After a concert at Carnegie Hall, the wonderful comic pianist, Victor Borge, had an unexpected visitor to his dressing room: a Secret Service agent for the US Vice President, who had been in the audience that night.
The Secret Service man said: “The Vice President will be with you in 30 seconds, and you can ask him anything you like.”
This caught Borge off-guard… ask anything at all??
With such a blank agenda, Borge found that he was fixating on one question… “Mr Vice President: how is it that flies can stick to the ceiling?”
A similar, slightly disconcerting, blank agenda was offered to the Delegates of GC36 last Saturday when the Secretary of the GC announced that after the Pope had delivered his formal address on Monday, he would be holding a Q&A with the delegates; the questions would not be vetted or filtered; the Pope would respond spontaneously to spontaneous questions.
If we needed any clearer indication that this was en famille and not just a formal visit from the Pontiff, that was it.
At 9am the Pope arrived smiling at the door of the Aula, and there was a natural standing ovation as he was escorted to his place and we began our Morning Prayer.
It was over thirty years since Pope Francis had been in the Aula. As Fr Jorge Bergoglio SJ, in 1983, he had been the delegate of the Argentinian Jesuits to GC33. The room would have looked different to his eyes: the new design has re-orientated the rectangular space by 90 degrees.
The youngest member of GC33, at a mere 35 years of age, was Fr Arturo Sosa – who was elected as the new General last week. The two sat together comfortably on the presidential podium: Friends In The Lord.
But with regards the Q&A, what single question should I submit? It must be something worthy of the event – a probing light on the ecclesiastical uniqueness of this gathering, a question-&-answer that would be pondered by Church scholars for years to come…
However, The Borge Dilemma came a’ calling: this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ask the Pope any question; it should be deep and meaningful, sure… but other questions might shed a new, personal light on the man before us. For example, Holy Father, who was the better pianist – Franz Liszt or Oscar Peterson? Or, Holy Father, which was your favourite detective series of the 1970’s – ‘The Rockford Files’, ‘Kojak’ or ‘Ironside’? or Did the Americans land on the Moon? Etc.
However, all this speculation was academic because when I got back to my post-coffee seat at 10.29am, the electronic board was already over-flowing and my name was so far down that list that it never even appeared in the running order for the 90 minutes available. My final list of possible insightful questions proved redundant.
But perhaps a life story could be viewed as a series of unasked questions? In this case, I suspect the answer would have been Kojak.