I'm in a transitional period right now, so a lot of clothes don't look good on me (and I don't even have a lot of clothes), but I have this sweater that I've just realized is particularly unflattering. I am what could be described euphemistically as "buxom", and this characteristic is accentuated by the fact of actually nursing a baby. There is a cultural idea of filling out one's top as being "sexy", but I'm here to tell you that what it actually looks like is being fat, and wearing a certain kind of cardigan makes one look really fat, and until I saw myself in a photo last night I didn't recognize exactly how fat that was.
Which is all a long way of explaining why, in spite of the factor of awesomeness involved, I'm not posting my selfie with John Allen.
John Allen gave a talk last night at the Josephinium in Columbus on the topic of Pope Francis and Ecumenism, and I went with friend of Darwins and commenter Kelly. (The young nursling stayed at home, which was a good call as the crowd was, on average, about sixty times older than him.) Allen is a fantastically dynamic speaker and full of colorful anecdotes about popes past and present (my favorite was the one about the venerable cardinal who explained why he was wearing plain black clericals instead of his usual scarlet-and-lace: "With this pope, simple is the new chic"), and he laid out what he saw as the three pillars of Francis's year-old papacy:
1. Service as the hallmark of leadership.
2. The brilliant, crafty mind of the Jesuit that understands the effectiveness of his genuine modeling of simplicity and service.
3. Mercy, as exemplified in one of his most often repeated statements: "The Lord never tires of forgiving", and in his motto, "Choosing through the eyes of mercy."
In talking about ecumenism, Allen made several points about Francis's experience and ambitions:
1. In Argentina, which has traditionally been a Roman Catholic stronghold, the Pentecostals and Evangelicals are making extravagant inroads, poaching Catholics at the rate of 8000 a day. As archbishop, Jorge Bergoglio made a point of establishing good ecumenical relations with with the local Pentecostal and Evangelical leaders instead of being hostile. You don't stem a bleeding wound by constantly picking at the scab.
2. Under Francis, Judaism has regained pride of place as the paradigmatic relationship for Catholic/non-Christian interfaith dialogue, not Islam. Allen made the point that European cardinals must of necessity carry the heavy burdens of the past, distant and recent, in their interactions with Judaism, but Bergoglio, coming from the New World, is free to focus on what can be achieved in the present.
He also emphasized the commonality of Benedict and Francis, their warm friendship, and firmly contradicted the prevailing media narrative of "Francis good/Benedict bad".
Driving home I reveled in the positive luxury of driving Darwin's 17-year-old beat-up Toyota. My new ride is a van, a mammoth van, a brand-new Nissan twelve-seater which is just a bit smaller and easier to handle than a Mack truck. I cut my teeth driving a twelve-seater, but I must have lost the knack over the years, because this van terrifies me. I'm relearning how to park and calculate my blind spot and compensate for not being able to see out the rear-view mirror.
So I was pleasantly tooling up my street, eyeing someone's strange blue lantern light, when it struck me that the blue lantern was in front of my house. I rolled slowly into the driveway and stared at it. Had we always had a blue light bulb in that lantern? Why had it suddenly appeared now? What did it mean? And come to that, Darwin hadn't answered the phone the few times I'd tried to call him on my ride home. Was the blue light a signal? Was it a warning to me not to enter the house because God knows what I'd find?
But I did enter the house and found Darwin walking the baby, who drooled sullenly at me, and heard the obvious explanation of the blue light: the neighbor, who has a daughter with Autism, had brought us a blue bulb and asked if we'd put it in as an awareness-raiser for Autism Speaks, and Darwin, who didn't have the heart to deny anyone as sweet as the neighbor, put it in.
Unexpected blue bulbs and unflattering sweaters -- that's one of my six-word memoirs.