Bumped into the pope
A quick story about our random encounter with a pontiff on vacation.
NOTE: This post has nothing to do with North Carolina and was hastily written on an iPhone aboard a train to Montreal.
Saw the pope last night:
My wife and I are celebrating our 10th anniversary in Quebec City. We booked our trip in April, shortly before the pope booked his. We had no idea that he was going to be here until a few weeks ago. Even after we arrived, we didn’t really make any special plans to see him. He’s here to apologize for the Catholic Church’s appalling treatment of tens of thousands of indigenous children for decades. It wasn’t exactly a happy event, and it was hard for us to find an exact schedule anyway. So we mostly went about our business. There were a few barricades to maneuver around, and the city seemed a little extra busy, but that might have also been because there’s also a convention of magicians in town.
Yesterday afternoon, I used his arrival to make a dumb joke.
Michael Armstrong @ArmstrongGNPope Francis is in Quebec City, passing the National Assembly on his way to the Citadelle in Old Québec. https://t.co/cKzK6CmC42
Last night, we were walking back to our hotel after dinner when we saw a crowd gathered near the Château Frontenac. They were pushed up against some barricades, which blocked the only way back to where we were staying. WE HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO SEE THE POPE.
A few minutes before he arrived, church bells across Quebec City started ringing. Then the outline of the popemobile appeared over the crowd. He came around the corner, waved, stopped to kiss a baby, slowly made his way down the street, and disappeared around a corner.
Here was our reaction:
We’re both trying to process this brief, random moment. My wife was genuinely moved. I was too, but this was a moment where the spiritual Christian side of my brain competes with the logical journalist side. When those two sides compete, it often leaves me conflicted about seeing things as “a sign.” Hence, our proximity to Pope Francis might signify something larger. Or, it might have been a delightfully papal traffic jam.
Either way, it was a fantastically random encounter with God’s representative on earth, much more special than his illustrious “visit” to Tick Bite, North Carolina. I did go into extreme dad/journalist mode, wielding two cameras at once to get pictures and video. But I made sure to use my own eyes to get a glimpse of the man himself. I was smiling. He was smiling. And for a moment, a divine encounter was wonderfully human.