Like many of you, I have been watching the news with excitement, waiting to see the white smoke and hear the words Habemus Papam!
Yesterday was a day of great joy for so many of us. It was a great day to be a Catholic. Perhaps I am becoming a sappy old mother, but I cried the moment I saw Pope Francis and again when he humbly bowed his head in silence and asked for our prayers.
By all accounts, Pope Francis seems to be a man of service, a man of action, and I love that. Our Church is a community, a family, and to be a part of it, we are all called to serve in different ways. In the past few weeks, I have really stopped following secular media sources regarding the papacy, most especially the more “elite” sources like the New York Times and even the Wall Street Journal, because they just don’t get it. They all sit back, many lapsed Catholics or not serious Catholics, and discuss the current “crisis” in the Church and how the new Pope will have a huge job to fix all the corruption and scandal. And of course these media outlets never tire of obsessing over the sexuality issues — gay marriage, abortion, contraception, female ordination, etc. — as if all the Catholic Church needs to do is act more like the Anglican Church and their pews will be overflowing. For these writers, it’s all about the problems with the hierarchy and how the Church can better accommodate me and my personal worldview. I find it all so discouraging.
I see two huge problems with this focus. For starters, the new Pope will not change Catholic doctrine, because popes are chosen among men who are actually Catholic. Obvious to me, yes, but it seems our media needs a reminder.
And perhaps more importantly, we as Catholics should not have an attitude of getting but giving. Instead of discussing what the Church will do for us, we must think and pray about what we can do for the Church. We are not called to sit back, uninvolved, and then give our thoughts on what needs to change for us to get involved or be a better Catholic. No, as Catholics we are called to SERVE. We must serve our family, serve our parish, and serve our community. We are called to bring the love of Christ, the light of Christ, to all people. Of course the path of service will be different for each person, but we are all called to a radical life of service. If you are sitting around, thinking about how the Church is failing and isn’t serving you, then you are a part of the problem.
Yes, there are things that need to be fixed. But if you followed most media outlets, you’d think the the Church has hit its lowest point in 2000 years. The Church has faced many crises, some much worse. There were times and places where most church leaders were chosen not for their holiness or wisdom or even management skills, but because they were part of the right aristocratic family. Bishops and priests ignoring their calling and unabashedly living lives of sin, with little to no consequence. Politics and power not just influencing but utterly consuming Church officials.
One man that faced such a time was a merchant’s son named Francis. God began to move within him, and Francis listened. One day he was told, “Rebuild my Church.” He did not go back to his father’s comfortable house and pen an article for Rome’s version of the New York Times, outlining all the problems with Church teaching or corruption in the Curia. Nor did he nail 95 theses to a door. He took his own two hands and began to rebuild the Church — first the Church building in which he prayed, and then the lives of the lowliest members of the Body of Christ. And he inspired one of the greatest reforms in the history of the Church.
It is no coincidence that our new Holy Father has taken the name of Francis. He will make his mission the same. The Church is made of sinners, so it will always require rebuilding. Pope Francis will continue the rebuilding effort, showing us the beauty of giving one’s life for the sake of others.
The greatest crisis the Church faces today is a world that rejects love for the pursuit of individual pleasure. Sure, this has always been a problem, but never quite so acute. Thanks to modern technology and wealth, it’s never been so easy to center your life around yourself and your desires.
The last two Popes have been tremendous leaders, giving us the writings and clear teachings to contradict the lies of the modern world. I think Pope Francis will complement their work by making his focus showing the world how to live out these teachings. To get his hands dirty like St. Francis. To show us the way to true reform. He will be a pastor who is a martyr for the truths of our faith. A leader who by his actions will show us how to bring the light of Christ to all people. A leader who inspires us all to pray and ask how we can better serve the Church. Praise God for Pope Francis. Now let’s get to work!