Raves, Rants & Reviews from Emmy Award Winning Journalist & Anchor, Melanie Alnwick
September 22, 2015
The year was 1979.
We styled our hair like Farrah Fawcett. Roller skated to Donna Summer & the Bee Gees. Wore rainbow suspenders like Mork from Ork. Jimmy Carter was our president, Sister Mary Gregory was our nemesis. We were students at
St.Thomas More Cathedral School in #Arlington. Just a year earlier, the nuns shouted through the halls with excitement – “White smoke! White smoke!” when Pope John Paul II was elected. Now, we were going to see him in person! It was a different Washington then. Everyone piled into our neighbor’s minivan and drove downtown for “Mass on the Mall with Pope John Paul”. We liked the rhymy sound of it and made it into a little chant… me, my mom & sister – my friend Julie, her mom, and her brothers Patrick, Danny, and Kevin.
We brought blankets & coolers – jump ropes, spending money and rosaries that we made in class. It was a huge picnic. We met up with school & neighborhood friends and hopped from family blanket to family blanket all day. My mom tells me that it was a lot less crowded than officials had warned, so she walked to find a pay phone, called my dad at home and told him to come. He put my little brother on his bike and cycled downtown to meet us.
Patrick (the oldest kid) gave us our first lesson in commerce. Us girls wanted to buy our “Mass on the Mall” souvenirs early, so we would have them for Mass. Flags, buttons, t-shirts, and of course, glow necklaces. “No,” Patrick advised. “Buy them after Mass, they’ll be a lot cheaper!” Patrick was the master barterer. I dutifully followed his instructions, and when the vendor wanted $3 for the Pope Beanie… I told him I only had $1.00, and it worked! Never was a purchase so sweet. I think my friend Kelly scored on the Pope on a Rope Soap.
It was a different time in the world, too – at least, for me. We believed, because our parents believed. We prayed because that’s what Catholics did. We made up sins so we could have something worthwhile to say in confession. That was before 9/11, before Boston, before Newtown, before we knew of vicious serial killers & pedophiles, before heartbreak, before people we loved died…
The nuns always told us it’s ok to question. And I do. How does all we know about science mesh with creation? If God exists and is merciful, why would there continue to be such evil and pain in the world? How could it be that our God, the Catholic version of God – is the only one? So often I find myself wondering about GOD. But I do believe in GOOD. We need good.
So welcome, Pope Francis. Remind us of what is right in the world. Show us how to be kind and gentle to each other and our earth. Take me back to 1979.