I have a picture of Jeff Pierce that has moved with me from place to place over the last 35 years or so. You probably have never heard of Jeff. He was a professional bicycle racer. He rode for the 7-Eleven team back in the late 1980s when they were the first American team to race in Europe. In the 1987 Tour de France, Jeff was a domestique, a rider whose principle task was to be a support. To carry the water bottles, protect the top riders from the ravages of wind, and at the end of the day to struggle across the finish line well after the leaders. Against all odds Jeff won the grand finale, the last stage in Paris on the Champs Elysees. Won against the greatest riders of his day. An American in Paris. The picture on my wall captures that perfect moment. One gendarme in the background of the photograph stares in disbelief, the other looks back down the road looking for the race leaders. Jeff is alone. Crossing the finish line, arms raised in unbelieving triumph. To say that Jeff is ecstatic is simply an understatement. I just have to glance up to know that perfect moments are possible. Continue reading

Julius II: a warrior pope

Alexander IV was succeeded by Cardinal Piccolomini who was elected Pope Pius III on 22 September 1503. He named himself Pius III after his uncle Pius II. This selection can be seen as a compromise between factions, Borgia and della Rovere, picking a frail cardinal with long experience in the Curia over the kin of either Sixtus IV or Alexander VI. Pius announced that his would be a pontificate of reform. Pius died 26 days later of an infection from a sore on his leg, or, as some have alleged, of poison administered at the instigation of the governor of Siena. Either way, the College of Cardinals was called again to elect a pope. Continue reading