Is Pope Francis God’s instrument for leading us away from “tepid Christianity” and “mediocrity in our faith?”
Archbishop Charles Chaput thinks so.
Overwhelming percentages of practicing Catholics are like me — delighted with our new pope. However, there is disquiet in some quarters, mostly from people who loved the symbols of high office which Pope Francis has eschewed. The people I know who feel this way are certainly not “tepid” Catholics. They are far better Catholics than I am or ever will be. They are also people who loved the pomp and feel the loss of it keenly.
Painful as it is for them, I think that Pope Francis is teaching us a necessary lesson. He is teaching us what the symbols mean. He is pulling back the curtain on the symbolism to show us the reality behind it, and that reality is Christ. “I didn’t come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.” Jesus said. In the same way His vicar on earth is not destroying the richness of the Church, he is teaching us what it means.
We are faced with virulent secularism and aggressively marketed moral and social destruction in the West; violent persecution and death-dealing exploitation, poverty and war in much of the rest of the world.
We need a pope who will preach Christ. I don’t know how to say it more directly than that. This world needs Christ and Him crucified.
The Church is a church of metaphor and symbol. In some ways, the Church itself is a metaphor. I get that. But, if people focus on the metaphor to the point that they begin to take it literally, then that becomes a kind of idolatry. The symbols and the metaphor all point to the living Christ Who was crucified for our sins and Who offers us the gift of eternal life.
Pope Francis is not only pulling away the curtain to show us what lies behind the symbols, he is talking to us about the realities of the devil and hell. I will write about this more later, but our new pope is not afraid to refer to the “evil one” as the father of lies and the machinator behind many of our worst impulses.
Archbishop Chaput talks about the “tepid Christianity we find in the northern hemisphere.” I couldn’t agree more. The purpose of this blog is to offer whatever assistance I can in equipping Christians to stand for Jesus. As a catechism-following, Jesus-loving, pro-life Democratic office holder, I have the unique perspective of often having been the much-maligned tip of the sword on social issues. I also have the perspective of one who has seen and experienced the almost militant indifference of Christians to what is happening in the world.
“Tepid” is too kind. Snoozing in our beds and refusing to be wakened is more to the point. I love the liturgy and the mass, not because of the vestments and the beautiful Church, but because it is an hour-long (or 30 minutes long for daily mass) prayer. I love the mass because it re-enacts Calvary, because it takes us to the foot of the cross and then beyond it to our redemption. I love the mass because the healing touch of Jesus is there in the Eucharist.
For far too many people, the form has become more important than the reality. People who focus on the form rather than the substance are too often substituting the form for the substance.
All we have to do to turn this world around is follow Christ. To do that, we need a pope, bishops and priests who preach Christ. Pope Francis is doing exactly that. I thank God for him.
Excerpts from Archbishop Chaput’s interview with Vatican Insider are below.
When he was elected Pope, Francis said that he comes from the “end of the world”. What did he mean?
“In our day and age the Gospel is preached in every corner of the Earth. God’s family of faith is one body, one people, intimately connected by the love of Jesus Christ, no matter where in the world we come from. The new Pope is living proof of this. He comes quite literally from the other side of world.”
What is the importance of him being from Argentina? Will the hispanic community play a central role in the Church of the XXI century? What changes will this imply for the U.S. Catholic Church
“Maybe God is telling us that the kind of tepid Christianity we find in the northern hemisphere is no longer vigorous enough to face the challenges the Church is faced with.”
Cardinal Bergoglio is very atypical, in that he never held a position in the Roman Curia, he has never wanted a car or a chef and he takes the bus…What does all this mean in your opinion?
“Less is more. Simplicity and humility, when they’re combined with intelligence and courage, make a very powerful medicine for the soul. I think this Pope is just the medicine we need as a Church.”
Why did Bergoglio choose the name Francis? Was it because St. Francis rebuilt the Church of Jesus? Does this mean that the Curia acknowledges that the Church needs to be rebuilt in some way?
“”Repair my house” were the words Jesus addressed to St. Francis from the cross of St. Damian. The issues of reform, renewal and repair: All of these things probably figured into the new Pope’s choice of a name … people have a mistaken image of Francis of Assisi … He was certainly “counter-cultural” - but only in his radical poverty; his radical obedience to the Church; and his radical insistence on living the Gospel fully, including all of its uncomfortable demands. That’s the kind of purity that leads to a genuine rebuilding of Church life …”
Liberal groups, particularly here in the U.S., are really concerned about the cardinals’ choice of Pope. Even Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said that his position is reminiscent of medieval times. What you think?
“Words like “liberal” and “conservative” are hopelessly misleading when we speak about Catholic belief. There’s no way of separating love for the poor from love for an unborn child. Defense of the oppressed and marginalized and defense of the family, the nature of marriage and the unborn child spring from exactly the same Catholic commitment to human dignity. There is nothing “progressive” about killing an unborn human child in the womb. And there is nothing redeemably “orthodox” or “conservative” about ignoring the cries of the poor.”
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