Given the visit this week of Pope Francis, I want to share a short chapter from my new novel, Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine. This chapter was originally written in 2010 during the pontificate of Benedict XVI.
I’ll be having a collective reading and book signing at Sophia House (4547 Gibson Avenue 63110) on Saturday 24 October from 6:00–8:00 (potluck begins at 6 p.m.). Please join us!
What if the Supreme Roman Pontiff made an unprecedented decision?
What if he made it straight from his gut, his innards?
What if his calculating rational mind did not hold sway?
What if he listened to the still, small voice within, and blurted out: This I must do!?
What if he realized that heretofore for all intents and purposes he had been a bystander?
What if he could reel off all the likely forthcoming criticisms?
What if he listened, in fact, to Vatican officials’ critique of his decision, but nevertheless remained convinced as to the mission?
What if he privately took humble refuge in the example of Monseñor Romero?
What if he made a simple statement?
What if he eschewed the language of the encyclicals?
What if he said he was going to devote some of the Church’s own resources?
What if he said he was going to sell off some of the Church’s riches, to put toward this effort?
What if he arranged to gather the necessary supplies and material?
What if he invited some members of the Judaic and Islamic religions to join him?
What if he did two weeks’ worth of intensive nonviolence training beforehand?
What if he asked for a thousand Catholics to make preparations to follow in his footsteps?
What if he offered to subsidize their efforts?
What if he refused security accompaniment and all the guarantees normally afforded representatives of a state?
What if he started to be pilloried by Christians, Jews, atheists, liberals, and conservatives?
What if he gently smiled when told of the latest castigation, this time by a prominent Italian politician?
What if he said mysteriously to a confidante that he had experienced an epiphany?
What if he was told that there were even threats being made on his life if he followed through with such “an asinine, anti-Semitic stunt”?
What if he said his life was not more important than their lives?
What if he mentioned that, yes, in his youth, he had been a fisherman?
What if he noted that many Catholics around the world were no longer making contributions to their parishes?
What if he also noted that, while some Catholics left the Church, others were now coming back?
What if he held a prayer service before he went?
What if he insisted that it be simultaneously translated into Arabic?
What if he slept well the night before he left?
What if he was all set to wear jeans and a work shirt and a hoodie?
What if he spoke with urgency of the situation to the few reporters who’d been told of his point of embarkation?
What if he and his companions all boarded the boat with aplomb?
What if the Pope was on his way to break the siege of Gaza?