There is a new pope as you all know. I am personally VERY excited about this pope for a number of reasons. I have listed my top ten reasons why I am so excited. I would love to know what you all would add to my list in the comments below!
- His charism of poverty is just example a world infected by materialism needs to have. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the gospel message diluted by materialism. So often the temptation to posses stuff conquers Christ’s imperative to give freely. The sermon on the mount has been castrated by the church and Jesus has been transformed from a man who calls his followers to give radically in love into a quick fix solution for worldly prosperity. The Catholic church is not immune from these problems. This pope, who refused to use a chauffeur driven car but rather opted for traveling via public transport and gave up the grandeur of the cardinal’s residence in the Argentine capital for a small apartment, has a lot to teach all of us who are bound up by the lie that we need to have more to be happy and successful.
- He will radically define what evangilization will look like. In a 2007 interview he stated:
“Our sociologists of religion tell us that the influence of a parish has a radius of six hundred meters. In Buenos Aires there are about two thousand meters between one parish and the next. So I then told the priests: «If you can, rent a garage and, if you find some willing layman, let him go there! Let him be with those people a bit, do a little catechesis and even give communion if they ask him». A parish priest said to me: «But Father, if we do this the people then won’t come to church». «But why?» I asked him: «Do they come to mass now?» «No», he answered. And so! Coming out of oneself is also coming out from the fenced garden of one’s own convictions, considered irremovable, if they risk becoming an obstacle, if they close the horizon that is also of God.”
If that doesn’t point to a man who is willing to open new doors to reach people I don’t know what does.
- He views the laity as essential to ministry. In the same interview he calls out the clericalization of the church for what it is: sin. Too often in the church “ministry” is seen as something that priest do and people watch. Francis will open new doors for the laity to begin to minister, and as a lay person myself, I couldn’t be happier.
- The global church is finally being represented. Pope Francis is from the Global south, where Catholicism is growing the most, and from South America, where the highest concentration of Catholics reside. This is thrilling for me. The world has been dominated and abused by western powers for centuries, often under the guise of the Church. To have a man in power from this region is a powerful testimony to a world that views dominance as synonymous with power. The way of Jesus places humility at the center of power and weakness as a source of strength.
- His name, Francis, is drawn from a Catholic hero the Church needs again. Pope Francis says that he has taken his name from Francis of Assisi. Saint Francis was an amazing man. Jesus called to him rebuild the church and Francis had such simple faith that he picked up bricks and mortar and rebuilt the church outside his town. He took on a life of poverty and simplicity, forgoing wealth and power, in order to better love Christ who he saw hidden in the poor and destitute. Francis is a man I look to for inspiration personally and am Glad that the Pontiff will be looking to him for inspiration too.
- His humility has the right kind of power. I was so impressed by the stance of humility that Francis took when he greeted the people yesterday. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Blessed Theresa of Calcutta, “There are no great things, only small things with great love.” Francis has shown remarkable humility in so many things. He refused to leave in the Papal car yesterday, but took the bus instead. Today he stopped by his hotel to pick up his luggage and payed the bill himself. There is something amazing about the spiritual leader of 1 billion people taking care of his own bags.
- The Gospel will be front and center. Today he made the following statement while addressing the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel:
“We can walk all we want, we can build many things, but if we don’t proclaim Jesus Christ, something is wrong. We would become a compassionate NGO and not a Church which is the bride of Christ.”This is right where my heart is. It is so easy to get side tracked with good things in the church and forget to mention the center of our hope and the source of our power, Jesus Christ. I know I have had to attach notes on all my folders that say “proclaim the Gospel” because I, too, can get distracted from this core message and reality. I am so excited that this Pope feels it is so important to remind us of our foundation in Christ.
- He cares about Social justice. Pope Francis is known for caring for the poor. He has no problem hanging out with drug-dealers or kissing aids patients. Although many people have criticized his resistance to liberation theology, he did not oppose it by turning his back on the poor but by reminding the Church of the rich heritage of social-justice within the traditions of the church. He affirms the words of St. Lawrence that the poor are the “treasures” of the church. Finding more inspiration in Jesus, Isaiah, and the saints than in Karl Marx.
- He’s a Jesuit. I love the Jesuit spirituality. Ignatius of Loyola was a dear companion to me on my journey to the Church, and when I lived in Chicago my spiritual director was a member of the Society of Jesus. It is a great comfort to me that our Papa will be taking time each day to look at his life and recognize where the Holy Spirit was at work. It is an example I need to take to heart more myself.
- He will help the church move, not split. Alexander Stille’s New Yorker article ended by stating that Pope Francis is a sign that “his choice suggests that the Church does want to move—but not much, or too fast.” In many ways this is exactly what a Pope needs to do. The Curia’s role in the church is in many ways to move slowly. In this modern world where we are used to things changing overnight it is difficult for many people to appreciate the glacial rate of change that is present within the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, however, understands that if they move before everyone is ready the result can easily become schism. I am excited because I think Francis will be able to effect real change in the church and will be able to do so as a unifying presence. This is a very difficult thing to do, but is something that needs to be done.