I watched the papal visit on the telly. Two things occurred: I did not wish I’d gone to any of the events. Though I’m a cradle-Catholic, the mass swooniness of huge numbers of Catholics gathered together brings out the British in me. I button up and feel faintly alarmed. Though I’m happy to carry a candle and go with the flow in the warm Italian sunshine, I’m not keen on swaying along in a steaminess of damp anoraks. I watched the pope’s arrival and the Mass at Bellahouston whilst sewing up two pairs of curtains – a job that has needed doing since the last papal visit. Well, almost. Given my hopelessness with needle and thread, that was the first miracle.
The second is that as I sewed and watched, I found myself unexpectedly moved. My faith has been on the wobble for some time now and I thought that the papal visit might see it wobble right over. But no. Perhaps it was the unfashionable wooden-ness of the pope’s delivery (a miracle, surely, that he’s being hailed as ‘the great communicator’ when he read, almost in a monotone, even such phrases as ‘thank you for your warm welcome’). Perhaps it was his owlish demeanour. Perhaps it was because I felt he was praying the whole time for the strength to get through it all. Perhaps it was because, when I hung up the curtains, they were nearly all the same length. Anyhow, I felt better for his visit. Calmer. Less hollow, if you know what I mean.
One other thing: I wish the cameras hadn’t panned over the serried ranks of priests. I know it’s a tough life, but come on, chaps! You can’t all be as handsomely blessed as Bel Georgio Ganswein, the pope’s private secretary, but can’t you do a bit better than Tubby the Tuba or the wreck of the Hesperus?