Three Popes and the Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz is a pretty smart book because the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion show three traits we need to be complete. If you only had a head, a heart and courage. It occurred to me on my walk this morning that the three popes illustrate what we need, the church needs and the world needs.

What was the first thing Bl.John Paul the Great said on the balcony? “Do not be afraid!” He’s the man of courage–the not cowardly lion. Throughout his papacy he exhibited this great and fearless fortitude–whether it was his triumphant pastoral visits to Poland, his ceaseless travels around the world, his confrontation of heresy and disloyalty, his survival of an assassination attempt or his final, courageous battle with Parkinson’s–played out in public–John Paul was the pope of courage.

Benedict XVI is the pope with the brain. First always in the background as the theologian and Bible scholar in chief, and then stepping into the shoes of John Paul to lead the church with continued teaching, writing and thinking. With his precision of thought and clarity of expression he articulated the fullness of Catholic teaching, liturgy and practice.

Now Francis picks up the keys and his constant theme is one of pastoral love and passion for Christ and his people. Notice that the three characters stick together and balance one another. The love Francis shows is mere sentimentality without the intellectual teaching of Benedict and it is weak compromise without the courage of John Paul.

It is natural for us to incline toward one pope more than another because of our  own personality types. Benedict XVI is my favorite because guess what? I’m like him. I’m bookish. I’m a Benedictine oblate. I understand and promote fine liturgy, good music and I like clear thought and a solid articulation of the faith. Others may warm more to John Paul because they are men and women of action and courage in the world. Others will gravitate to Francis because they have a Franciscan spirituality, they are people people and they go with their heart even if that means that life is sometimes messy and imprecise.

While this is true, it is also true that we need to get out of our comfort zone and learn to love and appreciate the ones of the three that do not appeal to us. Read More

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