THE FRANCIS EFFECT
Like at Mass sometimes, for the shorter form omit the text in brackets. [The text here in brackets is a summary of something posted previously. It was a year ago that our family had a “Name the Pope Contest” in anticipation of the papal election. Assuming that the newly elected would choose a name of a previous pontiff, we each randomly chose three numbers that were then matched with the pope who was that # in the unbroken apostolic chain. For example, if I chose #102 that # matches Pope Sergius II who reined from 844-47 as the 102nd pope. If the new pope had chosen Sergius as his name, I would have been the winner. (He didn’t.) Mrs. McCaa, Seton’s German teacher and tutor of many, joined the contest because she was adopted into our family by my siblings when they were in Manassas for Dr. Carroll’s funeral, and Mrs. McCaa became like a family member during that time. There were many from Seton who provided for my siblings during the funeral days, among them Mrs. O’Neill, Mrs. Foeckler, Mrs. Cooper, so that when my brothers and sisters returned and were telling me about their time in Virginia, they said about 100 times how nice everyone at Seton is. (I already new this.)
Well, there would have been no winner to the contest the way it was conducted since never before used Francis was chosen by Our Holy Father. However, after the white smoke had ascended and seconds before the new Pope came to the window and his name was announced, Mrs. McCaa, who was watching the proceedings with Mrs. Carroll, said to Seton School’s founder and director, “I hope he chooses Francis”. (He did.) It should be noted here that two other people in the contest had said what “new name” they thought the new pope should choose, but he chose neither Declan nor Joseph, so those contestants deserve honorable mention, but nothing more.
Therefore, ] Mrs. McCaa was declared the winner of the “Name the Pope Contest” and had claim to the grand prize. However, no grand prize had ever been determined and was left undetermined. Mrs. McCaa must have daily wondered what her prize was and when it would arrive. Months later it was decided that the prize (whatever it was to be) would be awarded on the 1st anniversary of Pope Francis’ election.
It is probably not a good idea to have the losers of a contest determine the winner’s prize, especially when those same losers had to suffer the outcome of a recent Super Bowl.
Still, the Papal Contest Committee (PCC) rose above all pettiness and determined a prize that they thought met the winner’s hoped for criteria: economical, creative and inspirational. The PCC contacted Mrs. C to see if she could do what the PCC had come up with. Mrs. C said, “I think we can pull it off.”
Here is a summary of what the winner reported happened on the March 13, 2014, the 1st Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis.
Mrs. McCaa had not forgotten that she should be receiving a prize on the 13th, even as she made the long journey from her home (third house down Maple Street) to Seton to give her 1st period German class a test. Upon entering her classroom she saw a vase on her desk with four sprigs of yew greenery. There was also a note, but distracted by her students who were curious about the vase and sad arrangement within it, she read only part of the note which said, “elements of a bouquet”. Somehow this triggered a metaphysical analysis and Mrs. McC knew that it was her prize and that the award was meant to be purely humorous – a vase and some greenery are, in fact, the essence of a bouquet. Happy to have gotten anything, and either thinking that this was a creative existential bouquet, or a dramatic confirmation of the frugalness of some members of the Westhoff family, she explained to the students what the vase and greenery signified.
The students thought this a poor prize, so one sophomore went to a vase on a shelf that had a green ribbon, took the ribbon and with the help of another tied it around the yew holding vase. (Apparently test taking was put on hold for the moment.) Another suggested that some of the fake carnations in the already robbed vase should be added to the greenery. Mrs. McC vetoed this suggestion since that would defy the bare minimal essence of the prize, changing it substantially, unlike a ribbon that only provided accidental change. (Let’s not question the metaphysics.)
Shortly into the class, there was a knock at the door, and upon answering, senior Patrick Koehr appeared smiling and giving his congratulations and presenting a yellow and white carnation (papal colors) that were to be added to the vase and a note that promised particular prayers. Metaphysically reasonable or not, the decision to exclude fake carnations had been vindicated! The acceptable add-on green ribbon became the bearer of the prayer note which was pinned upon it.
Second, third and fourth periods followed with similar knocks, a similar smiling senior face, similar congratulations, similar yellow and white carnations and similar promises of prayers. The bouquet was no longer sad, but brimming with papal pomp, and the ribbon was prayerfully prodigious. Westhoffs were looking less cheap by the class period.
At this time Mrs. McC took her bouquet to show Mrs. C, knowing full well that she already was in the know about its origins, but wanting to show her nonetheless. Mrs. C told Mrs. McC that the note from the PCC that accompanied the vase and yew had said that the elements of a bouquet would be arriving throughout the day, so she could expect even more flowers to add to the burgeoning bouquet. And so it happened, the fifth, seventh and eighth periods – knock, flowers, prayer note, smile, congratulations. And with the 8th period came a final note that read, “Your bouquet of carnations and your spiritual bouquet are now complete. Congratulations from the Westhoff family and the Class of 2014 on choosing ‘Francis’ for our Pope”.
From the PCC we send thank yous to the Seton Class of 2014 for their help and promise of prayers, to the one identified only as the flower guru, to Mrs. C for making it all happen and to Mrs. McC for her longsuffering and a winner’s good sportsmanship.
Long live Pope Francis.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
Jezu, ufam Tobie.