I loved him before I knew him

Pope Francis, Prayer on the Loggia

Pope Francis, Prayer on the Loggia

“We have WHITE SMOKE!” I screamed as I was in my office at work, with several students around the work-table crunching numbers from the student government election.

My heart was pounding and my mind was going in a million different directions.

I knew we had about an hour or so before we would see the new Papa on the balcony, but I could not help but to smile from ear to ear.

Our Church has a new leader! Speculations can end. Catholic bashing for a moment can cease as the world watched and waited. The betting boards were at an end of the road. This was for real! I mean, the Holy Spirit even sent a little birdy to tell us so!

As the Cardinals came out on the balcony and began to make the announcements, I tried with all of my might to understand a language I knew only to be foreign from my own. Nonetheless, I listened intently. I must have missed the words, “Argentina” and “Bergoglio,” but I could never mistake, “Francesco!” It is, after all, my middle name! I thought, “It’s a FRANCISCAN!”

My students had just been asking me if I thought it could be a Jesuit. I said, “Never.” You see, I was applying my American political eyes, instead of the eyes of God. Imagine their laughter at me when they announced he was Jesuit!

Then amazingly shy and humble Papa Francesco walks out onto the balcony! My heart was in love! He looked amazed by the crowd, and SO STRONG. This is our new leader! This is our new leader! I was eager to “google” him! I wanted to know more, but I hesitated. I wanted to hear the languages I couldn’t understand to see what his first words would be to we, his flock.

He said, “Brothers and sisters, good evening.” (I even understood that one!!!)

Just his voice, the calm, low melodic rhythm of his voice brought calm to my heart, and I knew the Holy Spirit was at work with our Church.

He went on to pray for our strong Pope Emeritus Benedict and then did something so profound that many of my beautiful Protestant friends were texting and emailing me.

He said:

“Now, I would like to give you a blessing, but first I want to ask you for a favor. Before the bishop blesses the people, I ask that you pray to the Lord so that he blesses me. This is the prayer of the people who are asking for the blessing of their bishop. In silence, let us say this prayer of you for me.”

Then Pope Francis bowed deeply, and received the blessing from his flock. Such humility and simplicity. I was in tears – in front of my students, in my office, at work.

As soon as he was finished with his blessing of us, and left the balcony, I googled like crazy!

There is nothing new that I will add to your knowledge about Pope Francis. First of all, so much still has to be known. His books have not yet been translated into English (I heard this on EWTN radio this afternoon). I do know that from what I’ve seen and read, this is an incredible pastor – one who serves, who is so full of compassion and love. Though he is not afraid and will not hold back speaking truth, he is full of love and humility. Truly a man of our time who will lead the Church in beauty and grace, with divine mercy in his heart, perhaps even focused on the corporal works of mercy. We will see this very clearly in his pontificate, I believe.

I love that he took the bus back to the Sistine Chapel. I love that he insisted on going back to the apartment/hotel to pay his bill and pick up his luggage. I love that this is not new to him. I love knowing that while in Argentina, he selected a small apartment to live in, and rejected the “cardinal limousine” and instead chose public transportation.

Although I do not believe he will enjoy this much simplicity as Pope, his heart will remain simple and raised to God in prayer.

Where were you when you found out about Pope Francis? What was your experience? What was your reaction?

I can’t wait to learn more, and to continue to grow in my faith and in my love for Jesus, my family, and others.

Peace of Christ to you and yours!


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About the Author

Mary Wallace, PhD, is a devout Catholic wife of 20 years, mother of 4 daughters, and college administrator for 19 years. Mary obtained her doctorate in Human Resource Education and Workforce Development, and has a particular research interest in faith and work issues. Her dissertation contains research insight from women working in the public sector who bring their faith to work, and using it to inform their leadership. It is through this research that Mary was able to start the blog, The Working Catholic Mom (www.theworkingcatholicmom.com).

Mary is also the co-host of a Catholic radio show: Faith and Good Counsel, on Baton Rouge Catholic Community Radio. The radio show is focused on women living full lives of faith.

As a college administrator for over 19 years, Mary has worked with a wide range of young adults. Spending the first 14 years in the college housing industry, she has a knowledge and experience of working with complex environment, large staffs, and multi-million dollar budgets. Using this knowledge, she has led numerous staffs through strategic planning processes, performance management, training and development, and developing human capital. Her current role focuses on student leadership development, service/volunteerism, and general involvement on a college campus. Mary approaches her leadership with faith as a foundation, though her employment has been mainly with public institutions of higher education.

In 2002, Mary became the main wage earner in her family, when her husband, Steven, became disabled as a result of a traumatic brain injury after a ruptured colon left him sceptic and in the hospital for an entire summer, followed by a year of neuro-rehabilitation. The Wallace’s focused on their faith, and discerned each step of a new journey, full of Christian suffering and joy. During this time, Mary was thankful for her education, and God-given skills and talents to work, and to earn an income to support her family. This is also a time Mary learned to bring her faith to work, in a way that integrated her faith and leadership approach.

Mary’s work brings her great joy, but the greatest joy she has is through her faith and her family. She is a devoted wife, and mother of 4 daughters. It is this role that Mary feels her best leadership shines. She spends lots of time in service with her church, and volunteering for different youth events with her children. Mary is an avid reader and writer, and focuses her reading attention on women’s interest in the Catholic Church, with particular interest in Blessed John Paul II writings and philosophies about women. Mary also enjoys dancing with her girls in her living room (when no one is looking), and cooking simple satisfying meals for the entire family and all of their friends.

Mary is available to speak to your group. Check out ICL's speaker pages for her topics and to book Mary.

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