Pope Francis, Eli, the New York Times and Humility

One of the best things about living in a hotel room for two weeks in Boston is having both the Boston Globe and the New York Times discreetly dropped next to your door each morning. So this morning, I rose to the hard copy of the NY Times’ article (which had been posted online yesterday) entitled Pope with the Humble Touch is Firm in Reshaping the Vatican. The article is sort of a catch-up of current events over the last several months, perhaps prompted by this week’s naming of new Cardinals. It’s a fascinating read whose theme seems to be “humility” and Pope Francis’ intended shake-up of business as usual.

After reading the piece with my morning coffee, I went on to daily Mass at the St. Anthony Shrine & Ministry Center, where I heard a beautiful homily on the readings of the day. Heading back to my room, I read through Pope Francis’ homily remarks which took a slightly different slant than I’d heard from the homilist at the shrine:

In the First Reading, from the Book of Samuel, Pope Francis explained that the figure of Eli, who disparages the humble lady who prays after the simple manner of the common people for the gift of a son, represents the “salesman” or “manager” of the faith – a tepid priest whose heart wasn’t really in it.

“How many times,” said Pope Francis, “do God’s people feel themselves unloved by those who ought to give witness: by Christians – by lay faithful, by priests, by bishops … ‘But [these] poor bumpkins [It. “povera gente”] do not understand anything … one needs to do a degree in theology to understand.’ Why, then, do I have some sympathy for this man, [Eli]? Because in his heart he still had the anointing, because when the woman explains her situation, Eli says, ‘Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant you what you asked for.’ The priestly anointing comes out in the end: he had hidden it inside his laziness, poor man, a lukewarm man, and it ends badly for him, poor fellow.” Read the full remarks here

Reading this took me full circle back to the NY Times, which I read again with these homily comments fresh on my brain.

Excerpts from the article stuck out to me in my second reading:

Four days earlier, Francis met with the Curia in the Sala Clementina, the 16th-century reception hall in the Apostolic Palace, to deliver one of the most important papal speeches of the year. Benedict used his last such Christmas address to denounce same-sex marriage. Francis used his first to castigate his own colleagues in the Curia.

He warned the men in red and purple skullcaps and black cassocks arrayed around him that the Curia risked drifting “downwards towards mediocrity” and becoming “a ponderous, bureaucratic customhouse.” He also called on the prelates to be “conscientious objectors” to gossip.

I won’t begin to try to read the tea leaves of Vatican politics or bureaucracy. For that, go see Rocco. Me? I’m simply interested in reading Pope Francis’ remarks and figuring out — as a Christian in the pew — what he’s saying to me. And he’s saying plenty.

“Let us ask the Lord that these two readings help us in our lives as Christians: all of us, each of us in his own place – [let us learn] not to be pure legalists, hypocrites like the scribes and Pharisees. Let us not be corrupt like the sons of Eli, nor to be lukewarm as Eli himself, but to be like Jesus, with that zeal to seek the people, heal people, to love people, and with this to say: ‘But if I do this tiny little thing, little as I am, think about how God loves you, think about how your Father is!’ Let us ask for this grace.”

Humility? I could definitely use more of it. Seal to seek, heal, and love people? That too!

A question for you: How do you feel about the media attention being placed upon the Vatican these days? Does it change the way you feel about your faith in Jesus Christ?

About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa Hendey is the founder and webmaster of CatholicMom.com and the author of The Grace of YesA Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and is a frequent television and radio guest and host. Visit her at LisaHendey.com.

  • Steve31

    I would never trust the MSM when it comes to anything catholic. they are the enemy. if I see the nytimes or boston globe I use it to clean up dog poop…

  • Meredith Gould

    Love the media attention and it has absolutely no impact on my faith…thank God.


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