Thursday, March 13, 2014

Not the Pope we wanted, but the Pope we needed

I have spent an awful amount of time, along with other Catholics, thinking about the state of the Church and where we are moving.  I think about things like the state of the liturgy, missions, government tyranny, sex-abuse cases, neglectful bishops, and the range of Catholics from: Trads, Rad Trads, Liberal, Conservative, Neo-Conservative, Hippy, Pacifist, Crusader, Salty, Non-salty, Charismatic, and occasional just the faithful.  All this can wear on the brain- it is too much for one person to take in.

It has led me to think about the job one must take on to LEAD all of this...

It must be easy, right?  I mean it is not like a Pope has abdicated or anything.  Or not...

In 2013, the College of Cardinals elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires to the Office of the Chair of St. Peter.  Archbishop Bergoglio, of course, then chose the name of Francis for his Papal name.  Pope Francis then immediately went to work in living out his life as he normally would, except just adding on the duties of the temporal leader of the biggest religious group on the planet.  Then the fun began...

The first thing we noticed- "Hey why did his just dress in white?" which the next question that came was-"Hey where are the red shoes...?" Then we noticed him checking himself in and out of hotels, riding on buses with his friends, living in an apartment in the Vatican, and so on and so forth.  

Let's just fast forward to today now.  A lot of praise and rage has been expressed over this one man- and that is not surprising.  Since the time of Pope John Paul II, that has been the case.  John Paul was a very charismatic leader and compelled many people to notice the Catholic Church.  A lot of hatred from the media was expressed, and still is in fact (thanks Rolling Stone!) over Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  Today though, Francis has the world abuzz, and up until lately, I haven't known what to think.

I missed Benedict- still do.  I felt secure with a man who tried to bring the traditional atmosphere back into the Church of today.  As an ex-Anglican, I respected this man who was a brilliant biblical scholar, a devotee of traditional liturgy, and a man willing to stand up boldly against false ideas (which reign supreme in the remnants of the Anglican Communion).  When Francis was elected, I worried it was all over.  I too asked the same questions about Francis' appearance and his actions.  I got riled up when he spoke "off-the-cuff" so many times during candid interviews.  Then- very lately- I have had all these things on my mind.

The Church is still a mess.  It is a lot for one man to do so much for the Church.  It seemed to be too much for even Benedict to handle.  Even though the man provided the Church with so many documents, thoughts, books, and riches- now the Church needed a man of action.  The Church needed someone who was going to show us all what authentic faith was in the real world.  This, in essence, is truly a fruit of the Catholic Church.  God does not believe in the "merely spiritual", but in the physical reality as well.  Otherwise, we wouldn't have the sacraments.  So it seems well within God's character to elect one who will be a reality of the joy of the Gospel- a man named Jorge.  

As I have began to realize this, I have looked at our new Holy Father with a different lens on.  I saw the video of Francis' message to an Evangelical Charismatic Conference.  You know what?  It brought joy to my heart!  This is something that Benedict would have encouraged in thoughts and words, but Francis actually DID IT!  Before I would've joined in with other angry traditionalists and thought "why care so much about them, and not about us".  This goes right back to the message of the Prodigal Son.  Our Pope cares about his people, but he was calling his other sons and daughters back.  We need that Pope.  We can't have effectively a New Evangelization without a good teacher to show us how.  Our Holy Father gave us his exhortation, the Joy of the Gospel.  He is actually exhorting us to take this message of ours to the streets!  It has been centuries since all Catholics have been boldly called to do so.  It is miraculous, and it is guided by the Holy Ghost.  Pope Francis is calling us to be revolutionaries for the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  There is a quote being circulated amongst my circle and I love it- the Catholic giant is waking.  Once it's awoken, not much can stop it.

Now those are just some minor examples of how my view has changed, but the point is that I love that our Pope is one who is reaching out to so many polarized Catholics and trying to focus us onto the message of Jesus.  This is not to say I still have not, and likely will not, have a raised eyebrow moment.  There is much to be done on the reform of the reform of the Roman Rite, the unifying of the Church, and clearing up post-Vatican II abuses. It is a lot of work for one man, and not many are hopeful. Yet, as I have said, he may not have been the Pope we wanted, but he is the Pope we needed.  

I dedicate this post to our Holy Father on the 1 year anniversary of his Pontificate today.

St. Peter, pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis!

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