We are blessed to have both these men.
These words of Pope Francis are especially important to those of who are living in post-Christian America.
I have got to go to Rome. I just want to see my Papa, even if it’s from a distance and I have to stand on tiptoes to get a glance.
Boston College students Katherine Rich and Ethan Mack, got a lot more than that. They actually traded caps with the Holy Father.
From The Boston Globe:
Two Boston College juniors walked away from the Vatican with a treasured memento Wednesday, after Pope Francis gave them his white papal skullcap.
Philosophy majors Katherine Rich and Ethan Mack, who are studying in Rome this semester, waited along the barricades with a skullcap, called a zucchetto, and a note attached that read, “Boston College loves our Jesuit pope,” the students of the Jesuit-run university said Thursday in e-mail messages from Rome.
“We thought he wouldn’t see us, but we both yelled, ‘Papa!’ and at that second he turned around, saw us, and asked the driver to stop,” said Rich, 20, a native of Minnetonka, Minn.
They extended the zucchetto, bought for 50 euros, or about $68, the night before near St. Peter’s Square, and the pope sent over a guard who carried it to him, they said.
Francis smiled at the note and donned the cap after making sure it was the right size, they said, then handed his own zucchetto to the guard.
“The pope then gave a nod and smiled right at us,” said Mack, 21, who is from Portland, Maine. “He took off with the one I bought, and the guard gave us his original one.”
Time Magazine named Pope Francis their ‘Person of the Year’ for 2013.
This honor, which is usually a signal event in the lives of most of its recipients, was probably more of a bemusement to the Holy Father.
He walks in the shoes of the fisherman.
I have always loved the power of that first call to Peter. It is an incredible story. Here it is, in all its stark simplicity.
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will send you out to fish for people. At once they left their nets and followed him.
Think about this story for a moment. Simon and his brother Andrew are going about their daily work as fishermen. They are casting their nets into the lake. Then this stranger comes up and says, Follow me … and I will send you out to fish for people.
What would you do?
I’ve dealt with a lot of crazy people in my time in public office. Many of them have pulled me aside to share their delusions. I’ve always handled it as gently as I could. But I never considered dropping everything and following them off to Mars or wherever they thought they were going.
You can tell when someone is delusional. It’s not difficult at all.
But this carpenter’s son was different, and those who, as He said, had the eyes to see, picked up on it immediately. Simon and his brother dropped their nets, left their livelihood, and followed Him.
Why? What did they have the eyes to see?
I think it was more of an intuition and an instinctive response to the presence of God than knowledge and understanding. The Gospels make it clear that all the Apostles, including Peter, (who was called Simon until Jesus changed his name) slowly and often reluctantly came to an understanding of Who Jesus was and what His call meant. They were still quarreling among themselves as to their position in what they thought was going to be an earthly kingdom a few days before the crucifixion.
But the same Jesus Who others humiliated and murdered without fear for themselves or their immortal souls, was, for those who had the eyes to see, a transcendent figure from the first.
The seeds of His crucifixion were sown early in His ministry among those who were offended by His teaching. This was not a simple miracle man. He challenged the jots and tittles of the weighty interpretations of the law that the priests had layered on the people. He laid bare the priests’ pretensions while opening His arms to the displaced and despised.
They accused Him repeatedly — and accurately — of healing on the Sabbath. They “grieved and angered” Jesus with “their hardness of heart.”
Is it better to save a life or end it? he asked them, and they responded by plotting to kill him.
He could have quibbled and shuffled his feet and obfuscated His way out of the danger. He could have watered down the Gospel so that it fit the teachings of these fallen priests.
But He didn’t. Instead, He went right in their faces with his challenge to their mis-use of the law to control and weigh people down. The son of man is lord of the Sabbath He told them. The Sabbath was made for people. People were not made for the Sabbath, He said.
And they killed Him for it.
The crowds loved Him. They followed Him everywhere, even going so far as to knock a hole in the roof of Peter’s house to lower a crippled man for Him to heal. Less than a week before they yelled “Crucify Him!” the crowds shouted Hosanna! and laid palm branches in the road in front of Him.
Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ. When he — or anyone — speaks out for the Gospels, he will be dealt with in a manner similar to what Jesus Himself experienced from human hands.
Is the servant greater than the master? Jesus asked his disciples. If they persecute me, they will persecute you.
