Our new Pope – Francis – has been causing quite a stir. In addition to his thought provoking homily given at World Youth Day in Rio (which you can read at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130728 _celebrazione-xxviii-gmg_en.html), there is of course the long interview Pope Francis gave that appeared in 16 different Jesuit journals world-wide. I hope you have read it. You can find it online at: http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview.
True, it is long. It covers a lot of ground. It may require more than one sitting to digest the whole thing. But it is definitely worth the effort.
Many people find Pope Francis’ style refreshing and enlivening. He exudes a joy that indicates he has heard Good News that is really GOOD! Really, really GOOD! His humility, his evident concern for others, his openness, all seem grounded in having heard GOOD news. And many people find that attractive: not only Catholics but many others as well. Several people have told me how non-Catholic neighbors and friends have commented positively on Pope Francis. He is just so genuine and real. Or as one parishioner told me the other day, “It is now much easier to be Catholic.” After all the bad, shameful and depressing news about the Church over the last several years, Pope Francis is a most welcome change.
There is much that could be said about the interview Pope Francis gave. For that reason there will be a two-session discussion this Sunday and next (Oct. 6 & 15) after the 9 a.m. Mass and before the 11:30 a.m. Mass in the Sts. Joan and Raymond Room. If you are wondering where that is (and sometimes so do I) you can find it off of the courtyard where there is an open area under Newman Hall on the Guadalupe Street side. On one side of that open area is Our Lady of Guadalupe Room, and opposite is the Sts. Joan and Raymond room. All are most welcome to the discussion, which will be lead by several parishioners.
Anyway, let me just make one point about the interview and about Pope Francis in general. He is not a politician, and what he says should not be taken as a political agenda. Nor is he a philosopher like Pope John Paul II was. Nor is Pope Francis a theologian as is retired Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Francis is first and foremost a pastor. Therefore his concern is the specific and concrete person before him. So in the interview he states “that he is not used to talking to so many people: ‘I manage to look at individual persons, one at a time, to enter into personal contact with whomever I have in front of me. I’m not used to the masses.’” Pope Francis never sees people in the abstract, but in their concrete historical and personal situation, and so he responds not to some philosophical or theological ideal, but the concrete pastoral case in front of him.
Then, to confuse things more, Pope Francis is a mystic. I think spiritual realities are as concrete, specific and real to him as stones and trees and shoes. It is a different way of relating to reality than what most of us are used to, certainly than to what I am used to. This is good, because it makes me stop and think about what he says.
I believe that Pope Francis is a great gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church and to the world. I think we need what he says to us. I think we need his example. I think we need the challenge he is to our consumerist world. I think we need his felt appreciation of Good News. I thing we need his joy.