Where Were You?

Habemus Papam!

Where were you when those words were spoken?

In history’s most indelible moments, people remember where they were when they heard the news. I remember my parents saying they were roaming around somewhere on the campus of Indiana University when they heard that President John Kennedy was assassinated in November, 1963. When the space shuttle Challenger exploded in front of our eyes moments after takeoff in January 1986, I was a freshman in college who was frigid after having walked across campus back to my dorm after a morning class. The floor of my dorm was much quieter than usual, even for a weekday mid-morning. I then walked into the room next to mine, which was filled with young men staring at a small TV, watching in silence as the news reports replayed the horror many of my dorm buddies had just witnessed live moments before.

For the Church – and for the world — yesterday was one of those historic moments.

After the white smoke billowed out of the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, against the backdrop of a pitch dark evening Rome sky, hundreds of thousands wildly cheered at the signal that a new pope had been chosen. The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica triumphantly rank out. It was at this moment a co-worker broke into the conference room of the Gabriel Network and said, “We have a pope!”

Pope Francis appears for the first time on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The rest of our staff quickly gathered and found an Internet feed that we projected on to our whiteboard to watch the proceedings. We sat in awe and excitement as we witnessed the flashbulbs glitter and light up the evening air in St. Peter’s Square. We chatted somewhat nervously about who the next pope might be.

I had goose bumps.

Then, as former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio appeared before the masses for the first time as Pope Francis, our little group broke into jubilation. I had predicted that the next pope would be from South America and when it was announced that Pope Francis hailed from Argentina, a co-worker from Chile burst into sheer joy, jumping up and down.

Even in the darkness of our conference room, I could sense tears in her eyes. Her pride was undeniable.

I, too, was proud, as we all were.

And, I will always remember where I was when Pope Francis greeted the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics – and millions of others – for the first time.

Where were you? Wherever you were, I hope you were as joyous as I.

In the days and month’s ahead, let’s continue to pray for our Holy Father.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.