Why I Didn’t See the Pope
A personal story of faith.
In order to explain to people about what the Pope’s visit to McCauley meant to me, I need to give some background. In the New Testament, there is a place where Jesus confronts one of his apostles who gives the perfect answer to his challenge, then Jesus told him, “…you have the keys to the Kingdom. Whatever you bind in Heaven, will be bound on Earth…” (Matthew 16:19). This was said to Peter, or Petros, which means rock. Many people will have heard of Saint Peter guarding the pearly gates to Heaven. What that means is that this passage details the very moment when Jesus appointing the first Pope. According to my faith, our current Pope Francis is a continuation of that line from Saint Peter.
The trouble I have is, some days (often recently), I have been hard pressed to find the faith that I spelled out in that previous paragraph. I don’t think I am alone in saying that the current pastor of Sacred Heart is amazing, but I desperately miss Father Jim Holland.
As I was letting the concept of this article gel in my mind, I thought about how down I have been recently. When I first started going to churches, around 29 years ago, I would go to them on and off, sort of like how I do now. One day a friend commented on this fact and gave me a list of things that seemed better with my life while I was attending church and another list of all my shortcomings when I wasn’t. I was insulted, of course, and got quite angry, but today when I was thinking of this, I got a little curious and shuffled through the files in my mind of the last time I went to a church.
I thought about one beautiful spring day when I went to a moving service, and when I left Sacred Heart, Dan Glugosh and his family were on their way inside. It really meant a lot to me to know that some of McCauley’s coolest citizens were not only Catholic (though I should be clear that I am not Catholic, I just attend a Catholic church) but they went to Sacred Heart as well. Then there was a day when everything seemed right with the world. Going to Mass was my quiet time and how I recharged my batteries. I prayed deeply that day, from my heart, and felt the warmth and love in Sacred Heart when I went forward to ask for the priest’s blessing. Somehow, I left that church feeling different. Not bad, not good. I just felt a slight difference.
Again I need to explain some backstory. Some 20 years ago, I was hospitalized with a very serious mental health condition and I lost a lot of close friends. I have been medicated ever since, and I think the medication has affected my memory. On that day when I noticed the change, right after Mass, I went home, picked up the phone and almost without thinking dialed a number I hadn’t dialed in all of those 20 years. It was the home number of a friend who had cut me out of his life as I was having mental health difficulties and he couldn’t handle it, or so I thought. This was someone who had been a buddy through school and adulthood and who just stopped talking to me and even blocked my number when I got very ill once.
This former and current friend and I talked for a very long time and it has felt so great to connect with him again. I was able to explain to him why things happened the way they did and he asked me to forgive him for not being a better friend. Since I last saw him, he added twins to his family and did well for himself as an engineer. He explained to me that he hadn’t just given up on me all those years ago. He had actually fought to see my doctor and demanded he do something about my condition. The doctor told him to ignore me and never contact me again, which he did, reluctantly, while caring for a wife and small child.
My day of “revelation” seems like such a small thing. A prayer. A moment of mental clarity. A phone number from years ago remembered perfectly despite that I often forget why I stand up to go into the kitchen. A phone number that was no longer my friend’s home number, but his work one, and I happened to call while he was within reach of this line. These things to me add up to a perfect small miracle. No doubt in my mind.
This tiny gift has greatly enhanced the quality of my life and made me much happier. I think about what people feel about the Catholic Church and the things that have gone wrong – the mass graves, the covered-up sexual abuse. All these things are horrible, no doubt. But another friend, a few years ago, told me when I got frustrated with people in the church I was attending at the time, “People can be terrible. People suck. It’s God that’s good.”
And so, I didn’t attend any masses by the Pope. I didn’t even see him. But I still have my faith. It’s a teeny, tiny little spot deep inside of me that simply knows there is a God, and I believe that if I can hold on to that it will get me through just about any rough time I could imagine.