I, like many Catholics, remember where I was when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was named the 265th successor of Saint Peter. I sat in a work meeting with anticipation, compulsively checking my phone for any sign of news from Rome. Although I had my “re-conversion” in 2007 with the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI and I had a special love for Pope John Paul II because Polish, this moment in history felt new and exciting. This was the first papal conclave I cared about. I knew I would be meeting the first Pope I could claim as my own. He would be the first Pope I’d follow from his beginning. The first Pope in whom I would see a shepherd chosen by God instead of just a cultural icon.
When I got word our new Pope was elected, I was filled with a joy and comfort I couldn’t articulate. We learned he chose the name Francis. Oh, how I loved St. Francis. I had my moment of re-conversion in a Franciscan Friary. My grandmother was a third order Franciscan. Franciscan spirituality greatly influenced, and still influences, my faith life. I knew this would be a man from whom I’d learn and who would inspire me to go deeper in my relationship with God. That night my friends and I celebrated the only way we knew how… with prayer and cake.
Pope Francis has inspired me, just as I knew he would. From his love of mercy to his joy for evangelization. From his profound and prophetic words to his simple gestures of love. Naturally, I was excited when I found out he would be coming to the United States. When I found out there was a ticket to the Papal Mass in Washington DC with my name on it, it took everything in me to refrain from a fangirl frenzy.
My friend, who invited me and was also excited to be there, referred to our tickets as the “cheap seats.” I referred to them as, “Ohmygosh I can’t believe I’m at a Papal Mass.”