The Parable of the Papal Interview

Vincent van Gogh, Sower with the Setting Sun

Hear this!

A pope went out to give an interview. And as he talked, some of his words fell to the media, and those birds gobbled them up before they could even be heard.

Others of his words fell to those who didn’t understand his context. They received his message with joy, but the first time it occurred to them how difficult it would be to live by those words, their enthusiasm withered like seedlings in a drought.

Some of his words fell among cranky people who believed those words contradicted everything they had ever worked for, and the crankiness in their own hearts strangled the message, and they said, “No fruit here for our kind.”

And some of his words fell like good rain on the patches of rich soil others had dismissed as just dirt. His message fell like healing balm on hearts and minds and bodies of people who had gotten used to just limping along. The pope’s words exploded in the midst of some people like a seed cone in a forest fire, crackling to evergreen life out of barrenness.

The seed of the pope’s interview came up and grew and yielded  thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.

Jesus explained in detail to his confused apostles the parable this is based on, and the many perils the proclamation of the Gospel faces in our world. Nowhere, though, did that explanation include the phrase, “The sower should have kept that seed to himself.”

Let all who have ears, hear. And give thanks.


For more on the America interview, see the bloggers of the Patheos Catholic Channel. Everybody’s weighing in. But first, read the interview yourself. Be good ground, and let the seed fall unimpeded.


  • Thinkling

    Thank you, this is fabulous.

  • Gail Finke

    outa the park, joanne!

  • anon

    Not at all a good parable because it is so predictable. Right wing cognitive dissonance over the Pope’s interview prevents them from really hearing what he said.

  • AMoniqueOcampo

    I see what you did there!

  • Monique
    • Gordis85

      Thanks for the link as it looks like another very god read. ^^

  • JDisagrees

    Thank you so much for such a beautiful reading. It take having an open hearth and mind to understand the words of the Pope. As you said, there are several ways to get his messages but what has amazed me the most in the past few days is how the media can distort the truth.

  • Susan Schudt


  • Kealoha Finneran

    Simply and beautifully said. Thank you!

  • sophie

    yeah, but the whole point still is, the Pope can be ambiguous to the untrained ear. I will write to him to be more straightforward in supporting the field soldiers. When the gays, abortionists, and mainstream liberal media starts to sing praises about the Pope, I am wary of what he had just said. It means to say, it was confusing. I have full trust that he just said the same doctrine in a different way, but he just don’t have to. He was not doing parables like Jesus. Am tired and jaded and more than confusion, I needed simple words of support not being told the church is going to fall like a “deck of cards”. Jesus has already promised that the “gates of hell will not prevail against the Church”, so she won’t fall. I still love and pray for him. He isn’t perfect just like my biological father in terms of personality and holiness.

    • Stella McLeod


      Pope Francis did NOT say “the church is going to fall like a deck of cards.”

      He said, “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and
      fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more
      simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral
      consequences then flow.”

      Please read the whole interview. .

    • Ed Hamilton

      What the church needs is someone like Francis of Assisi to forge a new direction. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can inspire us to find that way. Your hope is in Christ and His words. No need to falter or doubt.

  • Nicole

    Wow, on the same day we both chose Van Gogh paintings to express thoughts about the Pope.

  • Ed Hamilton

    I can’t figure out whether to say to tell people the pope said what Catholics always believe, or just go along with them thinking the church as speaking judgmentally of say homosexuals or not. I mean, I probably am guilty of it myself, but isn’t the interest in turning back the trend of legalization of abortion and other ways of destroying of the family an interest in turning the tide from the culture of death to a culture of life? Should we give up on our culture and not take civil action but only spiritually attack through conversion? I’m just wondering what to do and asking hard questions. What does this mean? I think the Pope is either a genius or a mystic or both and is speaking with the mind of Christ, but what do we do now?

    • Gordis85

      We pray, we trust, and we wait on the Lord…in the meantime, we live out our faith to the best of our ability following Papa Francis’s example.

