Steve and I are sitting in the Rome airport waiting for our flight to Atlanta. A fascinating experience as we checked in this morning for our flight: we dutifully arrived three hours in advance of the flight, and so were first in line to go through the check-in process. As we stand and wait, an interesting, voluble young woman strikes up a conversation with us, and is very helpful to us as we prepare for the check-in. She's a seasoned traveler who comes to Rome often. She teaches in the field of international relations and conflict resolution.
The three of us go to the ticket counter and present our passports. We're then told to go through another door for the screening process.
As the three of us head for that door, out of nowhere, a blustering man comes from behind and knocks into me with his luggage as he sweeps ahead of Steve and me. He is evidently very important and apparently very much in need of being first in line for a flight that doesn't leave Rome, after all, for another three hours or so.
I look at the man, and realize immediately I know him. He's a journalist with an important American Catholic publication, whose title is National Catholic Reporter. And so I suddenly understand why the man had to knock into me, with nary an apology, to sweep ahead of Steve and me in order to be the very first person checked in for our flight: the poor man is important.
And he is perhaps exhausted, having spent the last several days sending missives to the world about Pope Francis and Christmas and the new emphasis on mercy and inclusion in Francis's message to the church. It's understandable, given his exhaustion at parsing Francis's message about mercy and inclusion for the world, that he might simply not see some fellow human beings who happen to be nobodies, as he makes his way to his flight back home.
Or, more precisely, to the Delta lounge, to which the young woman who had begun chatting with us invites us, but for which we have no credentials, as we learn when we try to join her there. Our newly met acquaintance insists she's inviting us to the lounge, and the gatekeepers finally relent.
Once inside, I see the important Catholic journalist typing away furiously at his computer--perhaps sending a final message from Rome about Pope Francis, love, mercy, and inclusion.
For a long time now, I haven't been able to read anything this Catholic journalist writes about the Vatican with much interest at all, because I've long since sensed a certain . . . tone-deafness . . . about issues relating to marginality (and the privilege of important white heterosexual men) in everything this man writes.
Now I know I've been absolutely correct in my impressions of this important Catholic journalist.
The photo is a photo of the dome of the Pantheon that Steve took on the day after Christmas at noontime.