Saint Peter’s Square
According to RomeReports:
Each week, Pope Francis breaks down barriers between him and the pilgrims at Wednesday’s General Audience. But even so, finding a good spot to see him at St. Peter’s Square is tough, not everyone can be front and center. But the privileged group who can have easy access to the front of the line are newlyweds. All the couple needs is to don their wedding gowns, and access is virtually guaranteed. …Pope Francis greets each newlywed couple personally, once the General Audience ends. These two couples were among the forty or so that made it to this week’s audience.
Today is All Saints Day, the time in the liturgical calendar when we remember those who have gone before us into the More – that Great Cloud of Witnesses who crowd the bleachers and cheer us on while the rest of us play out the game of Life in this mortal coil.
But what is a saint? The Bible says we all are – those of us who know and love God.
Today in St. Peter’s Square, before reciting the Angelus, Papa Frank had a few things to say about saints. This was my favorite bit:
“The saints are friends of God,” he said. But they “are not superheroes, nor were they born perfect. They are like us, each one of us.”
“Friends of God.”
“Like us, each one of us.”
According to Catholic News Service, Papa Frank continued, saying:
“The saints are men and women who have joy in their hearts and bring it to others. Never hate, serve others — the neediest, pray and be joyful, this is the path of holiness.”
The pope said the saints’ message to women and men today is to “trust in the Lord because he never disappoints.”
“He’s a good friend who is always at our side,” he said.
With the example of the way they lived their lives, the saints encourage all Christians “to not be afraid to go against the tide or to be misunderstood and derided when we speak about (Jesus) and the Gospel.”
Frederick Buechner (aka St. Freddie of Rupert to my tribe) said this about saints and I love its imagery and simplicity: “In his holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a handkerchiefs. Those handkerchiefs are called saints.”
It’s been almost a year since my father, Muzzy, (who always carried white cloth handkerchief) passed over into the More. He now sits next to my Aunts Mary and Patti and Carol and Joan and Jeannie, my Uncles Satch and Ceasar, Grammy and Poppy Page and Grampy Falsani and Nellie; my dear friend David Kuo who left us last year, my favorite professors, Jimma Young and Arthur Holmes; Seamus and Bob and Iris and Kirsty and Mr. Chevron (in the section reserved for Irish hooligans); Johnny and Ravi and Lou and Buddy and Billy with the band; sweet Naomi, Tom and Henri and Jack and Flannery; Vasco’s birth mother and father, Edina and Sylvester, and his siblings who died before him; and my beloved, pretty-fucking-close-to-a-superhero-in-real-life buddy, Mr. Mark, and all the others gathered in the cloud of witnesses in the cheering section just on the other side of the veil.
About, oh, NINE months ago, I started a new gig as the Faith & Values columnist for the Orange County Register in Southern California. No, I never expected to return to writing for newspapers. But not unlike Don Corleone, the Register‘s editor made me an offer I simply couldn’t refuse. My first day on the job was the day before Pope Benedict XVI retired and a week or so later, I found myself standing in St. Peter’s Square staring at the same smoke stack on top of the Sistine Chapel that I had spent many hours surveilling for signs of white smoke eight years earlier when they fella who had just ridden off into the sunset (by helicopter and not figuratively this time) had been elected Pontifex Rex.
A few days later, the world met Papa Frank and, well, as some of you have read or heard me say a million times, he had me at Buona Sera. I LOVE HIM.
And then about a month or so later, I went on assignment to Africa – South Africa, Malawi, and Zambia – with the ONE Campaign and brought Vasco (my son) with me. Epic trip resulting in a seven-or-eight-part series in the Register and on ONE.org.
I write a couple of columns a week for the Register and my columns usually appear in Monday’s Faith & Values section, although occasionally elsewhere. Then often, though not always, my ol’ pals at Religion News Service pick up my columns and make them accessible to the rest of the free world. Thanks, Kevin. I love you long time.
As some of you also know, the Register has a PAY WALL. Dun-dun-duhhhhhh. I know. I KNOW. Stop kvetching at me, I KNOW!
But here’s the thing: You can pay $2 and get access to the ENTIRE ARCHIVE – i.e., you can see everything I’ve written for Register since I got there. So that’s option A.
Option B is to wait for the (shorter) version of my column to (usually) move at www.religionnews.com and read it there for free (but you may not post it in full or the RNS clandestine forces will knock down your door and seize your laptop, tablet, and your Bible/Quran/Book of Mormon. So don’t do that.) You can quote 250 words and add a link to read the rest. That’s the common fair use these days for blogging, as I understand it.
I’m about to add a page up above at the top of the blog’s home page with all the links to all my columns at the Register and via RNS since the end of February 2013 and will continue to update them as well as post a wee excerpt and link when each new column moves at the Register and RNS.
Thanks for hanging in with me during this transition. I’m planning on getting back to regular blogging (see new feature @PONTIFEXCELLENT!, which will, insh’allah, be a daily thang, and look for other new stuff, too.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot: I’ve got a new book coming out next fall called DISQUIET TIME: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels, co-edited by Jennifer Grant (my homesizzle) and yours truly (and Eugene Peterson wrote the foreword – SQUEEE!) Learn more about it HERE.
It’s great to be back in my own space. I’ve missed The Dude. And all y’all.
DEBUTING A NEW FEATURE HERE AT THE DUDE ABIDES…
Because we all know that Papa Frank is mah boo and you should love him too. Here’s the first in a series of daily reasons why…
So, over the weekend, thousands of Catholic families jammed St. Peter’s Square to hear Papa Frank give an address on the Year of Faith. In the middle of things, a little boy wandered up on stage and walked over the pope. (See some awesome gifs of the whole exchange via Buzzfeed HERE). Rather than shoo the tyke away, Papa Frank – BECAUSE HE’S SO FRIGGIN’ AWESOME – just let the kid do his thing, eventually inviting him to take a seat in the papal chair when the pontiff had to get up to greet grown-up dignitaries.
Here are a couple of photos of the encounter (take a moment to pray for strength so you don’t crumple from the overwhelming cuteness):