The Thrill of Black Smoke 13

As I was pouring my second cup of coffee this morning, a friend of mine came up to me with a beaming face and ear to ear grin and said: “Black Smoke!”

BREAKING NEWS: Still No Pope, Yet....

BREAKING NEWS: Still No Pope, Yet….

Thinking it was appropriate to join him in his enthusiasm, I gave him a hearty fist-pump and belted out a stentorian “YES!!”

Afterward as I was savoring my hot cup of black gold, I thought to myself why was that appropriate?

What’s so hot about black smoke, anyway?

I mean, if he had said White Smoke, I would have jumped out of my skin and doused him with coffee. So, what’s so hot about Black Smoke, anyway? It’s actually kind of a downer, isn’t it?

No, not really. There’s something insanely thrilling about black smoke. For instance, if you google “black smoke” right now you get “about 251,000,000 results” — that’s roughly 100x the population of Rome, Italy, in google results.

I can’t imagine how many tweets there are right now for “black smoke” (it’s so hot, even Twitchy picked up on it, Yes, even Twitchy), but the top hit for #blacksmoke on Twitter has over 3,000 retweets — for just one tweet tweeting “black smoke!”

So what is it in the heart of man that gets a rise out of seeing or hearing the just the words “Black Smoke”? It must have something to do with this.

People must really love black smoke!

These people really love black smoke!

Of course what we want is White Smoke — not black smoke — and we want it now. It’s been (slightly less than) 24hrs already, and the anticipation is thrilling us (not killing us). For sure, we realize that sooner or later the Vatican chimney will give us what we want — Our next Pope, or the facsimile thereof, in the form of….


Meanwhile, back at the conclave....

Meanwhile, back at the conclave….

The situation is totally out of our control! Isn’t that what’s so thrilling about all this? For a Catholic this is one of those elections where we have everything to gain and nothing to loose (unless you put a wager on one of the cardinals, in which case, I’m betting you will lose). We have no responsibility in the matter, other than to pray and watch the chimney for black or white smoke.

All the while, we cling anxiously to our twitter or whatever other feed we might use to be the very first to be in on that moment when we can finally jump out of our skin and douse our friends with scalding coffee, that joyous moment when we learn the name of our new Pope — that’s what I’m excited about.

So, as regards all the black smoke. There’s really only one appropriate thing to say…

Sing it, Carly! Sing it loud!


  1. Pingback: The Trill of Black Smoke - CATHOLIC FEAST - Sync your Soul

  2. Great, James: now when I hear that song, I’ll forever see a composite picture of Heinz Ketchup AND the Vatican.
    I’m definitely going to have to work that one out…

    Solid post, bro.
    And I agree: we are thrilled by it, no question. We can imagine any number of things going on behind the doors: holy politicking, prayer, discussion, more prayer, …and maybe a couple of Cardinals playing ‘Rock, Scissors, Paper’ in a vestibule somewhere.
    Heck, it’s precisely because we DON’T know what’s happening that makes it intriguing.

    My guess is, though, that in this day of 24/7 news stations, Skype, Twitter and Google, we’re simply not used to waiting for ANYthing more than a few seconds.

    Patience is probably a good lesson for ALL of us to learn once in a while, …and I wish God would grant me a bunch more right NOW!

    • That’s exactly right — not that dorky ketchup commercial but the other media induced anxiety (we’re showing our age, by the way) — we can’t wait more than a second to know the future anymore. I’m lovin’ it! The culture vulture in me gets a kick out of all this. But if the conclave lingers on too long, I think we’ll all start begging the cardinals to just resort to ‘Rock, Scissors, Paper’. After all, the first Apostles drew straws, didn’t they?

      There’s the side of me that wants to say, “What’s the rush? Let the Holy Spirit do his thing.” I’m not sure how long that side will hold up. Group anxiety is a contagious thing, and I’m surrounded by anxious people.

  3. I had to renew my driver’s license this morning and while I was waiting for my number to be called, my eyes were planted on the TV screen playing 24-hr news. The major story was (and is) the conclave. I was excited to see a former associate pastor, newly returned from Rome with a PhD and now teaching church history to our seminarians. He was being interviewed (again). Even non-Catholics are caught up in these events but for faithful Catholics, it’s nail-biting time!

    • That’s right. All eyes are on Rome right now. I love the excitement, actually. Other people’s enthusiasm seems to thrill me as much as anything else. There’s a sense of ‘We’re all in this together,’ almost no matter who you are. It’s definitely a communal thing.

  4. Very exciting times! Just heard this morning that Americans identify themselves as non-religious more now than ever, so I think the timing of all this is perfect, to get some interest back into religion, and specifically, the Catholic Church. I feel if Benedict aged and passed away ten years from now as Pope, the world would have already been too far gone to even care about the process. But, with all the history-making of resignation, the numerous American cardinals or possible African cardinals who might be the next pope really excites people. Anyway, gotta get back to looking for smoke, and I don’t mean those designated areas 50 feet from buildings! God bless!


    • I agree with you that the Holy Spirit has a lot to do with the timing of this conclave and the other events surrounding it. All eyes on Rome, right now.

      God bless, Travis!

  5. Prayers and congrats to our new pope, Francis the First!!

    And hey, don’t feel bad about the timing of your post, James; it was great. Think how I feel? I was riffing about Mac & Cheese…

    Excellent job here, as always, and looking forward to tomorrow’s post which I’m sure will include “White Smoke”!

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