This is true for both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
I can remember the first time I felt genuine affection for Pope Benedict.
That is not to say I didn’t appreciate him before that moment.
I always respected him as a teacher and a writer, but he was not someone I warmed to personally right away.
I think much of that was because he wasn’t Pope John Paul II. Up to that point, John Paul was the only pope I knew. I had camped with him at Cherry Creek Park. Brad and I got to be his opening act in St. Louis.
(I even got in trouble for balancing his hockey stick on my chin. True story!)
Pope John Paul II was my pope.
Pope Benedict, for me, was never going to match that.
The moment of true warmth and affection came during a very simple mass at the end of the day with the young woman of Mary Hope of Christians in Haledon, NJ. During the eucharistic prayer the priest “Francis our pope and Benedict pope emeritus.”
In that moment my heart warmed to him. (Not because he was leaving, and to be honest, at that moment I don’t fully know why I had changed.)
On Christmas Eve I saw a very unremarkable photo in the news. It was of Francis and Benedict sitting in Benedict’s living room having a nice Christmas visit.
There they were. The pope emeritus and the selfless pope.
And then it stuck me. I was looking at the photo wrong.
In that moment I saw Benedict in a new light.
He was the leader of one billion people. Every word he wrote was translated in to every language of the world. Every time he spoke the international media showed up and it was broadcasted to every corner of the earth. World leaders traveled from far and wide to see him.
With this power, influence, and prestige he decided the best way she could serve the church, the world, and God was to give all of that up and go off to pray.
Not publish. Not write. Not speak. Not be seen.
Instead to go pray.
I think a lot of myself. I think a lot of my skills. I think I know what is best in most situations.
I have always understood my call as to share my giftedness. (And I am very gifted, just ask me.)
On some level it is antithetical to everything that I am to step aside. We are suppose to step up!
It takes courage to step up, but sometime it takes more courage to step away.
I don’t have to be and my giftedness doesn’t have to be the answer.
I have another favorite pope.
You know the selfless one.