Much has been written about many of the American papabili over the last few weeks and I don’t propose to break new ground here, just to reflect on the simplicity and humility shown by one of them in a very short encounter in a dim doorway.
My second year in seminary I and a number of other seminarians from Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg trekked to D.C. the night before the March for Life to attend the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
We had awful seats. The choir and sanctuary were so chock full of cardinals, bishops, priests, and deacons, that the seminarians were put wherever there was room around the high altar.* I sat on the steps behind the baldacchino, looking up at the “Christ in Glory” mosaic that dominates the church. The faithful who had been seated in the three apses around the high altar had a better view—they had TV monitors, of which we seminarians could see the backs.
That night we stayed on the floor in the back room of the Capuchin College up the street from the Basilica. The next morning came early, we had quick Franciscan breakfast, and hurriedly packed our things so we could catch up with the rest of the Mount seminarians at the Rally and Mass for Life at the Verizon Center.
As we were bustling with our backpacks or duffels and pillows and sleeping bags and whatever else out in our arms into the dimly lit corridor, a side door opened and four or five capuchin friars came out from the staircase right ahead of our traffic. They also sauntered toward the front door. One of them, a touch taller than I, with a grey beard, glasses, and an eminently serene but intense face,** held the door for us seminarians as we hurried out into the light of the cold January morning.
I was the only one who looked up as I neared, recognized, and mumbled a surprised “thank you, Eminence” to the cardinal archbishop of Boston for that act of kindness.
Again, not a revelation, nor any sort of grand “a-HA!” moment regarding this conclave and Cardinal O’Malley’s chances. But the humility it showed was obviously an impressive lesson.
* I know: first-world seminarian problems.
** That doesn’t narrow it down much, does it?