Today, as 2,000 years ago, high profile followers of Christ are subjected to the same push-pull of adulation that is placed on them instead of Him as well as the attacks and smears that are also placed on them instead of Him. In truth, both the love and the hate are focused on Jesus.
These high-profile followers of Christ are just the temporal targets through which people express their feelings about Jesus and their understanding of the Gospels. Pope Francis, as the Vicar of Christ, get this treatment, raised to powers of ten.
On the one hand, he is named Person of the Year. On the other hand, he is attacked as a heretic and compared — with absolutely no basis in fact — with the most corrupt popes of history.
Why? Because he says that Jesus came to seek the lost, that we must not walk past Lazarus, that the prostitutes and drug dealers and homosexuals will enter the Kingdom of Heaven before the pharisees of our time.
He is accused of being a sell-out because known sinners are attracted to him. He is called outrageous names because he says blessed are the poor.
This honor of being named Person of the Year will almost certainly further inflame those who are so bitterly angry with him. After all, the honor — in all its temporal nothingness — comes from public sinners.
Who is Pope Francis to tell sinners that Jesus loves them? Who does he think he is, insisting that Christ the Lord meant what He said?
Maybe, he thinks he’s the Pope. Perhaps the Holy Spirit had a thing or two to do with his election. It’s possible that he was put in this position because what he’s telling us is what we need to hear.
I wrote a post declaring my loyalty to this good man.
I ended up deleting a number of disturbing comments on this post. The comments came from people who wanted to rage at the Holy Father — and at me, for standing with him.
They came from Catholics whose Catholicism has devolved down to a Gospel according to them as explicated by some false internet pope they are slavishly following. They repeatedly cited this or that cult-leader of a fallen priest or political guru to explain why the Pope is a heretic, a fool, or worse.
They chided me for following the Pope instead of their fallen priest or political guru. They explained to me why there is no responsibility for Catholics to follow the teachings of the Holy Father when it conflicts with the teachings of these internet tin gods.
Each of these rageful, bitter people appeared to be convinced — absolutely, foaming at the mouth I’d like to kill you for disagreeing with me convinced — that the teachings of their fallen priest/political guru trumped that of the Pope. They were, in a word, demented. They were, in a phrase, in the grip of a virulent form of self-deluding, self-righteous evil.
This is all First Century stuff. It is the same old story, re-told with living actors who don’t seem to know they are playing a part. I know that the chock-full-o-nuts attacks on the Holy Father for being named Man of the Year will arrive soon. I’ve read enough attacks claiming that the Pope is a heretic because public sinners are attracted to what he’s saying to know they’re coming.
For those of you who are interested, here’s my take on the Person of the Year deal: It doesn’t mean a thing.
Those same people who are so in love with Pope Francis today can turn like they were on ice and begin attacking him tomorrow.
What does matter — and is of eternal consequence — is whether or not those who hear his message will be convicted by it to turn to Jesus. The Pope is in the business of saving souls, not gathering honors.
He’s the Pope. He stands in the shoes of the fisherman. Which makes him a fisher of people.
And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
Pope Francis is calling all of us to take up what Protestants call the Great Commission.
That is the direct command from Our Lord to Go and make disciples of all nations. The Holy Father is teaching in exactly the same way Jesus taught by advising us to cleanse ourselves of our own sins before we head off diagnosing the sins of other people.
This is an call to evangelize the world, but like the good pastor that he is, Pope Francis calls us first to evangelize our own hearts through genuine conversion to Christ. Evangelii Gaudium is a convicting document. If you read it with an honest and open heart, it will convict you of the need to change your ways.
No one is more prey to the error of condemning others while wrapping themselves in a cloak of self-righteousness than politicians and bloggers. It is an occupational hazard.
Since I am a politician blogger, I get a double dose of the temptation to become a bargain-basement Pharisee. Blogging at the intersection of faith and politics is a location fraught with all sorts of annoyances and frustrations. It’s easy to lose track of the love and desire to do good that brought me here in the first place.
Evanglii Gaudium reminded me that the joy of Gospel, the freedom of the Gospel, the absolute certainty that everything I do matters to God, belongs to me. It is a free gift from a God Who loves me so much that He was willing to suffer the extremities of humiliation, public torture and a hideous death to give it to me.
