A New Francis

The other day I was standing on the hillside on our church campus where we plan to build a new church, and I prayed that the new church would be built, but I also looked across the street to the old motel that was built in the 70s along highway 85. It, and the other hotels around us are flophouses, dens of iniquity where drug deals are done and prostitutes come and go.

I wondered what we could to to witness in the community and realized that building a church was one thing, but working with and for the poor was really the main witness in our world today. Why? Because our words of witness have been too often compromised by our lives. We say we are followers of Christ, but our neat suburban lives are no different than anyone else’s. We say we are followers of Christ, but our church is scandalized by liberal worldlings, abusive priests, hypocritical leaders and lukewarm laity.

The world will not listen to our words until our works match up. Therefore, the best thing we can do is the best thing we have always done: become again the church of the poor, the slaves, the downtrodden and the needy. This is our main witness now, and only when we have begun to live up to our words will they again be taken seriously.

This is why I am totally blown away today by the election of Pope Francis. To see him standing there in total simplicity looking at the crowd and then praying with them in honesty and open ness immediately set the stage for what is to come. With his leadership perhaps more of us will also adopt the name “Francis.” Perhaps more of us will seek to re-build the church. Perhaps more of us will become more joyful and live out again the spirit of poverty and simplicity in our lives. Perhaps more of us will be fools for Christ–preaching to birds and going on crazy missions to preach to the Sultan.

I am a Benedictine oblate and will always love St Benedict and love Benedict XVI for his amazing papacy, but I’m ready now for a Franciscan spirit in the church and look forward to the next amazing chapter in the great saga of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Go here for John Allen’s excellent pre-conclave profile on Pope Francis

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  • Dom

    Sing it, Father. :) As a lay Franciscan, I cannot tell you how thrilled I am on the results of this election. God is *good*!

  • Maggie Goff

    I am so happy and grateful! I can barely contain myself.

  • u3

    God is great! Let us all pray for our new Holy Father Francis and he may be docile to the Holy Spirit and lead the Church in the model of our savior Jesus Christ. ¡Ten Cuidado! Be careful of saying that we have our first Hispanic Pope, we do not. Argentina is the only Latin American country that don’t consider themselves Hispanic…most of the country is descendent from Italy, Germany, and Europe, in general…just not Hispanic. Thank God for the blessing of this man for our Church.

  • ytc

    When has ours not been the Church of the poor and downtrodden?

    • Theodore Seeber

      When prominent Catholics decide that Ludwig Von Mises and Lord Acton should have more say in financial ethics than Popes.

      When other prominent Catholics decide that an unborn child with no property who is 100% dependent upon its mother is “just a lump of cells” to be killed and discarded.

      While Church teaching has been constant, Catholics in practice have not been, and that is a shame. One that I hope will begin to change with Pope Francis’s example.

  • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

    As a good Jesuit, I guess that pope Francis actually had St. Francis Xavier in the forefront. Of course, St. Francis Xavier was called Francis because of the little poor brother of Assisi. I actually hope that his papacy be more like the mission of St. Francis Xavier, taking the Gospel to people who had either never heard of Jesus or had almost forgotten Him.

  • http://tmcmorrow@charter.net Terri McMorrow

    Amen.

  • foxie

    Hi father,
    It is all nice but I read on Wikipedia that the Francis meant is actually st. Francis Xavier, the first Jesuit missionary. So the spirit of this pope would probably be more jesuit than franciscan? Of course, Wikipedia could be wrong too:)

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Cardinal Dolan affirmed that it was Francis of Assissi. My article at Aleteia this morning claims that it is both.

  • Paul Gubbels

    A very good summing up of the promise and challenge facing all people aspiring to call themselves Catholic. The Holy Spirit at work? You betcha! What a fantastic vista for the future.

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  • Philip

    Father,

    I am generally optimistic about the new Holy Father, and I know that we must trust in the Spirit. However, there seem to be a few reasons for apprehension. He is apparently not at all fond of the Traditional Mass. Does this mean that he is not interested in pursuing the Benedectine liturgical reform? And what do you think about his celebrating Hanukkah (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=BkeaWNH2kCE#!) and opening up his cathedral to inter-religious prayer sessions? Also, there are some curious quotes from him: One where he suggests that laymen should be empowered to operate parachurches in their garages and homes, wherein they baptize, catechize, and even distribute communion (see his interview with “30 Days,” a magazine affiliated with C&L).

