Monday, June 13, 2005

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FYI when you read this: "Signora Wild Boar" is not the woman's real name, obviously, it's probably a very apt description.

Blown clean away by a brush with Benedict


...At the altar, all was chaos. An archbishop appeared, clearly trying to instruct a gaggle of confused altar servers on papal etiquette. An organ gave a few blasts, then choked. The white papal chair was moved hither and thither. And all the while, wave upon wave of priests, all in black cassocks and carrying neatly pressed surplices over their arms, materialised as if from nowhere. You couldn't believe how many. The crowd swelled and swelled. Now children in cheap Daz-white first communion dresses, papal knights in swirling cloaks or tabards, Catholic dignitaries and red-sashed cardinals began to jostle for position on serried rows of chairs.

Lots of pieces of the jigsaw got into the wrong place. Nuns got a rosary going, to which people bellowed their responses while talking on their mobiles. The police chewed gum, making no attempt to impose order or to rescue unwitting passers-by swept into the throng, never to escape. I couldn't help remarking to myself, with the cynicism of the detached observer, that all this bedlam and plastic piety was not at all British.

Then, quietly, the door of St John Lateran opened and something extraordinary happened. As the tops of the halberds carried by the Swiss Guard swam into view, every bit of cynicism and detachment deserted me. I found myself breathless.

The halberds moved forwards and, suddenly, the Pope was before us. He himself made nothing of his entry, but, as one, we swayed towards him. Tears streamed down the cheeks of the rottweiler nun, and, to my enormous surprise, down my own. Here was the living successor of St Peter, the guardian of the spirit at the heart of all Rome's gilded worldly treasures. Here was the Holy Father. When people clapped, I willingly joined in.

Astounded at my reaction, I expected it to pass. It did not. During the entire lengthy mass, with its mainly commonplace liturgy and dodgy singing, I remained moved in a way I did not find at all comfortable. I wanted my detachment back, but I couldn't find it.

And it did not end there. As it was Corpus Christi, when mass was over, the Pope, holding aloft the monstrance containing the blessed sacrament, came slowly down the steps to get into an open-topped Popemobile, a prie-dieu protected by a golden canopy settled on its flat-back. He was very close and looked very serious.
Then Signora Wild Boar called out his name - "Benedetto!" - and as he turned to acknowledge us, his face lightened and he smiled a smile of delighted sweetness before raising his arm to indicate that the blessed sacrament was more worthy of our attention. If Signora Wild Boar had not been quite so bristly, I'd have kissed her ...

... And this feeling of refreshment seems to have remained. I did many things in Rome and saw many sights. But even though I visited countless magnificent churches, an amphitheatre or two and several impossibly fashionable shops, the thing that remains sharpest is my chance encounter with an elderly man sporting bright white hair and the fisherman's ring. Pope Benedict XVI may not be blessed with the charisma of his predecessor, but my goodness, he still packs an Almighty punch.

Read the whole great article from The Scotsman.


  1. Wow. Seems like quite the experience to be blessed you have! (Read: Understatement of the month, at least, lol.)

    Is Ratz going to come to the good ol' U S of A anytime soon?

  2. *blessed TO have... =blonde moment of the day? Lol!

  3. I hope he comes soon! Wouldn't that be lovely! Even lovelier if he decides to stop by that sun-kissed paradise, Cleveland, OH ;)

  4. :looks out window: Maggie, if you have sun in your neighborhood, I DEMAND you send it over hear, lol. Took my sister to swim practice this morning and it was FREEZING. (And I wasn't even the one who was wet, lol.)

  5. hear = HERE

    Argh, what is it with my spelling and this paticular post?? Lol.