Despite all my pope-related crafts and coloring sheets, my kids didn’t seem to get what the pope was all about. But then they “met” the new pope…and taught me something I had completely overlooked.
by Becky Arganbright
I remember the day my kids “met” the pope. This was the first time they ever really understood that the pope was “a real person,” a living symbol of the Church. True, we had Pope Benedict, but for some reason, the kids never really “latched on” to the idea of who he was or what his role in the Church was about. I tried to teach them by having them do a few crafts and coloring sheets about him being the “Shepherd of the Church.” But the kids just got confused.
“I thought Jesus was the shepherd???” they would say, as if this “pope-guy” was stealing Jesus’ role.
I tried to explain that the pope was picked to stand in the place of Jesus, but I could tell they still didn’t get it. They were not impressed with the importance of a pope nor did they have any interest in him whatsoever.
But with the buzz about a new pontiff and the excitement in the air, the kids gradually caught on that something was happening. They listened to the excited conversations around them about a new pope, and that thousands of people would be waiting outside Saint Peter’s Square to see who it would be. They heard about the “white smoke” as a signal that a pope would be chosen. Being very much into “Batman,” they thought it was cool that the pope had his own “bat signal.”
And then one day, I got the “Pope Alert” text on my cell phone that said, “White Smoke!” (Did you know there was such an app?) I ran racing through the house, shouting, “White smoke! White smoke!”
We turned on the TV, and there was the white smoke! The kids got caught up in the excitement and began to shriek and cheer along with the crowd. Something big was happening! A pope was chosen! They eagerly waited for him to show himself.
I stayed planted in front of the TV, and for the most part, the kids did too. Sometimes they came and went, but mostly they stayed nearby. In the meantime, they were curious about the pope and what he was all about. Taking advantage of the moment, I tried my best to answer their questions, but I could see that all they really got from our conversation was that the pope was some old guy who liked to dress in white.
And then, finally—finally!—the pope made his entrance, smiling nervously and waving. We cheered and laughed at his deer-in-headlights expression. The kids excitedly jumped up and down, waving back at the pope and congratulating him on “winning.” I got on Facebook to join in the excitement and posted (along with so many others): “We have a pope!”
And when I looked up from the computer, I was surprised to see Luke, my six year old, kissing the new pope, tenderly and lovingly, right through the TV. One after the other, all kids followed suit, kissing the pope. And I of course, being the proud Mama, took a picture, wanting to have something of this moment for the kids to look back on years later.
It’s funny, but with all that I tried to teach and explain to my kids about who the pope was, I never thought to mention that he is a man sent to love God’s people. Yet, this was something the kids understood on their own with no explanation from me. The great thing about love is that it doesn’t need to be explained. Love is the universal language that everyone understands.
Now, three years later, the kids will be gathering excitedly around the TV once again, watching for their “Papa” as he comes to America for the first time. They were deeply disappointed that he was not actually coming to our house. In their childlike simplicity, they actually thought that he might just stop by. For now, they have decided to be content in praying for his safety and his mission to love God’s people here in the U.S.
My kids still have no idea what the pope really does. But they do know what he’s all about. And that’s all that really matters.