When I focus on protecting my petty little sins, I toss those joys to the ground and turn to the bitterness and alienation of the lost people I claim I want to help.
That, in the final analysis, is the price for clinging to your precious little sins: Anger, bitterness, self-righteousness. The fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, are all lost to us and replaced by an angry obsession with what is wrong with other people.
As those of us in the West move more deeply into a post-Christian world, we are going to find that the only thing that sustains us is the Spirit, and that our call to follow Christ will either be sustained by these gifts of the Spirit, or it will fail.
The second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium is a call to personal housecleaning. It is a diagnosis of how we have cast ourselves out of the garden all over again by biting into the bitter fruit of our own cherished sins.
Since Evangelii Gaudium is a call to the whole Church to evangelize the whole world, it focuses its diagnosis of sin on the corporate sins we commit against one another as part of groups. The Pope doesn’t go over the obvious. He doesn’t remind us of what we should very well know: That when we live our lives built on the cheats of greed, lies of adultery and the brutality of murder we are not God’s people and if we do not repent, we will not go to heaven.
He focuses instead on what the political power brokers and money changers of our times don’t want us to see. That is the vast corporate and social ways in which we commit these same private sins and the enormous price in human suffering that this behavior exacts on so many of the 7 billion people living on this planet today.
A few paragraphs in this second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium have raised the ire of the corporatist apologizers in the media. Most of this particular group has spoken out against abortion down through the years, along with gay marriage. They have not been so eager to condemn other forms of killing, ranging from embryonic stem cell research to wars of conquest, and, as has been revealed from time to time, many of them do not practice a private sexual morality that matches their public statements.
This has confused many good Christians who’ve been taught — by fallen clergy and these same corporatist apologizers — that economics is entirely outside the reach of the Gospels. They have exempted themselves from the piercing eye of Gospel teachings in matters of money, and a lot of good Christians have bought this deal because these same people condemn abortion.
But the same Jesus Who taught that every life is valuable to God sent the young rich man away and said, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.
It was Christ the Lord who drove the money changers out of the temple.
I would imagine that what some of these people are saying about Pope Francis would look mild and mannerly compared to what they might say about Our Lord.
Pope Francis is asking us to stop putting fetters on the Gospel and accept it in all its demanding power. He is asking us to throw off our chains of political fealty and approval seeking and step out on the ice and live the teachings of Christ as the transforming, Kingdom building powerhouse that they are.
Part of this is his condemnation of what he calls “the new idolatry of money.” The pope calls us directly and explicitly to work for economic systems that are based on the good of human beings.
Despite the media focus on these few paragraphs, they are a small part of the message of Evangelii Gaudium, and economic sins are just a few of the things the pope addresses.
He speaks eloquently about the challenges Christians face concerning Christian persecution (emphasis mine):
We also evangelize when we attempt to confront … the attacks on religious freedom and new persecutions directed against Christians; in some countries these have reached alarming levels of hatred and violence. In many places, the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism, linked to disillusionment and the crisis of ideology which has come about as a reaction to anything which might appear totalitarian.
… The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal … completely rejecting the transcendent. It has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin and a steady increase in relativism.
… As the bishops of the United States of America have rightfully point out, while the Church insists on the existence of objective moral norms which are valid of everyone, “there are those in our culture who portray these teachings as unjust, that is, as opposed to basic human rights … the Church is perceived as promoting a particular prejudice and as interfering with individual freedom.”
… the negative aspect of the media and entertainment industries are threatening traditional values, and in particular the sacredness of marriage and the stability of the family.
Evangelii Gaudium takes an uncompromising position in support of the sanctity of marriage.
The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. The family … is the fundamental cell of society. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will.
There is much more in this second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium. But I hope that you are getting the message. The document itself is a call to evangelize the world. The much-picked-over paragraphs about money are a small part of the message of the second chapter of the document.
The second chapter deals with the areas where we need to give ourselves, both as individuals and as a Church, a spiritual house cleaning. Money is a part of this. If economics have no moral requirements, then Jesus Christ Himself was a fraud, because that is certainly not what He taught.
People who attack the Pope for saying what has been Church teaching for two-thousand years and who try to subvert him when he challenges us to give up our greed and venality about money, are attacking the Gospels themselves.
