March 15, 2013
I sat in my living room before the big screen. Mesmerized. The Sistine’s white smoke released into the misty sky. St.Peter’s bells screamed. Thousands of animated pilgrims jumped, smiled, and cheered in anticipation. St.Peter’s Square overflowed with revelers. They waited. Some held their breath hoping for a timely announcement indicating the identity of the new Pope.
I dozed off in my chair. My mind was swallowed up by a realistic dream. Suddenly, reunited with my sainted momma, as the music of her favorite singer Beniamino Gigli massaged my dozing mind. Momma gently called and said ,”Figuttzu mio, una lettera del Papa.” Somehow, I returned to the moment when my mother handed me a letter from Pope Pius XII. The Papal post mark announced, 1954. Momma raised her brow and said,” Perche? Did you write him a letter?” That ten-year old me explained that I liked his name Pacelli and that he seemed like such a good man with so much work to do. “So,” I said, “I thought I’d tell him that.” My dream recreated the moment that I focused on that note, in which the Holy Father (Pope Pius XII) thanked me for my good wishes.
Just before my reawakening, my mom smiled, softly pinched my chubby cheek and said, “Rispigiati, you will love this Papa too.”
After a long stretch in which I tried to clear the cobwebs from my mind, the announcement was made. The new pope was Argentinean Jorge Bergoglio. He assumed the name Pope Francis. While I’ve always cheered for American Olympic teams, for some unknown reason, I’ve always rooted for a succession of Italian popes. Despite the fact that our recent non-Italian popes served as commendable Vicars of Christ, privately, I prayed for another Italian to assume the position.
When I learned that Pope Francis’ father was an Italian from the Piedmont region and that his mother’s parents came from the same area, a smug smile took over my face. This South American, pontiff was rooted in Italy. That brought me to my feet and I raised my arms toward the sky.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Buenos Aires, impressed me immediately with his humility and love for his fellow man. I heard stories of his refusing to live in palatial luxury, sharing public transportation with his people, and washing the feet of AIDS patients. He decided to live as one of the people and not superior to them. It appears to me that the message in my dreams was correct. God has blessed us all with this pious and humble Pope Francis and I will love him too.
F. Anthony D’Alessandro