Why is it that, although Pope Francis only entered our lives a season ago and Pope Benedict XVI spent eight long -- and I mean long -- years as our Holy Father, does Francis seem like someone we have known a long time while we may say of Benedict what the Irish say of Johnny, that we hardly knew ye?
Bulletins from the Human Side
Andrew Greeley, who was so deeply involved in the things of time, broke free of his shackles last week to enter fully the eternity whose boundaries he broke as easily as a champion miler does the tape on almost every day of his long and remarkable life.
I knew Andrew for half a century and, thinking of his quick smile and his twinkling eyes, I recall his telling me once that he expected heaven to be a homecoming, the scene of a family reunion whose joy is not threatened by the certainty that its magic and mystery will end with sundown.
The people of Newtown, Conn., including some of the family members of those killed in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School half way through December, found themselves asking an unanticipated and painful question early in the new year.
On Easter Sunday, Mary Louise Schniedwind shook free of the shackles of time to be waived across the border into the Eternal. No need to check her papers; she had been there before, and everybody knew her anyway. She was in her 98th year, acting and looking much younger, still as single-eyed as we are bidden to be in the Bible and, as everyone blessed enough to know can tell you, ever-youthful in her interests and activities, less concerned with what was past than with what was yet to come.
Bulletins from the Human Side: The pope's decision to only temporarily reappoint the Vatican bureaucracy has already brought change.
A high tide of conventional analysis of Pope Francis -- is he conservative or progressive, a reformer in fact or a pastor at heart -- misses the central significance of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation and Pope Francis' election. They constitute one event whose meaning cries out for our attention but is drowned out by the re-enactment in our time of the myth of Babel, in which Yahweh turned the talk of the self-important tower builders (TV towers today) into babble.
To the media, reduced to "Dancing with the Stars" after the Super Bowl and the Oscars until re-entering Eden as the Masters Golf Tournament blooms again, the gods have suddenly delivered a gift seemingly from heaven, a surprise papal resignation and a conclave to elect a new pope.
There will be a new pope by St. Patrick's Day, but the timing was so good for the media that you would think that, for his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI had the same reporter adviser who told Pancho Villa to postpone his revolution until after the World Series.
A major eastern newspaper says Cardinal Roger Mahony, retired archbishop of Los Angeles, is lucky not to be in jail after recently released archdiocesan documents were cited as evidence that he covered up many priests accused of sexually abusing those in their care, avoided reporting them to the police, and allowed them, after treatment and admonishment, to return quasi-purified to work as priests again.
Pope Benedict XVI's resignation is big on buzz but is not the stunning surprise claimed by many pundits. It is rather a further example of the German theology professor's style that informed his years as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, his term as pope, and the formation of his legacy to the church.
Bulletins from the Human Side: It's difficult to imagine that Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez knew nothing about sexual abuse by priests.