Meeting Sargent Shriver, seeing the church of love

Sargent Shriver, Trappist Monks, and Pope Benedict XVI’s election are three things I’ve been thinking about recently. Let me explain.

It all stems from April 19, 2005, which, for me, is one of those days that stand far out above all others, shining in memory.

That spring I was a young college student in Washington taking a peace studies course with Colman McCarthy: journalist, peace activist, former monastic, vegan, and decamped Catholic.

The class organized a Saturday field trip to Holy Cross Abbey, a Trappist monastery in Virginia. We met in the parking lot and piled into vans for the drive. Before we could leave campus, bells began to ring -- at first from only one direction, loud and clear -- and then from many directions.

Rolling down the window someone shouted a query to a friar.

Habemus Papam” his voice sang in response, “We have a pope.”

As we began the drive, we turned on the radio -- hoping for news of who was chosen. Ears glued to the talk radio station, waiting nervously: this choice, after all, affects every Catholic’s life.

This was the first new pope of our lives and it seemed everything might change.