Il Papa—it sounds much more precious in Italian—is a humble man who leads an austere and sober life without ostentation. He lived very simply in an apartment in Argentina where he took care of a handicapped Jesuit and rode the bus to work. I’ve written most of that in past tense because he has now moved house and we all know from here on in how he’ll be getting around.
Most women like the sound of a man who can cook and Jorge Mario Bergoglio is no exception but I’m guessing il Papa will need a little time to re-adjust in his new gaff before he turns the heat up in the kitchen.
Naming himself after St Francis of Assisi the rich young man, who renounced wealth and founded the Franciscan order of friars in 1290 and Francis Xavier, the formidable 16th-century Jesuit missionary evokes images of peace, poverty and a simple lifestyle. When I visited Vatican City with my Mum a few years back—eyes agog and dizzy with awe—images of poverty and simplicity didn’t spring to mind. In the same vein, Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s lifestyle and living on the edge of Buenos Aires is a far cry from the sprawling financial empire he is now in charge of that is dangerously hanging over the edge of reason.
Maybe it’s all the pomp and circumstance that goes hand in hand in electing a new pope or maybe it’s because it’s Easter or maybe it’s their age but my children are asking a lot of simple questions about Catholicism but simple answers are not coming forthwith as I clamour around in the confines of out-dated canonical law shadowed by contradiction, crime and cover ups within the male only Catholic hierarchy. In the middle of it all sits my fourteen year old drop dead gorgeous autistic. He remains silent, asks no questions and has absolutely no concept of any religion on this earth yet his spirit is vibrating at a level deeper than the foundations of the Sistine Chapel! For him, simplicity is key and so it seems for il Papa.
I wonder what it is like for a Jesuit veteran to be plucked from the far corner of simplicity, adorned in robes and entrusted with the secrets of Vatican City that has not entirely trusted the teaching intelligentsia order he represents because, like my kids, the Jesuits ask difficult, challenging, and thought-provoking questions.
Pray for me, he asked, after emerging from behind the red curtain on the balcony of the central logia at St. Peter’s Basilica. And pray for him we shall because Pope Francis will need all the divine and human intervention he can get as the Catholic Church crumbles and cracks under the weight of great crisis, scandal and conflict in the Vatican bureaucracy. But young St. Francis’ conversion did not happen overnight and neither will the Vatican City’s conversion to spiritual simplicity. That’s not to say Pope Francis won’t make his mark and shake a stick or two.
Let’s hope Papa gets some answers and time to cook, and freedom to hop on a bus. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to keep things simple and cook in my bare feet singing an old Janis Joplin number. ‘Oh, Lord will you buy me a Mercedes-Benz… I wonder did Jorge Mario Bergoglio, while he was cooking the rice and wandering around in his bare feet caring for his friend ever dream of a Mercedes-Benz Popemobile? It’s kind of like a bus…isn’t it?