The recent “attack” of the Pope by a woman who lept from the crowd and toppled him got me thinking. It’s ironic that the media is describing the woman as “unstable” when no mention is made of the fact that the man she toppled is the worldwide leader of a group who believes that there is an invisible magic man in the sky who knows when we are good and when we are bad. Granted, the woman may indeed be wrapped a bit loosely, and I would never advocate such action, but the irony of labeling HER as the unstable one makes me chuckle. Here is my version of an appropriate newspaper headline…
“Man In Silly Costume Who Believes He Is Earth’s Spokesman For An Invisible Magic Man In The Sky Attacked By Someone Only A Little Less Crazy.”
When I heard about the incident I was reminded of my anthropology of religion class. There exists this silly belief that some kind of magical force, magical “essence” can be transmitted from one object to another when they touch. During the days when I used to sing at a local temple during the High Holy Days, I remember how the ark would be opened, the Torah brought out, and the faithful would crowd as close as possible to to the isle, so they could reach over, touch their shawls to the scrolls and then kiss them. As if contact between the prayer shawl and the holy texts would somehow magically conduct holy energy onto the believer. Another time, my mom and I were being tourists and went inside an old church in Bulgaria. There a woman gave us some grapes and told us to lay them on top of the nearby icon, so they would be “sanctified”! That way we would eat holy grapes!
This woman is probably not crazy. She is probably simply a very honest, fervent believer, who thinks that by touching the Pope, the closest thing to God that (she thinks) we have on earth, she would somehow be touching the divine. She is no crazier than any other sincere believers. This business of magically transmitting divine power from one object to another is very much a part of religion, and certainly of Christianity. I mean, look at communion! It’s the same; it’s taking a magic pill!
Another thing that occurred to me when I heard the news was “Our Lady of Fatima must have been busy…” You’ll recall that when Pope John Paul II survived an assassination attempt, he credited it to the divine intervention of our Lady of Fatima! Well, Our Lady of Fatima, where were you? Why didn’t you leap to protect the Pope this time? Especially since this woman had already tried it once? Rather than blaming the Pope’s security team, I think we should hold Our Lady of Fatima accountable.