Who will be the next Pope? Nobody knows, and while speculating about the future can be a pleasant form of entertainment, it’s also fruitless. Pundits don’t vote. Special interest lobbying in the media has little or no effect. Catholic teaching develops over time, but it doesn’t fundamentally change; and Catholic life, in the end, is ordered to truth, not consensus or polling.
The title of the Daily News piece suggests a campaign piece but my hope was to write as un-campaign-y a piece as possible. A papal conclave is not the Iowa caucus. And we Catholics need to get serious — and right now, this very moment — about radical conversion. Silly predictions and campaigns are not the stuff of the urgency of the moment.
I went ahead and wrote the short piece because I saw it as an opportunity to convey what it is that makes Cardinal Dolan such an attractive leader: It’s Jesus. Jesus converting Tim from St. Louis, Jesus renewing and transforming. Daily. Jesus, his call and radical vocational surrender. It’s why I end the piece with the image of a priest at daily Mass on Fifth Avenue. The Eucharist is our food. Christ is our hope and our life. The Sacraments give us the grace and peace of Christ, so that we might live sanctified lives of conversion and renewal.
We need Jesus. We need to bring people to Jesus. We need to open doors to Jesus. We need to break down barriers to Jesus. We can only ever do that with Jesus, our Healer and Redeemer.
That’s why Cardinal Dolan and his cardinal brothers must go to Jesus as they head to the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope. Jesus is the only reason to be doing any of this. Jesus is the only Savior. Jesus is the light the world needs. Jesus is our hope.
We need to get about living lives that make that clear and inviting. What are we waiting for?
Archbishop Chaput also wrote:
A bishop friend of mine said recently that what we need now more than anything as a Church, both locally and globally, is a “re-formation” – the kind of fundamental, root and branch conversion that goes vastly deeper than the pet issues of American media and political culture to a transformation of hearts, and thereby behavior.
In that regard, sometimes the best lessons for the future can be learned from the experience of the past. Five centuries ago, just a few years before Luther’s “95 Theses,” the Catholic reformer Father John Colet delivered a blisteringly frank homily to a cathedral full of English bishops and senior clergy. To an unamused audience, he argued that “never was there more necessity and never did the state of the Church more need” a profound effort at purification – not away from Catholic belief, but back toward living it more zealously, more honestly, more faithfully, as if this world and the next depended on it, because they do.
Colet spoke to a convocation of clergy. Today he might need to leave room for quite a few laypeople. But the message is worth remembering by all of us in the years ahead, whatever happens in Rome.
This is the point of George Weigel’s Evangelical Catholicism: We “must dig deeply into the sources of sanctification, in Word and Sacrament.” We must, “like the disciples on the sea of Galilee, ‘put out into the deep … for a catch’ [Luke 5:4].”
“The Evangelical Catholicism of the third millennium must live the truth of its spousal relationship to Christ the Bridegroom by inviting the world, through mission, to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb,” he writes.
“Holiness is not an option for those who take Baptism seriously,” Weigel writes. “Holiness is an obligation to be pursued not ‘at a distance,’ but through an ever-closer embrace of ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world’ [John 1:29].”
We must get with the mission! The Beatitudes are not but a comfort but a challenge!
Weigel quotes from John Paul II’s encyclical on the Church’s missionary mandate: “In a world tormented and oppressed by so many problems, a world tempted to pessimism, the one who proclaims the ‘Good News’ must be a person who has found true hope in Christ.”
That’s a mandate.
If we really believe we have a Heavenly Father who loves us … that Christ died for us, that the Spirit is with us, we need to live this. This is not optional for those who believe. And yet we live as if it is. As if it asks too much. As if we are owed salvation, instead of living lives of grateful surrender to an eternal covenant of Divine mercy and love, more glorious than any good we could have ever dreamt up ourselves.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” right here, in this mess of a world. We are only any help to the world if we believe it and live as though we believe it! It’s why we must keep our eyes transfixed on Jesus, as the pope signaled in his final Angelus message and throughout his papacy. We’ve simply got to live differently.
As Pope Benedict put it in Spe Salvi:
Christianity was not only “good news”—-the communication of a hitherto unknown content. In our language we would say: the Christian message was not only “informative” but “performative”. That means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known-—it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.
There’s a picture of Cardinal Dolan praying the Rosary in Jerusalem in January of 2012 that captures what he was talking about when he took possession, as they say, of his titular church in Rome, our Lady of Guadalupe. As I mention in that Daily News piece, he spoke of Mary that October morning in his homily to the Italian parish. We go to Mary to help us get closer to her Son. She, who said “yes” to God and bore Him in her womb. In that picture from Jerusalem, Cardinal Dolan is praying the Rosary on the steps to Calvary.
(Those steps also happen to be the steps I have on my Twitter page, from a photo I took there one morning a year ago. Those steps are our road to salvation.)
Catholicism is about fiat — a radical “yes.” A surrender. And if we don’t get on with that already, everyday, we’re not being Catholic. “Evangelical Catholicism,” as Weigel has described this moment in the life of the Church, is about being for real about Catholicism. What are we waiting for? Excuse me, but this seems appropriate: What the hell are we waiting for?