I started following Pope Francis on Twitter.
He hasn’t acknowledged it yet but I’m sure he will.
I bet that’s how he rolls.
It’s this kind of close relationship with a nice guy pope that I craved as a kid.
Being raised Catholic in the Bible Belt in 1970s Missouri. the pope was always on my mind
and I was, allegedly, on his as he disapprovingly watched my every move.
Back then, despite my being an diligent altar boy, Pope Paul VI was my tormentor.
“Who is this man?”, I would wonder as I peered up terrified at his picture on my wall hanging between the Dark Side of the Moon poster and the glowing red lava lamp.
Those all-knowing eyes glared down on me as I cowered in bed awaiting my fiery eternal damnation.
I just knew that he knew…everything.
As I recall, there were more photos of Pope Paul hanging in our house than there were of me.
Three to be precise.
Pope Paul met his maker in 1978 and then even stranger popes arrived on the scene,
cold, alien popes from absurdly incomprehensible places like Poland of all places.
“A pope from Poland?”, I wondered as I did my math homework, my mind wandering.
“Is that even legal?”
When I would sporadically look up from watching Dracula, Salem’s Lot, and Creature Feature,
these popes scared the hell out of me even more than Pope Paul.
Their faces gradually all fused in my mind into one undulating, undead, nightmarish pope-ula amalgamation of everything evil.
Then, I graduated high school
and the pope mattered less and less.
I got busy with girls, Nietzsche and Camus –
let’s be honest, mainly Nietzsche and Camus –
and I stopped thinking about popes so much.
Soon they were gone from my mind altogether.
Then, when Pope Benedict was elected in 2005, it brought me back to reality.
“Oh, yeah. That’s right,” I thought.
There are popes.
That’s still a thing.”
Those grave Holy Fathers who used to haunt my days and nights were apparently still around and they seemed, with Benedict, to have become even graver.
But then, miraculously, like a suave gaucho from the Pampas, Pope Francis rode his horse into Vatican City,
kicked the dirt off his spurs
and everything seemingly changed.
The storm clouds lifted.
The sun shone.
Here, it seemed, was a good vibes, easy listening pope,
a pope who reminded me of the groovy times of my ’70s childhood –
scattered as they were between the gloom and doom –
a time when Gordon Lightfoot dominated the Saint Louis airwaves
with songs like
Carefree Highway, Sundown, If You Could Read My Mind and Rainy Day People.
Pope Francis seemed to finally be a pope I could get into,
a guy who would drop the fire and brimstone BS and chill the F out –
a buddy I could kick back and have a yerba mate with,
watch a little fútbol
and spill my guts without fear of condemnation.
“You have sinful thoughts?” I imagine him saying.
But am I seeing Pope Francis the way I want him to be and not the way he really is?
Author: Mike Trupiano
Copyright May 7, 2017