    • FrCurtis Cunningham Mc

      One of the greatest signs of the holiness of the Church has always been her ability to love the sinner while recognizing the sin for what it is, a horrible offense against God. Together with that, one of the most beautiful and consoling aspects of the Church is her ability to speak the truth with love, recognizing that love is absent where truth is not proclaimed. The pope has not simply reiterated what Catholics have always believed. His words about reaching out to the marginalized and the wounded were not so much to clarify any aspect of the faith, but rather to encourage and admonish us who are working for the kingdom, to use a different pedagogy. Sometimes the truth is very hard for some ears to hear. They are too compromised. They are too afraid. Instead of beginning with sin, hell-fire and brimstone, we should begin with the gospel, the good news: God is love and he loves you. God is merciful and his mercy is for you. God heals the wounds of sin and he wants to heal you. God forgives and he wants to forgive you. God thirsts, and he thirsts to love you and to receive your love. The pope has not described himself as either a genius or a mystic. He said “I am a sinner.” He has described himself as a sinner, and one who knows God’s tender, merciful, compassionate, kind, affectionate love personally. So what does all this that he is saying mean? What should we do? Maybe a quote from Mother Teresa to her sisters can help: “Go and find out how much God loves you. Then go and do the same!” It is kind of like the parable of the sinful woman. Her sins, though they were many, were forgiven her. She knew God’s merciful love, and responded by loving God in return. The more we know ourselves to be sinners (looking at the log in our own eye), and receive his mercy for our sins (perhaps especially our pride), the better will we be heralds of the good news, touching hearts before minds, so that hearts hardened by sin (their own and those of others who have trampled upon them as on a beaten path, just like in the parable) may be softened and tilled by the sweetness of the gospel, readied to receive the word and bear much fruit. Keep up all your good work and strive for the holiness of love. God bless you.

      • Gordis85

        Your words are like balm to the soul in the midst of the current tempest. Thank you so much Fr. Curtis. May your work in the Lord’s vineyard be fruitful and abundant!

      • Clara Joan Wong

        Thank you for this beautiful reply

      • kmk1916

        Thank you, Father Curtis!

  • Carolyn McMurray

    Great piece. No one reading the whole interview should feel comfortable retreating into the comfort of any faction in the Church. We should all feel challenged to go out and spread the Gospel of God’s love and mercy, in our words and our actions.

  • 1raquel

    Thank you. So vivid description of reality now and then.

  • Gordis85

    Wow…well put and inspiring and in my humble opinion, so true. Thank you and God bless you!

  • Timothy Reid

    Very good use of the parable form. I do believe that his interview is some great “seed” for all of us in the Church. We need to let his words work in us and not focus on how we think others are misreading the pope.

  • Allan Daniel

    Are we on the same planet? The pope gave an interview and some of his words were demonstrably untrue, some were nonsense, some (most) were vague and unattached to the real state of the church. Francis should be prohibited from talking in public before his handlers read his remarks.

  • Margaret O

    Christ did not promise every pope the gift of prudence. I find myself defending Pope Benedict often…….

  • RachaelM

    I love the application of this parable to Pope Francis’ interview. Well done!!! As a “newbie” Catholic (Sunday Mass on September 15, 2013 was my reception into the Church), Pope Francis is certainly a well-chosen Holy Spirit inspiration for our times. It’s been an absolute pleasure watching the media in particular, and seculars, scramble around trying to get a grasp of what Pope Francis is about.

    • Gordis85

      Welcome! May your journey with Christ, our Lady, and St. Joseph bear you and yours much joy, peace, and holiness of life!

      • RachaelM

        Thank you for your welcome!

  • Deacon Steve Burdick

    the perfect perspective

  • Mom2Teens

    Awesome! Love it!

  • linda daily

    Thank you – this limping soul needed his healing balm, and yours.

