I admit that when my editor approached me about writing a column on the new pope's election, I found myself filled with trepidation. How could I write about the pope in the humorous and lighthearted way befitting a column on the last page of the paper on a Friday — a place where the Collegiate Times readers seek a smile or two during their last bus ride to campus before the weekend?
I strive to provide that sort of humor you expect and deserve. But over the course of writing this weekly column, I have discovered that readers generally seem to fall into one of three categories: those who find it amusing and don’t say anything; those who find it terrible, use it to line various small animal cages and don’t say anything; and, finally, those who wouldn’t understand deadpan irony and sarcasm if Stephen Colbert walked up to them on the Drillfield and smacked them in the face with a “George W. Bush 2016” yard sign.
The latter group, as one might imagine, tends to comment all the time. If you think that describes you, please feel free to fire me a message about how political yard sign violence is no laughing matter. I always like to hear from my fans.
So, if I can’t even write a column about drinking alcohol over spring break without some individual letting me know that I have deeply offended the sensibilities of our college student readership — let that one sink in for a moment, because that actually happened — how on earth could I possibly write something about the pope?
That is, without getting my tires slashed, or people showing up on my doorstep trying to convert me to something. I’m quite happy with my agnostic spirituality, thank you very much, and I think the “no solicitors” sign outside my apartment is legally binding.
Perhaps more to the point, I don’t even think I have the appropriate proficiencies to write anything about a papal election. I was only born into a Catholic family, baptized Catholic, raised Catholic, confirmed Catholic, mandatorily educated in Catholic dogma for the better part of a decade, and awarded my bachelor’s degree from a Catholic university.
I know a few things through and through, like that Jesus was born in a manger and that nontraditional lifestyles are generally frowned upon. However, I honestly know as much about the inner workings of the College of Cardinals as I do about the machinations of Tech’s graduate school — which is to say, not a whole lot, and I’m sorry my forms weren’t all properly filed on time. I didn’t even know “College of Cardinals” was capitalized until Word fixed it for me just now. Is that an excommunicate-able offense? I should go to confession.
What I did wonder about, though, watching the voting unfold, is how much good could have been done if everyone standing in Saint Peter’s Square and in front of television sets around the world waiting for smoke to rise out of a makeshift chimney on top of an old church — granted, an old church with a very stylish ceiling — spent those hours volunteering at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter or clinic.
I’m sure the news of who gets to wear the biggest hat in Christendom would have reached them there, too. Come on, even the pope has to think that thing is pretty big.
So, I’m just going to leave papal prognostications to professionals predisposed to such platitudes, like my father — who you can find on Twitter these days.
My expertise really relates more to celebrating the feast day of my confirmation saint: Saint Patrick. I know that he’d have a laugh with me about the pope’s ceremonial headwear over a pint of stout and a plate of corned beef and cabbage.