That Touch of Mink
As you may know, I spent some time in the Vatican, doing papal ceremonies at the invitation of Monsignor Virgilio Noe, (then Papal Master of Ceremony, and now a Cardinal and the Arch Priest of St Peter's Basilica) who seemed to think I had the right style for it. I got to know the two funny old Augustinian monks who ran the "secret" sacristy of the Sistine Chapel. A maze of dusty rooms full of treasures and extravagant papal garb collected through the centuries. I tried on quite a few pairs of papal shoes (none of them fit, to my chagrin) and lots of weighty miters aurefrigiatae and a triple decker tiara (it fit perfectly) and rings with gems as big as hens' eggs. I was in awe of the tradition moving through my fingers more than of the symbolic wealth of the finery.
Once, Msgr. Noe assigned me the task of putting Paul VI's miter on his head and inserting the three jeweled gold stick pins into his pallium just before a papal Mass. When I had the arthritic little Pope all decked out, I stepped back for a moment to check him out for details. He looked at me for the verdict. He seemed a little bit sad about being trapped inside all that tat. I wanted to lean into his ear and whisper "You know my mother always said that a real lady always looks in the mirror before going out and removes one piece of jewelry." Alas, my Italian was not that quick. I gave him a wink of approval and he toddled over to the sedia where he was hoisted aloft and the curtains parted.
The crowd went wild at the sight of him. They always did. Walking in the procession about twenty feet behind him, I used to look at the faces of the faithful. At their tears. They didn't see a little old man dressed up as a "dowdy old woman" (albeit of the "Golden Girls" variety). They saw two thousand years of tradition, and a direct and dazzling line to the Son of God, their savior. If any of them were hungry, they'd have let themselves starve before they'd have pried a diamond off his shoulder.
As cynical as some of you may find me, I was deeply moved by the faces in that cloth-coated crowd and so, I will not begrudge B16 his touch of mink.
Labels: The Devil Wears Prada.