At around 5:30pm, I went down to our computer room to study for a midterm exam. Knowing that that would be the time white smoke could come from the Sistine chapel, some of the computers were set up to show live feeds of the chimney. W patiently studied away; the only thing that the cameras showed were seagulls perching on top of the chimney, but no smoke. This lasted till 7pm. Study came to an end, and some of us gathered around the computer screens, waiting for what was to come – black smoke or white? 7:01, nothing, getting antsy. 7:02, wondering what’s going on… camera panned out to show a crowded St. Peter’s square. 7:03, still nothing… 7:04… smoke. But was it black or white? A brother shouted, “It’s black…well, greyish…” But the other brothers huddling around the other screens shouted, “It’s white! It’s white! It’s white! Vámonos!” Screens showed crowds jumping up and down, umbrellas and flags waving in the air, bells of St. Peter’s ringing…the whole city shook at the news! Of course we have a new pope; let´s get going!!!
7:05, the bells around the house started ringing, signaling that we do have a new pope. And so all 300 brothers ran through the house out the door, waiting for the buses to take us to Saint Peter’s. It was like a Matrix film, hundreds of cassocks flying in the air! Some ran to the train station, some got car keys and drove away to the square…others were in shock. The majority of us filled the buses, and drove away to meet our new pope. Cars were waving Vatican flags; people were running through the streets to the square. Approaching St Peter’s, our bus parked a little ways from the square…so the race began again. Even two brothers on crutches a few days ago were seen running through the streets of Rome. I stopped one and asked, “I thought you were injured… what’s going on?” He responded, “I don’t know, maybe this Pope’s miraculous!” Needless to say, the excitement makes you forget your own troubles. As we went running through the streets, shopkeepers stepped out to shout Auguri! (Congratulations). Thanks be to God and surprisingly, we all made it within the columns of St Peter’s square around 7:50pm. Representatives from all peoples of the world were there to meet our new pope!
8:00pm, tension kept rising. People asked us what was going to happen. Some named their own candidates for pope. Some were silently praying in the background. 8:10 came and one of the cardinals came onto the balcony. Cardinal Tauran announced in Latin that our new pope was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, having chosen the name Francis. After the name, the applause was surprisingly light – It’s because we didn’t expect him, people said; we don’t even know who he is! I looked at one of the other Legionaries and asked if he knew him. Bergoglio? Never heard of him before. It was a shock to all, yet a beautiful shock. Because it’s a clear sign that God’s ways and criteria are not ours. None of the “favorites” were chosen; the media was caught off guard, as were about 75% of the people in the square. All we heard then was, “He’s from Argentina”. Argentina? Wow. Never would’ve guessed. But then a roar of cheers started “Francesco, Francesco, Francesco!!!” Who cares if we don’t know him personally?! He’s our pope, and he deserves our love!
This morning I dedicated my hour of prayer to praying about our new pope, what I felt during the whole announcement, and what God expects of him and of us. Thinking about his words to us in the square, I came to the conclusion that God has given us a pope of utmost simplicity of heart. The kindness that came from his voice last night touched me deeply. I felt that he was putting his whole heart into each of his words. He is a pope who will, I think, catch people off guard, and touch their hearts in a special way. He chose Francis as his name, in honor of St Francis of Assisi. Why? Gospel poverty? Simplicity of heart? Charity? Instrument of peace? Hmm…perhaps all of these, at least according to what I experienced when I saw him last night. If Pope Benedict XVI was the humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard, Pope Francis may well be the instrument of peace and simplicity. I don’t know exactly how it will turn out…we’ll have to wait and see.
Last night a brother told me that this is truly God’s providence, for while St Benedict was the founder of monastic rule, St Francis lived monasticism to “rebuild” the Church. Remember the story of St Francis’ dream when God told him to rebuild his Church? Think about it. God knows those whom he chooses; as God told Samuel when he chose David to be King, For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.