Beware of God

The Pope (Papa in Italian) arrives on Saturday. There will be hundreds of thousands of followers in Bologna to see the man. All of the locals that I talk to say they are going away for the weekend. Actually all of this week has been called 'Papa week'. I have been to the Piazza Maggiore each day to see the herd of followers that are on a pilgrimage to see the man who is closest to God.

It seems that about half of the followers are either cloaked in white or black. Almost all of the white, of course, are the nuns (virgins), and the black are almost all priests (virgins?).

It seems strange to deprive oneself of so many of life's good things for the sake of getting closer to God. I recall my mother wanting one of her three sons to become a priest. It would have made her so happy. I being the youngest, and my other two brothers already having the path clearly cut to NOT be priests put a little pressure on me. Fortunately for me, my mother became disenchanted with the church because the sermons always circled around money and she got frustrated and announced one evening over dinner that she had not been in church for over a year! I recall my sister almost spitting her mashed potatoes all over me (I was sitting across the table from her) in disbelief.

After a brief discussion with the beggar, the priests asked the man to consider a life with God where all of his cares would be taken care of.

As I walked around I observed many interesting sights. There was an air of excitement after the outdoor mass offered by the Pope. I tried to get close but was out numbered by the throngs of people.

It seems that about half of the priests that I saw were under the age of thirty. They all had their best dress blacks and shinny bright little white collars on. They were all so clean and 'nice'. Now it is not my intention to mock or deny them of the choices that they made. They all seem so much the same to me (not that business men don't).

In the square with the Pope present the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity seems to open up to new boundaries.

After the mass, every one was in a hurry to get to the luncheon. After most of the followers left the busses and cabs came in to collect the old and invalid.

It is hoped that those close to the teachings of the Catholic Church will not be offended by these writings. I am a firm believer that if any source is giving you a better life or outlook on the world, then you should, as Joseph Campbell says: "Follow your bliss!"

I also felt a sense of spiritual uplifting when in the church a day earlier I was surrounded by hundreds of priests, nuns, and lay people singing in a sacred space that had been filled for centuries with heavenly voices.

When I walked back out into the Piazza in front of San Petronio I felt the honor of passing through the doors and through the curtains that millions have gone through before. I was again reminded of Joseph Campbell and his discussion of how when we enter a Cathedral we are entering the womb of God (metaphorically speaking). It is a safe haven of being away from the noise and confusion of the city. We are immediately transformed from where we were and what we were into a more self introspective place, both physically and spiritually. Regardless of your belief system, in a place like San Petronio, it is impossible not to feel it!

I was quite privileged to be in right place at the right time. As the Papa emerged from the church I was pushed by people surging forward like an ocean of water surging towards the source. As I was pushed off my feet, I was able to get off just one shot on my way down.