SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
“The Pope is a sissy,” said my friend, Howie Dunnit, who’s always full of interesting ideas.
I took a few steps away from him. That’s usually a wise idea when speaking to Howie, especially on religious matters. He doesn’t worry much about offending Anyone.
No, I explained to Howie. The new Pope is named after St. Francis of Assisi, who gave up his wealth and was famous for helping the poor.
“I’m talking about the way they dress, dummy.”
(Okay, Howie’s not a close friend.)
“Did you see those red slippers? Come on. It worked for Dorothy, but she was a sixteen year old girl – when a 266 year old guy wears them, he’s a sissy.”
First of all, Dorothy was closer to ten and wore silver slippers –
“Don’t start that again. Give it up; everyone’s forgotten there were books before the movies.”
Okay, fine – but he’s 76, not 266. He’s the 266th Pope. And Dorothy was blonde.
“Yeah, and maybe this guy was blond too, when he was 90.”
I took another step away from him, just in case. Was that lightning?
“I heard he has a simpler fashion sense than previous pontiffs,” Howie continued. “Why does a Pope have any fashion sense? The man wears a robe and slippers all day. He dresses just like my old man did through his entire retirement.”
I wonder what a Pope does in retirement? I asked. Do you think they had to dig out some 600 year old retirement plan?
Frankly, I was trying to get Howie off the subject of robes and sissies.
“I figure the old Pope – Benny Dick was his name, I think – turned that Popemobile with the plastic bubble upside down, and he’s in some lake in Northern Italy, fishing in it. Can you imagine him putting on a fish fry every … wait for it … Friday?”
But doesn’t the Church own the Popemobile?
“Maybe they loaned it to him for lent. Get it?”
Seriously, do you hear thunder?
“The thing is, the last Pope was all into tradition and conservative moldy things, and stuff. He didn’t want gay couples to have abortions, and wore pastel gowns and Santa hats and wanted everyone to do genuine flexes every Sunday.”
“But the new guy is supposed to be simple and humble, and he’s the first one to be named Francis, and if that’s not all sissified, what is? I’ll bet he wears white boxers with little pink hearts on them.”
I don’t care what he … hm ….
“Bet you won’t be able to get that picture out of your mind, huh?”
Howie, it’s not like they expect the Pope to personally smite sinners. He’s got the Swiss Guard for that.
“Yeah, like they’ll get involved.”
Francis of Assisi was the son of a rich man who gave up everything to help the poor. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have kept my dad’s car and a credit card if I was him, but it says a lot about Jorge Bergoglio that he’s the first Pope to take that saint’s name.
“Yeah, or maybe he was worried the Italians wouldn’t be able to pronounce Bergoglio.”
I think you’re being deliberately contradictory. Again.
“No, I’m Presbyterian.”
You know what I mean. Look, this is the first Jesuit to become Pope. They take vows of poverty and chastity –
—They work with poor people, run schools, and generally do the humble thing. Something you could learn from, Howie. I think the Church is hoping he’ll institute reforms, focus more attention on the needy, and represent Latin America. He’s the first non-European Pope since 741 A.D. It may be the Catholic Church’s big opportunity to move forward into a new era. He’s even quoted as saying “Carnival time is over”.
“A guy coming from Buenos Aires says carnival time is over? Am I the only one seeing the irony there?”
My point is, he’s already broken with formal tradition so much, and even criticized his church’s pomp and circumstance. Maybe a new day is dawning.
“Yeah, well, it had better dawn pretty quick, at his age, or they’ll be electing Pope Sissy II. What was that flash of light?”
By now I was on the other side of the room from Howie, who according to local legend has already been struck by lightning twice, and carried off by an angry tornado.
“Yeah, he sounds like a good guy,” Howie continued, “but a little tradition and pageantry can be a good thing, as long as you keep it in perspective. The church needs to concentrate on people instead of stuff, but sometimes those symbols mean a lot to people, as long as they’re not overdone. Maybe this new guy, coming from all the way around the world, gets it. He just needs to make sure the trappings aren’t … trapping.”
That made so much sense that for a second I thought Howie had already been electrocuted.