One gasp, uttered by 100,000-plus mouths, rippled across a sea of umbrellas, curved along the arms of the basilica, and rose into the sky where the seagulls were swirling.
One at a time, windows began to light up the church, and her giant bells swung belly-up. The distant march of the returning Swiss Guard tapped the air like a pulse.
Was this what Pentecost felt like?
Habemus foot-washer. Habemus bus-rider. Habemus Francis.
I predict right now that my generation of Catholics, millennial American Catholics, will be radically transformed by this man.
We are a generation that has gotten stuck in the lousy left-right thing. Oh, you care about babies? You’re a conservative Catholic. Oh, you love poor people? You’re a liberal Catholic. Oh, you love families? You’re a conservative Catholic. Oh, you’re pro-woman? You’re a liberal Catholic.
Enter scene: Pope Francis.
Current photo trending on Facebook?
Pope Francis, then Cardinal Bergoglio, on his knees, kissing the feet of a newborn in his poor mother’s arms, as the woman next to her sits breastfeeding.
Other photos trending on Facebook include: Pope Francis on a bus, Pope Francis on a subway, Pope Francis kissing the feet of a stunned child with cancer, Pope Francis washing the feet of AIDS victims. Photos that will make you cry every single time.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis is on record defending the sanctity of marriage, defending the right to life for unborn babies, even those conceived of a violent act against a woman, and defending the procreative nature of sex as supreme.
Social justice, meet social issues.
Pope Francis, meet a generation of young Catholics longing for you. Longing for someone to show us in the most tangible of ways that the Catholic Church defends the most vulnerable among us, be they in their mother’s womb or hungry in the streets.
Meet a generation of Protestants looking to see Catholics assure them that our faith is first and foremost about Jesus Christ.
And what could remind people more of Jesus than seeing a man with authority take that authority and bend it like Beckham. Bend down on one knee and wash some feet.
The only thing that is as reminiscent of Jesus is crucifixion. And crucify this pope, they will, just like they did to our beautiful Benedict. Lest we forget, the very place where the crowds stood to meet their new Holy Father is the very same place where Peter, our first pope, hung on a cross upside down. The wolves are already circling Francis.
But Pope Francis has our prayers. He began his papacy by bowing silently and asking his flock to give him a benediction: a benediction of prayers.
And it was that moment. That moment when the cardinals dotting the windows of St. Peter’s looked like flames on Francis’ shoulders, that moment when the rain stopped but the tears of Catholics everywhere broke through their fleshy dams.
Oh world, Habemus Papam!