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Holy Smoke

“Holy Smoke!” The lady sitting next to me loudly stated at last night’s Arizona vs. Stanford basketball game referring to an amazing around-the-back layup made by one of the Arizona players.


While I agreed with her enthusiasm for the play, her “Holy Smoke” statement got me thinking about the meaning of “Holy Smoke”. At first, I thought about looking it up on my cell phone, but before I could pull my cell phone out, the phrase “Holy Smoke” conjured up a memory I had of the use of the term by my then ten-year-old son, Richie, when he first asked me about the meaning of the phrase, “Holy Smoke”.


While I distinctly remember the conversation with Richie as if it were yesterday, the fact of the matter is that it was almost seventeen years ago when Richie was ten years old. As I remember the story at our family dinner table in April 2005 Richie asked me, “How is a new Pope elected?” referring to the fact that that afternoon his fourth-grade class at St. Mary’s Catholic school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was informed of the passing of Pope John Paul II.


Deciding to have a little fun with Richie, I told him this story. When a Pope passes all the Cardinals from around the world are required to travel to the Vatican to gather and elect a new Pope. I told him that prior to getting on the plane to travel to the Vatican each Cardinal is required to purchase a carton of cigarettes at their duty-free shop. I explained to him that when all the Cardinals were assembled at the Vatican to discuss the choices of the next Pope they would do so while they smoked their cigarettes. I told him that only when the last Cardinal has finished his cigarette would they be in a position to announce the name of the new Pope. I then told him it is then, and only then, that the most senior Cardinal would open the damper to the chimney from the room that they gathered to release the mass volume of cigarette smoke from the room. When the people that gathered anxiously on the street below the Cardinal meeting room to await the news of the new Pope saw for the first time the white “holy smoke” rise from the chimney in which the Cardinals were gathered was it then that they knew a new Pope had been elected.


The funny part of the story occurred when the next day at school Richie’s teacher asked the class if anyone knew of how the next Pope was elected. Rickie proudly raised his hand and stated, “I do. My Daddy explained it to me at dinner last night.”



Written by R.D. Jenkins, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Stuff For Everyone®, a wholly owned subsidiary of Harper Jenkins Scobie Enterprises.


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