‘I (insert drawing of miter here) Pope Francis’

Tuesday 15 September 2015 — Port-O-Call: Philadelphia in my mind — Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

September 26, dear readers, His Holiness Pope Francis will arrive in Philadelphia. Yours truly was in Philadelphia 36 years ago when Pope St. John Paul II arrived. As a souvenir, I purchased from a street vendor a poster of the pope, rolled it up in a cardboard tube, and carried it under my arm on the flight home. There was no TSA back then.

Unfortunately, I’ll not be in Philadelphia this time. If I were to be in Philadelphia next week, not only would I have the privilege of seeing the present pope, but I would be able to gather plenty of material for the “Ship’s Log.”

These days, I’m a homebody. I just stay put and follow world events through the media outlets. It’s not as exciting as actually being there, of course, but it works for me. I still travel extensively, though, but only in my mind. 

Although I wouldn’t be there in person, I nevertheless wanted a souvenir of Pope Francis’ pastoral visit to Philadelphia. I went online.

Voila! The official online shopping site is up and running. It appeared the day following the U.S. Bishops’ Conference announcement of the pope’s itinerary. Much to my delight, there are more than 200 products already available. More items are appearing on the shopping site as the date of the papal visit approaches. Now I can order mementoes of the papal visit from the comfort of my own living room.

The first thing I came upon was a Pope Francis Lenox commemorative ivory bone china plate with 24 carat gold gild. It costs $60. There’s a matching cup for $40. It’s very tasteful indeed. How cool it would be if the next time some bishop visits St. Patrick rectory, I served tea and crumpets on such fine commemorative china. To save money, maybe I could order just one set for the bishop and use paper plates for everyone else. Well, maybe not. I continued my search.

 There’s a silk tie with the logo of the World Meeting of Families (shaped like the Liberty Bell) available in three colors. I don’t wear ties. My neckwear is a flexible piece of white plastic. How about a “hoodie” sweatshirt? No, I have an old one given to me at Bentley University. Look, here’s a T-shirt imprinted with the words, “I (drawing of a bishop’s miter, that is, his ceremonial hat) Pope Francis.” No, it lacks the punch of “I (heart) N.Y.”

There’s a hardcover coffee table book featuring full-color photos of the papal visit. This is a steal at only $30. It would look impressive in the living room, but I wonder how they got the pictures, since the pope has not yet arrived. Oh, it’s a pre-order. I don’t want to wait that long. How about a cloisonné papal Christmas ornament? I’ll pass. Maybe a portrait tote bag for $10? I think not.

I clicked on the more specifically religious items button. There’s a set of faceted glass aquamarine-colored Rosary beads. I prefer my Rosaries black. How about a laminated prayer card for my Breviary? No, I don’t use a hardcopy prayer book (there’s an app for that). Perhaps I could get a religious medal. No, it might make my neck itch. There’s nothing worse than an itchy neck when you’re wearing one of those plastic clergy collars.

This virtual souvenir shopping was beginning to get exhausting, but then I found the offbeat items. I can get a Pope Francis table-top figure for $20. It’s “a 10-inch glossy wood cutout with a black triangular wood base, perfect for adorning any table, desktop, nightstand or shelf!” It’s tempting, but no. I already have enough “adornment” on my nightstand. 

On other websites, there’s a T-shirt shouting, “Yo, pontiff!” and one proclaiming, “The pope is my homeboy.” That’s way too edgy for me. 

I came across a small kitchen appliance that burns an outline of Pope Francis into your toast. It goes for $69.95. Oh, wait. I can’t cook.

The most popular souvenir is advertised as “celebrating the ‘People’s Pope’ and his worldwide appeal; made from high quality poly-resin, with Styrofoam protection and a colorful collector’s box.” Oh dear, it’s a bobble-head pope. No thank you.

As one archdiocesan official in Philadelphia recently mused, “You have to take it in stride. I’m glad to see the enthusiasm.”

Then I found the perfect memento. It’s a 69-inch image of Pope Francis “mounted on art-quality gator-foam. It comes with a sturdy easel and is quick and easy to assemble and take down.” It’s pricey at $160, but think of the possibilities.

 I could set it up in the Sacristy at St. Patrick and take fake “selfies” with the pope! I could submit a photograph to The Anchor for publication. I’d be the envy of all my brother priests. On second thought, that wouldn’t do. No, no, no.

Not to worry. Maybe someone in Philadelphia will send me a postcard suitable for framing. 

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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