Pope Francis provided a much-needed infusion of optimism

People cheer for Pope Francis as he enters the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Sept. 27. (CNS photo / Tyler Orsburn)

So, last week was pretty big, no? Pope Francis came to the U.S. and — in the first 48 hours — he canonized a controversial figure, praised U.S. women religious and maybe, possibly helped House Speaker John Boehner decide to resign from Congress.

OK. So maybe Francis didn’t actually have anything to do with Boehner’s leaving Congress, but you have to admit the timing is wild. I mean, Boehner announces his resignation just one day after having a private meeting with the pope? Craziness!

On top of all this, last week I was diagnosed with bronchitis, which made following all the papal news frenzy just that much more fun for me. But I digress. Big things happened in the world last week, and it seems like all the #popemania gave the U.S. a shot of optimism. I don’t think I can recall a time — at least in my lifetime — when people in the U.S. were so collectively excited about anything. Maybe the 1996 U.S. women’s gymnastics team. Maybe.

I can only assume this joyfulness is temporary. After all, we’re gearing up for a presidential election — a time when people seem to morph into the nastiest, most polarizing versions of themselves. But isn’t it glorious for the time being? I couldn’t help but smile last week as I saw so many people putting aside their religious and political differences to rally behind something positive.

Obviously, the pontiff’s visit wasn’t all unicorns and sunshine; the aforementioned canonization of Fr. Junípero Serra and the fact that his visit prevented many people in D.C., New York and Philadelphia from moving about their cities as necessary — these were all stumbling blocks for many people. I don’t want to denigrate those concerns as I highlight the positivity surrounding Francis’ visit, but I do want to focus on the positive because it is so very rare these days. And oh so refreshing.

Earlier this year, when Global Sisters Report sent out a survey to our readership, asking for opinions about the website and its coverage, at least one person said they wished we could be more light-hearted. That’s stuck with me. We cover a lot of heavy stuff because the ministries of women religious are mired in the heavy stuff of life on the margins. And I think we’re right to do that. That’s kind of the point of GSR.

But even life on the margins isn’t all darkness. People still laugh and they still love. It’s not that we ignore those aspects, but I don’t think we always capture them because we are pretty serious most of the time. So I was happy for last week’s joyful reprieve, to see happy tweets about papal Fiats, #popedogs and tailgating nuns instead of the constant arguing and bickering. And I was happy to not feel compelled to blog this week about yet another racist or misogynistic thing happening in the world. (I’m also on vacation this week, which — let’s be honest — perhaps aids in my current chill mode.)

I’m sure by the end of this week, we’ll be back to the same old, same old. But I can only hope and pray that we can all savor a little bit of the past week and carry that positivity forward. I, for one, am going to at least try.

[Dawn Cherie Araujo is Global Sisters Report staff writer, based in Kansas City, Missouri. Follow her on Twitter @dawn_cherie]

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