By Jim Heffernan
Just when I was thinking about going ahead and popping for a box of Girl Scout cookies from my granddaughter, the Pope resigns? Holy smokes.
|Pope Benedict XVI|
2010-in St. Peters Square
We were all surprised to hear that Pope Benedict XVI, 85, has decided to step down and not step up upon departing the Holy See HoHHoly(that would be heavenward) like popes have been doing for the past 600 years when the last resignation took place, I’m told.
I spend more time thinking about popes than your average casual Lutheran. If you have ever been a Lutheran, you know that the pope in Rome does not loom very large in your religious life. I have seen Lutherans sneer at the sight of the pope, not that very many have actually seen one other than on TV or, in the olden days, in movie newsreels.
That’s where I saw my first pope, Pius XII, who became pope the year I was born and reigned – or whatever they do – until passing away the year after I graduated from high school. He scared me. Pius XII was very severe looking, and – I mean no disrespect here – really skinny. I think popes should be fat, in the spirit of Fat Tuesday. Devils should be skinny.
The newsreels used to show Pope Pius XII being carried around the Vatican on the shoulders of male Swiss Guards wearing skirts. Somehow this pageantry struck this young Dulutheran as, well, odd but fascinating. We Lutherans didn’t have anything like that to show for us.
Catholics have this whole pope scene and we have an ex-priest trying to lose weight on a diet of worms? Didn’t seem fair to me.
Years later, after I had sort of grown up, I finally made it to the Vatican only to be informed, on a hot Rome July day, that I couldn’t wear shorts in St. Peter’s Basilica or the Sistine Chapel. Cripes, a guy could get hot knees.
Anyway, I solved the problem by wearing those khakis that have zippers just above the knees so you can shed the bottoms, turning them into shorts after coming back out of the shrines. Ever since, I’ve called them Vatican pants, meaning no disrespect to the Swiss Guards whose knees are pretty obvious under their tights.
What this has to do with Girl Scout cookies is a question one or two readers might have asked by now. Well, here goes: I think each Girl Scout should bake her own cookies to sell. Where are they baked, China? All they sell are cookies mass produced somewhere and shipped to the troops.
I’d feel a lot better about putting out my good hard-earned money for Girl Scout cookies if I knew the scout had baked them. And shed the mints, girls, for heaven’s sake.
This opens up a broad subject of authenticity that goes all the way to Rome. I think the pope should be Italian, like Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida.
Resigning Pope Benedict is German. His predecessor, John Paul II, was Polish. It’s time we got back to good old Italian popes like Pius XII and John XXIII, to whom Fat Tuesday seemed particularly appropriate.
As an aside, isn’t it nice that the Super Bowl honors the papacy by using Roman numerals?
Continuing, let’s address a few other authenticity concerns. Let me just state without equivocation that I think the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Gophers should all be from Minnesota, also Wild and Timberwolves. The same should apply to other teams, like the Dallas Cowboys. They should all be cowboys.
Authenticity. There’s so little of it these days.
Finally (and it’s about time) let me say I’ll miss Pope Benedict, especially at breakfast time. How often, as I’m choosing between Wheaties and Shredded Wheat, do I think about how easy it would be for the current pope to decide what to have for breakfast?
Of course he has a cook, and can’t you just hear him or her, as the pope settles his morning robes at the table, ask, “Eggs Benedict?” Now there’s a Catholic dish this old Lutheran can sink his gums into.