But the primary injustice they are committing by focusing on these few paragraphs is that they are depriving the people of God of the convicting power of this document. If all you know about Evangelii Gaudium is what you’ve read in the press, then you know nothing about it all.
Evangelii Gaudium is a treatise on the New Evanglization. The second chapter of Evangelii Gaudium is a treatise on some of our most glaring social and personal sins. The Holy Father focused this second chapter on the sins that, as he says, damage or even destroy the ability of the Church and individual Christians to effectively evangelize the world.
He is calling us to reclaim for ourselves the joy of the Gospel by yielding up all our precious sins to the teaching, transforming power of the Gospels. He is calling us to conversion, to walk the walk of our Christian faith in the real world.
Powerful people hated this message two-thousand years ago. Powerful people hate it today.
Part of our job as Christians is to ignore them and follow our Christ. The teachings in Evanglii Gaudium help us do that.
To read part one in this series, go here.
Like every pope before him, Pope Francis brings his own history to the Papacy.
Pope John Paul II was deeply influenced by his experiences living under the Nazis and then the Communists. Pope Benedict XVI was influenced by his academic background as well as growing up under the Nazis and then living in a country divided into slave and free. These life experiences added human understanding and dimension to the way they lived their office.
Pope Francis comes from, as he said, “the ends of the earth,” which is to say a world far removed from the Europe of the mid-twentieth century. But like these two men, he has faced unjust governments. He has also pastored people who live in abysmal poverty, in a land where children of the poor search through dumps for the means of survival while the extremely wealthy live in a separate and rarified world.
One of the most powerful formative experiences of his life must have been the illness that cost him a lung. The book I Foretti di Papa Francisco, reveals that the Holy Father credits a nun who ignored doctor’s orders and increased his dosage of antibiotics with saving his life.
It’s a powerful story that tells us a lot about this holy man.
From The Telegraph:
In a new book, I Fioretti di Papa Francesco, (The Little Flowers of Pope Francis), Andrea Tornielli, a veteran Vatican journalist, the pontiff speaks of his gratitude to the nuns who worked in the hospital where he was ill as a young man.
“I am alive thanks to one of them,” Pope Francis said. “When I had lung problems in the hospital, the doctor gave me penicillin and antibiotics in small doses.
“The nun who was on the ward tripled that because she had an intuition, she knew what to do, because she was with the ill all day long,” the pope said.
“The doctor, who was very good, spent his time in a laboratory, but the nun was living on the front line and talking with those on the front line every day.”
This is basically what Pope Francis teaches about economics in Evangelii Gaudium.
There is nothing “Marxist” about it. It is basic Gospel teaching that every serious Christian should seek to follow.
It comes from an Oklahoma Southern Baptist family, talking about their business. This is the brave Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby.
More than 10,000 young people have signed a birthday card for Pope Francis.
The Holy Father’s birthday is December 17.
After reading this, I decided to send the Pope a Happy Birthday greeting by means of Pontifex, which is his Twitter account. You can find Pontifex here. My suggestion: Go thou and do likewise.
From Catholic News Agency:
Steubenville, Ohio, Dec 6, 2013 / 02:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- More than 10,000 young people have signed a giant birthday card for Pope Francis, offering their prayers and well-wishes for the Holy Father’s 77th birthday on Dec. 17.
“We wanted to give the Pope a gift he would truly appreciate; something he would be proud of,” said Mark Nelson, founder of Catholic to the Max, the Ohio-based arts and gifts outlet company behind the initiative.
The 4-foot-tall card consists of a tri-fold plaque featuring an image and prayer of one of the Holy Father’s favorite Marian devotions, “Mary, Un-doer of Knots.” After collecting both physical and digital signatures, Catholic to the Max intends to send the card to the Pope later this month.
Nelson said that the idea to give the Holy Father gifts of prayer and service came from the Pope’s first “Urbi et orbi,” when he asked that the faithful pray for him before he imparted his blessing.
“From day one, he has asked all of us to pray for him and to serve the poor. This is our response,” Nelson said.
The card traveled to the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis last month and acquired signatures from more than 10,000 young people.
Now that the card is back in Steubenville, Ohio, it has been gathering signatures at local Catholic parishes and Franciscan University.
Evangelii Gaudium is a convicting document.
