well, that was unexpected.

(I wasn’t going to write a “real” blog post today since I have some sort of hellish stomach bug and am set to take the GRE in 3 days.  No, I have not studied.  Why do you ask?  *Sigh.*  But then, well…this happened.  So, I kinda HAVE to say something).

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I was in bed, struggling to nap and trying my damnedest to feel better (damnit).  As I often do, I was scrolling through Twitter when the tweetstorm happened.  White smoke, this.  New pope, that.  But no name.  I rolled my eyes, turned over, and turned on the television.  (What can I say?  I’m curious).  I also checked my friend’s Facebook to see if he had any updates from Rome.  Nothing except white smoke.  Okay.

So, I waited.  Like everyone else.  And read the jokes and the snarky whatevers.  I probably thought of a few myself.  But I didn’t share–mostly because I hate when people do that.

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I have an interesting relationship with religion.  I grew up within the Christian and then Lutheran churches–though my father was not a fan of God, and my Mama basically practiced because that’s what you do.  Her family was, for the most part, Baptist.  And funnily enough, my father almost became a preacher.  And one of my cousins is a priest.  It was quite the scandal when my near dying grandmother converted to Catholicism.

To say I grew up with conflicting views is the understatement of a lifetime.

I never enjoyed organized religion because they never liked my questions.  So, for the most part, I avoided it if I could.  I’d go to the stupid services if I had to, but I never actively engaged it.

For some insane reason, I decided to attend a Jesuit college.  I did it because I felt at home there.  People were nice–genuinely good people.  They were all about academics and service to others.  I fell in love with one of my future professors on my first visit.  It was a place where it was okay to question beliefs.  Where my questions were welcome.  Where faith wasn’t guaranteed.  We were all exploring.  And the Jesuits I met there changed my life–changed how I think and how I am.  I’m forever grateful for that.  I loved it so much, I’m now finishing my Master’s at the same school.

But I never liked the Catholic faith–or rather, the Church.  I didn’t need to.  Studying Catholicism actually pushed me to consider other more open-minded faiths.  I found myself looking more at eastern religions and even Judaism.  But I never quite embraced any of them.  None felt exactly right to me.  I’m not a fan of rigidity, and equal rights are a big deal to me.  So, here I am–still one of those misfits who doesn’t quite fit in.  I’m alright with that.

Still, I have a lot of respect for the devout Catholics I know.  And I have taken on some of their values–namely a fierce commitment to social justice.

But–all of that said–I could have given a rat’s ass about today’s announcement until it happened.  I was not a fan (at all) of the last Pope.  I always had a soft spot for Pope John Paul II.  To me, he was what a Pope is and should be.  I didn’t agree with him on everything, but I respected him.  I felt like he had made important reparations.  But this last pope left me cold and angry.

So, I was as surprised as anyone when I found myself bawling my eyes out when he stepped out.

A Jesuit from Argentina.

The emotion sideswiped me.  I was just really…proud.  And hopeful.  It reminded me a little bit of how I felt when Obama was elected the second time.  Like, okay–there’s a lot of crap to clean up…but maybe things will change.

Look–the Catholic Church is not going to appoint a pro-gay rights, pro-abortion pope.  Ever.  And Frances isn’t that guy.  It’s deeply disappointing, but that isn’t this Church.  While many in the Catholic camp are progressive and open to such things, it doesn’t fit who they are right now.  Appointing someone like that would be catastrophic.  I know this.  You know this.  Bottom line–this Church is divided.  It needs a leader who will appeal to the conservatives and the liberals.  This is that guy.  Until the Catholic Church decides who it will be, this pope will be someone who will unite Catholics and give them a direction that’s decidedly Catholic (both good and bad).

Unity is a good thing because it means that more of those liberal Catholics who sit on the sidelines of the Church (or have left the Church) may come back into the fold.  And that means conversations.  And that means change.  The Church hasn’t changed for this long because people leave rather than fight for what they feel is right.  This pope seems open to conversations–though he might bluntly say what he feels.  He doesn’t seem to think he knows everything, and he seems to see himself as a servant of the Church and God–not his ego.  Even when he speaks out against things, he doesn’t endorse shunning or hatred.  In fact, quite the opposite.

This is the first Pope from outside of Europe in like a millennium.  Can we think about that?  I mean, really think about that.  I would have preferred an American pope, but Latin Catholics are a huge percentage of the Catholic population–so this shows a Church that really wants to represent its people.  (Unfortunately, Latin Catholics can be the most conservative).

But he’s Jesuit–which (to me) is the key factor.  I’ve never known a Jesuit that wasn’t an amazing human being.  They are outspoken.  They are interesting human beings.  They are down-to-Earth.  They question things.  And they are firmly in touch with social justice.  For Frances, it appears poverty will be his big cause.  And I couldn’t be more happy to hear that.  Because, to me, that’s the biggest civil rights issue there is.  To me, poverty trumps all other forms of injustice.  And if we can do something about that, the other injustices that this pope is in favor of become a little bit less biting.  When you change the world for the poor, you change the world for every group that struggles.

It’s not perfect.  But it’s a start.

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