Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Six Years Already... Ad Multos Annos!

"Isn't time fun when you're having flies?" as one frog said to the other!

I wasn't blogging back then - I started just under a year later, on 13 May 2006. The day of the Holy Father's election will, I hope, be one I remember forever... I have posted much of this before, but it was such a wonderful event that I don't mind repeating myself. You don't have to read it!

I remember it well. I was teaching RE in a Catholic School and had been talking about the conclave all day to my students. At lunchtime, Fr. James Clark (our priest chaplain) had popped into the staffroom, and the two of us tried to see what was happening on various internet sites, hampered by painfully slow internet connections - there was a bit of a scare when the report of "white smoke" was mentioned, but it soon became clear that the smoke was a definite black.

Immediately school was over, I drove back to the parish... I didn't have cable or satellite TV at home, I didn't trust the BBC's coverage of Catholic news even then, and Fr. Tim had said that, as nothing was booked for the evening, I could go in and watch the TV in the large hall for a bit... he was at the seminary at Wonersh, I think, but I met the parish secretary, Bridget, at the door, and she gave me the key to the hall.

I was pretty sure nothing would happen for a while, but it was a luxury to be able to hear what the different TV stations had to say about the whole process... so I arranged my books for marking, turned on the TV and went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. As I was fishing out the teabag, I heard the announcer state that black smoke had gone up. I was disappointed, but not terribly surprised - it was only the second day of the conclave, after all - and I decided that I'd just drink my tea, do some marking while listening to the news in the background and then go home.

As I sat down, consternation seemed to be breaking out among the announcers. They were absolutely sure that the smoke was black... but it did look just a little bit grey. The crowds were cheering wildly... so the presenters were explaining that the crowds had to be wrong, because the smoke was black... well, ok, grey... but it was meant to be black... and anyway, to prevent any mistake the presenters had been told that bells would ring as well as white smoke, and there were no bells... but that smoke did look a bit pale... no, it was grey... but the cheering crowds had definitely gotten it wrong because there were no bells... but... oh, look, white smoke... but what about the promised bells...?

...and then the bells started up!

As you can imagine, I abandoned the marking...

A group of people suddenly appeared in the hall - they had assumed that the hall would be empty, and they wanted to set up the tables for refreshments after a funeral on the next day... did I mind? I explained that I was just watching the TV, so I didn't mind, as long as I wasn't in their way.

I had jokingly commented the day before that it would be great if Cardinal Ratzinger was elected, but had been told firmly that this just wasn't possible, though he might turn out to be influential as "kingmaker." I continued to watch, determined to see the moment when the name of the new Pope would be announced...



That wily old Cardinal Estevez was milking it for all it was worth... When I heard "Josephum" I screamed and jumped up and down... I didn't know that there was another Cardinal called Joseph, but the "Ratzinger" which followed after the pause confirmed the good news.

Phone calls and furious texting to friends ensued. The other people in the hall seemed a little bemused by my behaviour. "Errm... it's good news then?" they asked, a little hesitantly. "Very good indeed!" was my delighted response.

I stayed until the new Pope had appeared on the balcony, and then went home, deliriously happy. After an evening phoning friends and being phoned, I heard that Fr. Patrick Burke (whom I know well through the Faith Movement) was to be on Newsnight...



A wonderful day. I also remember the disgruntled comment made to me in the school car park the following morning as I clambered out of my car clutching several laminated posters of the newly elected Pope ready to be plastered all over my classroom. "See the result of the election last night? I suppose you're happy then?"

To which the reply was "Yes. Very!"

So, where were you, and what were you doing when you heard the good news?

Happy Anniversary, Holy Father. Ad multos annos!

13 comments:

Denita said...

Sadly, I was still fallen away from the Church at the time, though I was a bit interested. I remember seeing the story on Yahoo, though, and thinking, "Cardinal Ratzinger, really?" I knew only a little about him back then. Now, thankfully, I know better. I love my Pope!

Heather said...

I don't remember where I was at the time, other than I was still in college, and I was a little apprehensive, since I'd never known any other Pope besides JPII and there were a lot of bad rumors swirling around about him. Fortunately I have a great pastor, who turned it into a teaching moment :)

Mater mari said...

A text from number four son: "White smoke from the Vatican; turn on the television NOW!" As I did so I said to my husband: "Wouldn't it be wonderful if it were Cardinal Ratzinger and he chose the name Benedict!" I make no claim to prophecy - it was purely wishful thinking - but our youngest son was named after Pope John Paul and we have a grandson called Benedict. Watching the recording again (as well as Fr Burke's excellent defence of truth on Newsnight) I can relive the joy of that day. Ad multos annos indeed!

Idle Rambler said...

It's becoming one of those 'where were you when . . .' moments, isn't it?

I do remember exactly. I was at home glued to the TV having had to miss our annual retreat as a couple (for some reason I can't remember). I remember texting the news to other members of our group who had no TV or internet access on retreat. Smart phones hadn't been invented, or at least, were not commonly available.

Elizabeth from Sussex said...

I remember being glued to the TV and then the phone rang. I wanted to ignore it, but my husband picked it up - it was ny brother, telling me there was white smoke - which I knew as I was glued to the TV... I had a job to thank him civilly! Then, of course, the unbelievable moment!!!

Elizabeth said...

I was sitting watching the TV all alone and when the news was announced I cheered and cried at the same time. I couldn't believe the Cardinals had made the right choice!! Finally!!
It's funny that in the interview the announcer "gets it" and is trying to help explain why the Church can't change her teachings to a "liberal" Catholic. Fr Baker did a good job too.

Mac McLernon said...

Elizabeth - Fr. Baker??? do you mean Fr. Burke?

;-p

Julie said...

I admit that I laughed when Christina Odoni said, "compassion not fashion" :)

Lucy said...

I was in my parish youth group when one of the Oratorians burst in telling us there was white smoke and so we all huddled round the TV in the parish centre to watch what was happening. Shortly afterwards my mum came to pick me up, tooting the car's horn all the way through the streets of Oxford!

Richard Collins said...

We watched the whole affair on television and when the name Ratzinger was announced I thought I had misheard, it took a few seconds to sink in and then I think we opened a bottle of fizzy stuff and walked six inches above the ground for quite a few hours.

Elizabeth said...

Sorry Fr. Burke. I couldn't look back at the interview in the middle of my post, and I remembered it wrongly. Well perhaps I could have now I think about it, but I didn't. I enjoy the cat posts too, I was just having problems posting when they were up. I loved the story of how they got used to going outside. Cats are smart.

Felix said...

Can't remember when I heard the news.

But the next morning, I was so happy that I kicked a stone as though I was a schoolboy once again.

Being now middle aged, I fell and twisted my ankle. Still, I have retained the joy, and have forgotten the pain.

Just another mad Catholic said...

Fr. Burke ROCKS!! just like the Cardinal whose name he shares.

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