Ahhh, March 13, 2013 seems it was just yesterday when Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio walked out onto the balcony at St. Peter’s Basilica and we learned that he had taken the name Pope Francis. Wow! What an awesome name we thought that was for a Pope. We all thought about Saint Francis of Assisi and how God told him to “Go and rebuild my Church, which you can see has fallen into ruin.” Yes, we knew that there was something different about him from the start. He was simple, plain, and his 130872-pope-francis-kisses-a-child-21da4humble heart was evident for the whole world to see. It made those days of waiting for white smoke to emerge from the chimney all worth while.
Remember when we heard about how he picked up his own luggage and paid his own hotel bill? How he rode the bus back to the hotel with his brother Cardinals, rather than ride in the limousine? Remember when he shunned residing in the Apostolic Palace, but, instead, chose to live in a small studio in a Vatican residence? How about when in his inaugural homily he talked about how we should care about the nature and trees? How cute was that? No, what about the time after this inaugural Mass when he stopped the Popemobile to kiss a baby and a disabled man? Oh, what about when he blessed the 35,000 Harley-Davidson riders in St. Peter’s square? Huh? That was really cool, wasn’t it? What about when he washed those prisoner’s feet at a detention center? Remember when we heard about how he was personally responding by letter and phone to people who wrote him? But, wait, nothing beats the time when the Pope performed a public exorcism in St. Peter’s Square of Angel V. He was that Mexican man who had been confined to a wheelchair for years, but then was able to walk after the Pope prayed a deliverance prayer over him.
Remember that? Remember when we all thought Pope Francis was Cool?
Dr. Regis Martin was my professor for Theology of the Church at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Regarding the Second Vatican Council and its document on the Church – Lumen Gentium, Dr. Martin was fond of saying that this was the very first time that the Church finally had the opportunity to talk about herself and to tell the world exactly who and what she is, and it turned out to be the case that the more she talked about herself the less the world liked her. Dr. Martin posits that the paradox of Lumen Gentium is that inasmuch as the Church defined clearly who she is, it created, in turn, an agency that has for the past fifty years been trying to redefine who she is – an inside agency that has rejected her full self-proclamation for sake of turning her into an object that they can mold and craft into their own disordered image.
If Dr. Martin is correct, then the Second Vatican Council is something of a reverse case study on Pope Francis. That is, the more he talks, the less that some people who love the Church like him. Paradoxically, the more he talks the more that people who formerly hated the Church like him.
Remember when Pope Francis was cool? It wasn’t anything that he said that made us fall in love with him, was it? No! It was what he did that drew us in. It was his example that gave us moment to pause and reflect if we could be better Christians.
Saint Francis of Assisi actually never said, “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” What he did write in his Rule #17 for the Friars Minor was, “. . . let all the brothers preach by their works.” Yet, either of these being the truth, I pray that our Pope gets back to what makes him the powerful leader that the world needs right now.
Dear Father, it is not your words, it is your actions and your examples that set us on fire. Pope Francis preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.
Hey, do you Remember when Pope Francis was Cool?