Have you found yourself getting caught up in all the news over the naming of the new pope this week? Do you notice that, regardless of your own religious beliefs or practices, you got just a little obsessed following the coverage of the secret votes, the black smoke signals, and all the rest of the intrigue that surrounds this story? Have you been following the initial reports of Pope Francis’s personal and religious background and forming your own assessments, judgments, and predictions?
Let’s face it – there’s just something about the selection of a new pope that pulls us in. It’s one of those worldwide news-making events that gets us watching, reading, and talking about it. For better or worse, we’re invested.
Now, if you’re someone who has an interest in writing your life story, this phenomenon has a bonus: it can help you tune in to past moments and phases in your life by reflecting upon those previous changing-of-the-guard times in the Vatican.
So think back. Who was the first pope you remember? Was it Pope Paul VI? Or do you go back further to the days of Pope John XXIII or even Pope Pius XII during the days of World War II and beyond? How did you regard those past popes? What do you remember about when they were named pope?
You might find yourself writing an engaging story that begins with the simple phrase “The naming of Pope Francis reminds of when…” As you write about your particular memories of past popes and the attention they attracted either at the start of their reign or through something they said or did, pay attention for other life-writing nuggets you may find. Ask yourself what else you remember about your life during that time you are focusing on in your pope inventory writing exercise. What was true about your personal life situation then? What did you believe about religion or spirituality during that period, and how have those beliefs and practices evolved for you over time?
You can play around with responding to this question: who would make an ideal pope today? I just heard an interview with theologian Matthew Fox who suggested the Dali Lama. What do you think?
As a memoir and autobiography ghostwriter and personal historian, I see great value in witnessing a news event such as the naming of Pope Francis and allowing it to serve as a springboard for writing something personal and meaningful about our own lives. Give it a try.
– Kevin Quirk has been helping ordinary people tell their life stories for more than 15 years. A memoir ghostwriter, book coach, and teacher of autobiographical writing classes, he is the author of the guidebook Your Life Is a Book And It’s Time to Write It!