  • K8tB

    For those who think they are holier than the Pope, you too can start your own church. Many have. He was the choice of the Holy Spirit, if you still believe in that kind of thing. Maybe we need to listen. Nothing he says is binding. These are his opinions and beliefs. He still has a right to them. Oh, by the way, you get the right to your opinion as long as it doesn’t differ from doctrine. I try to remember number two of the big two: ” Love your neighbor as yourself”. It is kind of vague who our neighbor is. I guess we are just suppose to guess at that. Some of “those people” just don’t seem to qualify as true neighbors for some of us that are holier than the Pope/Peter/ Francis. Funny thing we all live in the same neighborhood–that created by God.–planet Earth.

    • Strife

      Why would you ever think this “pope” was holy in the first place?

      And in your disdain for judgmental-ism – do note the ironic hypocrisy of the fact that – you just passed big-time judgment upon all those intolerant souls whom you can’t tolerate.

      It’s amazing how many holier-than-thou pharisees of tolerance are coming out of the word-work all of a sudden.

      • Gordis85

        Wow…you just confirmed you are one of them too by your tone and two posts. Praying for you and for all of us to be merciful and just as the Lord would have us be.

  • Fr. Eric Hall

    I used your parable in my homily today to great acclaim. Thanks for opening your ears to hear. Fr. Eric Hall

    • joannemcportland

      Thanks for sharing!

  • AugustineThomas

    This is complete conjecture.. This woman has no idea whether the Pope’s words actually swayed anyone, or he just pleased “lefties” who have been waiting a long time to bas “righties” and think hitting them with their own Pope’s words will do the job best.
    These people who keep accusing “righties”, “conservatives” and “trads” of being disingenuous, seem to be the most disingenuous of the bunch!

    • joannemcportland

      Well, This Woman knows that the Pope’s words swayed her, swayed many others on all ends of the divisive spectrum to which we have all—whatever the label—reduced the Body of Christ, and prays that the effects continue. No bashing, my brother. Just prayer.

      • Strife

        So this woman now accepts all of the ORTHODOX moral doctrines and Truths of the Catholic Church – right?

  • Fr John Corrigan

    Beautiful and insightful. Thanks Joanne!

  • Jasper0123

    take that right wingers!! now I can vote for Hillary and Pelosi without feeling bad !!

  • Strife

    Really? Did the “popes” words convert any sinners away from their self-serving philosophies of homosexual lifestyles? Abortion? Atheism? Marxism?

    When Did Our Lord preach the Gospel of “Nice”?

    When did He ever utter the Beatitude of Nice: “Blessed are the Nice!”

    When did Our Lord ever try to unite the world in its various heresies, apostasies, schisms, and all of its various forms of heterodoxy?

    When did Our Lord ever appeal to the sentimental good-feelings of wayward souls?

    When did Our Lord ever tell the world that Truth could be found merely by the pursuit of self-serving feel-good emotions?

    When did Our Lord ever list “tolerance” as a virtue?

    When did Our Lord ever appeal to anything other than mercy compassion and love THROUGH judgment, self-conviction, and repentance?

    Show me the conversions that this “popes” words are creating. Show me exactly which “truths” these conversions are “converting” towards.

    Here’s the problem with all of this poetic tripe: Our Lord did NOT say His sowing of the seed would scatter His Flock. He did NOT say His sowing of the seed would dilute the black and white and heat and cold of Truth with the gray lukewarmness of moral relativism and moral ambiguousness.

    The Lord Jesus Christ did not come to unite the world – He came to divide it. To divide the Truth from the lies. There is no ambiguity in Our Lords words. There is no grayness in His Truth.

    Whatever the source is of the words from this attention-starved and undisciplined “pope” – they certainly don’t sound like the words of Our Dear Lord. But rather, they sound like the words the world wants to hear.

    May God have Mercy of His Church.

  • steve5656546346

    Problem: there actually is no requirement for a pope to state 12,000 words in an interview–or even give an interview at all.

    The Church needs to issue fewer, and better chosen, words: issued with the understanding of how they will be taken.

    These words will be thrown back in our faces for years.