If you read it with an honest heart, you will be moved by it to ask God’s forgiveness and to deepen your prayer life.
That’s exactly the effect it had on me. I dropped into prayer numerous times as I was reading Evangelii Gaudium. It brought me face to face with my own spiritual drift and self-absorption. It is a convicting document, if you let it be a convicting document.
It can also be a damning document if you read it with a self-righteous heart. You can deprive yourself of the Gospels if you chose to cling to your pet sins and condemn the Pope for pointing them out to you.
A good number of very devout Catholics are settling for a faux faith whose repository is in various web sites run by pundits with collars and pundits without collars, all of whom preach a narrow, self-satisfying Gospel focused on other people’s sins.
If we confine the Gospels to thou shalt nots about abortion and same-sex marriage, it’s easy for people who are not tempted to those sins to feel like their only sin is uttering a curse word when they accidentally hit their heads on the cabinet door while cooking dinner. By the same token, if we confine our fidelity to the Church to an exaggerated obsession with our disagreements with priests, bishops, and lately the Pope himself, we will miss our blessing entirely.
Some Catholics seem to have become the mirror image of those who judge God by whether or not He agrees with them. We live in a culture that refuses to repent of its sins and that demands that the Church validate its sins or be labeled a heartless bigot.
Sadly, more than a bit of this attitude has crept into the pews and behind the altars of the Church itself. There is a large segment of the Catholic faithful who refuse to accept the teaching authority of the Pope when he teaches something that disagrees with their politics, (either of the left or of the right, it doesn’t matter) or their private view of things.
The abortion issue in particular has led a lot of Catholics to assume that if the politics are right-wing, they are also righteous. Pope Francis, by pointing out that all politics, either of the left or the right, must be judged by the true compass of the Gospels, has shook these people to the core.
As I said in an earlier post, this business of slicing one or two sins out of the Gospels and using them to condemn political opponents while twisting and perverting all the rest of the Gospels to suit secular political goals, is heresy. It is not the Word of God that leads to eternal life.
Pope Francis is preaching and teaching the whole Gospel of Christ in all its radical, game-changing power.
Some Catholics judge the Pope by whether or not he teaches a Gospel that affirms them in their condemnation of others. They want him to do this without disturbing them by calling foul about their own pet sins. These unhappy folks are throwing away the blessings of faith with both hands. They are outraged and enraged by that gasbag in Rome who is telling them that they are in need of conversion just like everyone else.
The Pope goes from His Holiness, the Vicar of Christ who they follow because they are “loyal to the magisterium” to that illiterate and uneducated-in-the-ways-of-the-real-world meddler in the Vatican who should be ignored and even condemned. How dare he tell them what they don’t want to hear about things that they don’t want to change?
I think that a number of the pundits who are calling the Pope names like “Marxist” never read Evangelii Gaudium. I would guess that they either thumbed through it until they sighted the buzz words they wanted, or they had someone else do it for them. I know for a fact that the criticisms I’ve read of Evangelii Gaudium are untrue, self-serving and predictable.
I am flummoxed by devout people who want the Church to affirm them in their sins. Their hearts are so hard, their self-assertion so grim. Is that all Christ means to them? Does their “faith” in the teaching authority of the Church end where their politics or self-interest begins?
The teaching of the Church is a doctor that helps us diagnose our spiritual ills so that we can get well. Pope Francis is calling each and every one of us to the incredible joy of laying down the lead weight of darkness that comprises our false allegiances to the things of this world. He is calling us to follow Jesus without reservation. He is showing us how to be saints.
I, for one, want that. I want the joy of Christ. I want the true freedom of the Gospels. I want to follow Him.
Because I know the pit of sin and death He saved me from. Because I know the price He paid to do it. Because I know that the freedom of following Him is absolute and the joy of living and walking in His Heart is beyond words.
Finally, and most importantly, I want to follow Jesus because I love Him.
Pope Francis wrote a convicting document when he penned Evangelii Gaudium. It is a road map to evangelizing the world. In the Christian way, it asks each of us to begin this journey of evangelization by cleaning out our own souls first. It asks us to give up our pet sins for Jesus.
My advice to those who are willing to hear it is to stop following false popes who teach a self-satisfied self-righteousness and the bitterness that comes with it, and follow the real Pope.
You know who I mean: His Holiness, Pope Francis.
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