A couple of emails from Catholics expressing displeasure at the news that Nancy Pelosi is heading to Rome with a contingent of legislators and will take a meeting with His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI.
Wrote a former marine who seem pretty angry:
I am deeply concerned about this matter as I personally believe that Mrs. Pelosi should be excommunicated
I understand where this fellow is coming from, but I am elated, rather than disturbed, that Mrs. Pelosi is meeting with the pope. I hope the Holy Spirit, who has a habit of confounding us by using the most surprising people and circumstances to work God’s will, finds the meeting irresistible and begins to use Mrs. Pelosi to God’s purpose.
The idea of pro-choice Catholics receiving Communion causes scandal for many who believe that such an action diminishes what the Holy Eucharist is: the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. To them, a prominently pro-choice woman like Mrs. Pelosi meeting the pope brings equal scandal; to their way of thinking, unless he “excommunicates her on the spot or publicly corrects her,” Benedict’s authority will be diminished, as well.
Well, “bringing scandal,” which can shake the faith of many is a legitimate concern, but we should remember firstly that Jesus cannot be diminished by any mere human; he is the gift freely given. The pope can be diminished by another human, but I do not believe his meeting with Mrs. Pelosi effects this, and this is why: God is not done with any of us, yet.
Pope Benedict, while the Vicar of Christ, is still first and foremost a shepherd and pastor. His duty is to tend the sheep, both healthy and sick, obedient or straying. Some may insist that Mrs. Pelosi is a “sick” sheep that should be excommunicated and set apart, lest she infect the rest of the flock.
Mrs. Pelosi is a public Catholic who has clearly demonstrated her woeful misunderstanding of some church teachings. Whether her lack of comprehension is willfull lying, an immature spirituality or a true deficiency we can only guess, because none of us can read souls. Since she clearly needs instruction, who better to give it than the Bishop of Rome?
Whether she will accept that instruction will remain to be seen…but we must always remember this from the Catechism:
The confessor is not the master of God’s forgiveness, but its servant. The minister of this sacrament should unite himself to the intention and charity of Christ. He should have a proven knowledge of Christian behavior, experience of human affairs, respect and sensitivity toward the one who has fallen. He must love the truth, be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church, and lead the penitent with patience toward healing and full maturity. He must pray and do penance for his penitent, entrusting him to the Lord’s mercy.
– Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1466
This describes the role of the confessor – to lead the penitent with patience toward healing and full maturity – but it also describes the role of every pastor. If a shepherd has a wandering sheep, his first concern must be to teach and to retrain, not to cast the sheep aside or banish it to the corral, where the chances of its ever learning how to safely graze will be so greatly diminished that it will have no protection from the wolves.
Of course Benedict should meet with Mrs. Pelosi. And of course that meeting will seem like a “victory” for dissenting Catholics who will consider that she has lorded something over on the humble Benedict. Looking at things with earthbound eyes, it will be all they see, and it will be an illusion.
What we will not see, and will not be able to measure, will be the impact of this meeting – long range – on Mrs. Pelosi. Now, it’s possible that the meeting will effect no change in her. If she is resolutely “closed” then it will have little impact; recall that when Jesus was in his hometown where belief was minimal, he did not perform many miracles because he had no openings to do so.
But if Mrs. Pelosi has any openness at all, then the Holy Spirit will do what He will and eventually – perhaps not for years, but eventually – we will see the fruits of that openness.
How many times in life have you found that a prayer you tossed off without much thought ended up having repercussions you only learned about much later.
We may not ever know the whys and wherefores – we each of us, no matter how public, still intercourse privately with God – but it is hard to believe the Holy Spirit will allow this meeting to go to waste. Good seed will be sown; whether Pelosi allows it to take root in her will be up to her – faith is a choice for all of us – but I suspect she will come away from this meeting surprised in some way. And – for those focusing on her role as a Catholic politician, that may affect how things go in this country. Maybe not tomorrow, but eventually.
Truthfully, there is no down side to this meeting. The Pontiff is doing his job; if Pelosi remains unmoved, she’ll simply continue to be who and what she is, but if she is “turned” or “converted” – retrained by the shepherd to safely graze – then that can only be a positive for America. As Deacon Greg writes, God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called. We have no idea what can happen when a shepherd confronts a recalcitrant sheep in prayer and love.
We all of us become passionate about our politics, but we can never forget the simple truth that even these politicians are mere mortals, subject to the work of God. As Christians we can only want healing and conversion for this woman, and trust that Christ – who is big enough to take on all comers, and who likely will be received in Communion before the world’s camera’s at some point in her trip – is given the opportunity to work on her “from the inside out,” so to speak.
Because even a worthy and faithful shepherd needs the help of Christe Jesu, pastor bone, the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep, and who ate with tax collectors and sinners.
So be generous – not negative, for there are no negatives in Christ – and pray for Mrs. Pelosi. Pray for her, and for Pope Benedict, that their meeting may bear good fruit by God’s measure, not our own.
Be creative and broad in your prayer. Ask your Guardian Angel to carry your prayer before the Lord of Hosts and to remain there, a while, in prayer for Nancy Pelosi. Ask Anna – the woman who lived in the temple, “praying day and night,” to pray for Pelosi, whose name is a derivative of “Anne.” Ask Padre Pio, the great, famously cranky Franciscan confessor and reader of souls to pray with you, for her. Invite the great teacher Cardinal John O’ Connor into your prayer. Ask Mary, the Mother of Christ – who is a mother, like Pelosi, and the Patroness of the Unborn – to pray for both Pelosi and the pope. Ask Pope John Paul II to pray for Benedict and support him in their meeting. Ask some of our presidents, Washington, Lincoln, even Reagan – to pray that God’s will be effected in the life of Nancy Pelosi. Otherwise, what’s the point of confessing the Communion of Saints in the Apostles Creed?
Pray every day for our leadership, but during these next 8 days, why not pray for Pelosi, especially, in this way?
And then trust. And do not be afraid. All things work to God’s purposes, even when we cannot imagine how. Surprises and mysteries are the most joyful and interesting part of the life of faith! And praying for others will only strengthen our own faith, hope and charity.
It’s good training for Lent, too, which begins on February 25.
Deacon Greg has more “upset-Catholic” email on this meeting.
Deal Hudson has more thoughts