    http://www.30giorni.it/articoli_id_16457_l3.htm

    That means also overthrowing all your functionalist solutions, your consolidated plans and pastoral systems …
    BERGOGLIO: I didn’t say that pastoral systems are useless. On the contrary. In itself everything that leads by the paths of God is good. I have told my priests: «Do everything you should, you know your duties as ministers, take your responsibilities and then leave the door open». Our sociologists of religion tell us that the influence of a parish has a radius of six hundred meters. In Buenos Aires there are about two thousand meters between one parish and the next. So I then told the priests: «If you can, rent a garage and, if you find some willing layman, let him go there! Let him be with those people a bit, do a little catechesis and even give communion if they ask him». A parish priest said to me: «But Father, if we do this the people then won’t come to church». «But why?» I asked him: «Do they come to mass now?» «No», he answered. And so! Coming out of oneself is also coming out from the fenced garden of one’s own convictions, considered irremovable, if they risk becoming an obstacle, if they close the horizon that is also of God.

    This is valid also for lay people…
    BERGOGLIO: Their clericalization is a problem. The priests clericalize the laity and the laity beg us to be clericalized… It really is sinful abetment. And to think that baptism alone could suffice. I’m thinking of those Christian communities in Japan that remained without priests for more than two hundred years. When the missionaries returned they found them all baptized, all validly married for the Church and all their dead had had a Catholic funeral. The faith had remained intact through the gifts of grace that had gladdened the life of a laity who had received only baptism and had also lived their apostolic mission in virtue of baptism alone. One must not be afraid of depending only on His tenderness… Do you know the biblical episode of the prophet Jonah?

    Please understand that I do not mean to attack Pope Francis. I am praying for him with all my strength. But we must admit that not every pope has turned out to be “the right man at the right time.” Are you at all nervous? Or do you think that all these points are minor and being overblown?

    God bless the Church and Pope Francis.

  • Philip

    There’s also this:

    http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2013/03/the-first-pope-from-latin-america-bergoglio.html

    “Greg Venables, former Anglican Archbishop of the Southern Cone and based in Argentina, offers a look at what Bergoglio “is really like.” He writes:

    [Bergoglio] is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written.

    I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary.

    He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate [creating by the Catholic Church to accommodate alienated Anglicans] was quite unnecessary and that the church needs us as Anglicans.”

    Does this mean that he thinks Anglicans should simply convert as Roman rite Catholics — or that they shouldn’t convert at all, period?

    • Suburbanbanshee

      I think that whatever Bergoglio was saying, it wasn’t what Venables was hearing. Bergoglio was probably saying, “Dude, it would be awesome if you’d convert but I’m not going to pressure you,” whereas Venables heard, “Dude, don’t convert because you’re awesome.”

  • Charles E. Mac Kay

    Very true. I am reminded of Our Saviours words on the cross, “I thirst.” These words are charged with meaning and only the one true apostolic church can get this into action.

  • http://fathercarldiederichs@mac.com Sacerdotus

    I found the last eight years to be a time of great suffering for the church. Only time will tell as to how much damage the last eight years caused the church. It was not a good time, especially for those of us who took Vatican II seriously.

  • midwestlady

    Be careful. Gospel poverty is not the “poverty” that Americans think of, which is political and polemical. This is different. Catholics don’t read the Gospels and they should. We are all pitiful and poor in the eyes of God, thus we have no business carrying on with each other over it. Moreover, this attitude of “carrying on with each other” extends to every realm of our lives, so some go without food and shelter as a result. It’s not about the goods; it’s not about the money; no. It’s about the fact that we are all brothers and we have to stop carrying on with each other in this shameful way and turn our eyes to God.

  • LoneThinker

    Your listing of the failures betrays a bias that is neither balanced nor insightful. Fifty years of barely re-educated clergy and laity of all ages since Vat 11 is a core weakness in the English-speaking Church, the Spanish speaking Americas had to untie the knot with State and evangelise or re=evangelise its upper-class clergy in the cities and evangelise its poorer rural clergy and long-abandoned laity who have Mass once a year in most cases. Idiotic comments about the few abusers in the general media and here is a side-show. Pushing for women priests and optional celibacy abortion and legalising same-gender unions are narrow agenda items. Cardinal B. asking for store=front communion stations is practical in SA while US Catholics argue and fight and will not travel 20 miles to Mass and distress their archbishops. Bishops living in wealthy homes, ignoring civil and canon law for accused clergy, clericalism and upper middle class lifestyles by bishops and clergy are scandals. Francis Bishop of Rome will set a standard and build on his predecessors since Pius V and back to Francis Benedict Dominic and Paul and Jesus and the Hebrew prophets and a few more will wake to the Spirit’s tongues of Fire. I am trying to figure out what “worldly liberals” means and who takes Wikipedia as source for serious scholarship. The pope lived a Franciscan lifestyle and will absolutely evangelise as traveling Pope and model as Xavier the SJ did.

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