I’m on the last day of my visit to Rome, and the Borgo is the network of little streets full of restaurants, bookshops, souvenir shops and church supply stores just outside the walls of the Vatican.
As I walked down the Pio Borgo I spotted a crowd of people and two or three television news crews. They were there to comment on the graffiti that appeared this week portraying Pope Francis as a superhero.
Is Pope Francis a superhero? First we have to define a hero. The classic hero is one who goes on the hero’s quest. He or she leaves their ordinary world of comfort and security to set out on a great adventure. Once on that journey they meet allies and enemies, they encounter great dangers and take huge risks. They eventually overcome the dragon, the beasts, the villains and the darkness not only to defeat evil and win the treasure and defeat the prize, but also to become wise and pure and therefore become a hero.
Since “super” means “above” then a superhero is one who goes on the hero’s quest with strength from above. This strength we call “grace”. So is Pope Francis a superhero? By all means. Yes! But so is every Christian who wins the prize and overcomes evil in their lives. All the saints are superheroes and all the Christians who have heard the call to truly follow Christ are on the heroic quest. We’re a work in progress. We’ve heard the call and set out on the great adventure of following Christ, until at last we overcome the world and enter into the realm of the superheroes.
The hero’s quest and the call to follow Christ is the theme of my latest book released next week.The Romance of Religion: Fighting for Goodness, Truth, and Beauty This book explains how the great religious stories work as myths, fantasy and romance and encourages the reader to understand the power of great stories and set out on his or her own adventure.
UPDATE: CNA has an interview with the street artist who painted the superhero pope here.