Pope Francis Wrote to Me
I have avoided writing about this for a year or so, because I was too sad to do it, but now I want to share about when Pope Francis wrote to me. It was in 2013, and my father was critically ill. I had just written a travel piece on visiting the Vatican and in my research had come across the Pope’s address. It was coming up to Dad’s birthday, and we were unsure whether he would even make it to this date. I decided to write to the Pope. Not to save Dad – that was not possible – but to make sure that he had a straight path to Heaven.
I am not very Catholic at all by my father was a staunch Irish Catholic, so that was good enough for me.
Prior to this, it was the papal elections. I remember being intrigued about the electoral process after watching a YouTube video. I went to see Dad, to ask him whether he was Ok if I ran a book within the family on who would be the next pope. He thought it would be OK but as he was so ill, he asked me to let him know about the candidates. This became a bit of a bonding session as I told him about this or that cardinal. Pope Francis was not on our radar at all.
When I wrote to Pope Francis to ask him for some assistance to make sure Dad would be OK, I told him about my little gambling endeavor. I explained that none of us had backed him but that we felt that actually his election was a good one. I also explained to him that I was indeed a lapsed Catholic but what I was hoping was that as Dads birthday was coming up he might write to him. I also said that I had noted that he seemed to not particularly like authority himself. The letter did come, but not in time.
He did write back, a little after Dad passed away and sent rosary beads and a holy card. It came at a very emotional time but whether he penned it himself or not, in ‘Paula World’ Pope Francis did write, exclusively to me. I gave the letter to my mother who was and is grief-stricken, hoping it might help. She ended up giving it back to me as she thought that I should have it. After a lot of thought, I give it to my brother because Dad passed away on his birthday. This seemed to be the right thing to do.
Pope Francis has now become all of our friend. I call him Frank, but no one else is allowed to. I know that Dad is where he should be – in Heaven. We all now have a bonded with Pope Francis.
I have watched Frank, and he continues to make me happy. He stands up for what he believes in. He is a people’s pope. The day he stopped Mass and told the mothers to breast feed their hungry children and to walk with them during the Mass made me realize that he knows people. When he caught the local bus as opposed to going in the Papal cars, he showed us again he is for the common man. When he stuck it to the Curia recently, I was over whelmed with his bravery and his astuteness for the Church.
Has all of this made me more religious? Not really, other than I do know that Dad is in Heaven and that Frank is ‘the’ person for the Catholic Church.
In all of our grief, my brother told me that he had gone into a church and lit a candle for Dad when he was overseas. This has led to me doing it also. FYI, I cry every time. I steel myself, but I dissolve every single time. By our count, Dad has been blessed in over 20 countries and in over 10 different religious denominations. We figured that we would hedge our bets and as we were in Japan, and there was only a Shinto Shrine, we knew that Dad wouldn’t mind.
A funny experience happened at the Notre Dame in Paris. I had gone in, to light a candle. It was a Sunday and mass was in full swing with all of the Parisians in their beautiful clothes filling the front pews. There were 3 priests running the mass. I crept quietly to the candles, which were next to the altar. I tried and tried to light the candle from another. A few people from the audience glanced at me, as did some of the priests. A nice Indian man came over and tried to help me. He couldn’t get it lit either. I had no intention of giving up.
I stood there trying to figure out what to do. I remembered that I had some matches in my bag. I quietly dug into my bag and found them. I remember the mass sequence from having to go for 18 years, so I knew that a louder part was coming up. So I struck the match to light the candle. The bloody thing flared up so much that I had the full attention of the parishioners and the priests. There was no going back, so I lit the candle and bowed my head. I was laughing through my tears actually, because I knew Dad would have been too.
I then remembered that Gordon had said to make sure that I always put money in the box for the candle. Again I waited and carefully placed a coin in the box. The box went straight to the floor, and the money dropped a meter and banged and carried on. Yes, everyone was again looking at me. You know what? A number of people smiled at me. They knew what I was there for. And I was providing entertainment.
I figured Dad was OK with his crazy daughter and that Pope Francis would also see the amusement value in this show as well.
I know that grief changes its form. It doesn’t go away but if I know that dad is OK, that Pope Francis, (Frank to me only) is on our side and that I can light candles for Dad all over the world. I know that Gordy picks up the pieces when I lose it and always buys me a coin from the Church for me.
Well that all helps a lot.