VATICAN CITY—Saying he never imagined he’d one day be filling a basilica as large and prestigious as St. Peter’s, Pope Francis recalled to reporters this morning how he started his career preaching at some real shithole churches.
“Back in the ’70s, I was just an up-and-coming minister driving my van from village to village across Argentina to deliver sermons in front of audiences of 10 or 15 people,” said Francis, noting that in those days, as a recently ordained member of the clergy, he typically was one of the last priests to go up and perform worship service each evening. “I’d get there and the place would be an absolute dive: no stained glass, just a single cross on the wall, and nothing but a few rickety old pews. Most of them didn’t even have a proper altar to stand on.”
“The idea of consecrating the Eucharist at a big-time cathedral was just a pipe dream back then,” he added. “I was lucky if I could get a single person to make the sign of the cross at the end of my blessings.”
“I had one set of vestments that I’d end up wearing for a week straight. Of course, back then I was also living with five other priests in a three-bedroom apartment. Those were wild times.”
Pope Francis told reporters that, of the few followers who sat in those dark, dingy houses of worship, most appeared totally disinterested in his homilies, oftentimes sitting in total silence while he attempted to preach the virtues of charity and piety and exhort believers to seek everlasting life in Christ. The pontiff noted, however, that many of the parishioners were justifiably underwhelmed, as he was still developing his liturgical voice at the time. Indeed, Francis added that he gets pretty embarrassed now when he thinks back on some of his “terrible” early material on the Holy Trinity and the Kingdom of God.
Recalling his early struggles, the Vicar of Christ admitted he was living mass to mass for several years. According to Francis, shortly after he started attempting to shepherd the faithful in 1969, he gave himself a five-year deadline to either become the pastor of his own parish or pack it in and get a real job.
“I certainly wasn’t making much—half the time they’d just give me some leftover communion bread and a glass of wine,” said Francis. “I had one set of vestments that I’d end up wearing for a week straight. Of course, back then I was also living with five other priests in a three-bedroom apartment. Those were wild times.”
“We were just a bunch of young guys trying to make it as worthy conduits of the Lord’s eternal word,” he continued.
The Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church added that, while he is glad he no longer has to stand on the street coaxing passersby into his service, he definitely misses the wilder days when he stayed out well past midnight mass most nights and got completely intoxicated on God’s love.