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Monday
Mar112013

Vatican Texting

Lambkins, I'd like to introduce the newest member of our family.

This is Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie.  He's from Nigeria, his birthday is June 16, and he enjoys Pope-voting and being the son of a deposed price who merely needs an advance of $2000 from you to help claim his rightful inheritance, which he will share with you upon completing the transaction.

I found him through AdoptACardinal.org, which randomly selects a cardinal for those who wish to pray for those in the conclave.  I got an African one!

To my recollection, this wasn't an option the last time the whole world got together to stare at a chimney.  Neither was PopeAlarm, which promises to send a text message in the event of a Poping ("When the smoke goes up, you'll know what's going down!") Or the Conclave app, which includes full Cardinal bios with odds and live video of the Vatican.   We rarely stop to mark the change of technology, unless generationally; I have on occasion stopped to reflect in astonishment that my nephews will never know the dubious joys of filling out a drugstore film development envelope.  But eight years from phone voicemail to smartphone is a remarkable leap (and, just as I saw some dude walking around Notre Dame's campus with a phone to his ear and I demanded what could possibly be so important as to have a phone on your person at all times, when I saw the first iPhone I wondered aloud what Google lyrics look-up or which email is so important that you can't wait to get to the office and at a proper keyboard. ) Well.

Without having to move quietly under the stiff sorrow of a Papal funeral, this conclave is now A Thing. The last time this happened-- eight years ago-- I thought myself quite modern as I found out via voicemail that a selection had been made while I was teaching, then rushed to the nearest TV screen in a campus bookstore to discover who it was.  As it happens, watching a new Pope emerge onto the balcony while sitting on the floor amidst carousels of sweatshirts is so 2005. Now I don't even need a plug in the wall.

If this seems a bit too much, allow me to explain that Poping about is one of the few remaining enjoyable cultural aspects of American Catholicism.  In a nation in which Mass protocol and tabernacle location varies city to city and parish to parish, he's one of the seldom-occurring linking visible aspects of religious life we all share.  Oh, you have Bingo on Thursdays and the the church across town removed all the kneelers fifteen years ago?  High-five anyway:  We still gots the same daddy.

Those of us who are cradle Catholics never even necessarily had to be told who the Pope was; he was just there, at all times, his photograph in school lobbies and church vestibules, his name mentioned in every single Mass.  So you'll understand that the evening B16 resigned, I said somewhat worriedly to Josh the Pilot, "I don't have a Pope anymore."  He stared in Lutheran incomprehension:  "Well, neither does anybody else."  Exactly.

A sport to enjoy in these days is Secular Media Catholic Bingo, in which the faithful are treated to the sights and sounds of non-Catholics and even anti-Christians attempt to intelligently discuss the Vatican goings-on without betraying ignorance and/or general lack of education. Lookit, I'm the first to admit Catholicism is a tangled web of Latin terms; there's a lot I don't know after 36 years since my baptism, 16 of which were spent in Catholic schools.  However, it would be much appreciated if the general media would know not to ask a person "what would be most remembered from his... popeness of eight years."

I leave you with this fascinating coverage from NBC of Benedict XVI's rise to office, the first eleven minutes of which are occupied with discerning smoke color, gradually interspersed with indignant undertones that WE WERE TOLD THERE WOLD BE BELLS WITH WHITE SMOKE, THIS SMOKE LOOKS WHITE, AND THERE'S A CRAPLOAD OF IT, WHAT'S UP WITH ALL THESE SKETCHY NUNS RUNNING INTO THE SQUARE FROM THE WIND-EY SIDE STREETS WHERE THEY WERE PROBABLY WEAVING TAPESTRIES OR SOMETHING, WHY AREN'T THE BELLS HAPPENING IMMEDIATELY THE UTTER SECOND THE WHITE SMOKE GOES UP, THINGS AREN'T HAPPENING THE WAY WE WERE LED TO BELIEVE, WHERE ARE THE-- oh wait, never mind.

All good things take time, even within a church known to think it over four or five centures before officially cannonizing a fellow.  Even when that Church clears out a previous occupant's e-desk the second he hits the curb.

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