What a day it is! With the release of Lumen Fidei and the announcement of canonizations of Blessed Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, today is all about continuity, cohesion and co-operation: the announced canonization of two modern popes; the release of an encyclical composed by two modern popes, “written with four hands” but with one heart; an unexpected moment when two modern popes sit side-by-side and ask our great angelic warrior, Saint Michael the Archangel, and the most humble of obedienciaries, Saint Joseph, to protect Holy See — and by extension the whole church — through Francis’ consecration.
Everything is of-a-piece. The thread weaving through all of these stories is CCC: Continuity, cohesion, co-operation.
“Come together!” Three of these pontiffs, John XXIII, John-Paul II and Benedict XVI have been co-opted or caricatured by factions intent on furthering their own sense of what is right and correct through either the vilification or the lionization of each pope, in turn. Francis — by declaring John a Saint along with John-Paul, and bringing Benedict into the garden with Saint Michael to make a consecration that may discomfit many (for a variety of reasons) — might be making a powerful point about the futility of such attempts to divide and polarize: attempting to make worldly agenda-suited distinctions within a line of continuum that is wholly supernatural is like playing with a most destructive fire. One rooted, I really believe, in idolatry: it’s about serving the “I” within us, the egotistical part of ourselves that aligns with what we think of as the “smart” or “righteous” faction:
Idols exist, we begin to see, as a pretext for setting ourselves at the centre of reality and worshiping the work of our own hands. Once man has lost the fundamental orientation which unifies his existence, he breaks down into the multiplicity of his desires; in refusing to await the time of promise, his life-story disintegrates into a myriad of unconnected instants. Idolatry, then, is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another. Idolatry does not offer a journey but rather a plethora of paths leading nowhere and forming a vast labyrinth. Those who choose not to put their trust in God must hear the din of countless idols crying out: “Put your trust in me!”
Lumen Fidei, Section 13
Given the words and images from Rome, today, I am more and more certain that it is really time to stop making idols of ideologies and negating each other with convenient labels and to take a cue from these two popes, Benedict and Francis, and the obvious regard and respect they demonstrate, one for the other.
Later today (I think between the 6-7PM hour, Eastern) Sheila Liaugminas and I will be “A Closer Look” at all of this heady stuff, and so I really need to buckle-down today and get the encyclical read. I’m having fun trying to discern which parts were written by Benedict and which by Francis! Meanwhile:
John Thavis with thoughts on why Francis is not waiting for an official “second” miracle for Good Pope John.
“Points to ponder on the encyclical.
A little roundup of first reactions, which includes an observation that this encyclical is “a heartfelt attempt to speak to anyone still searching for God.”
Yes, I think it is. And reading between the lines, between the encyclical, the canonizations, and the consecration to Saint Michael today, I think it’s meant to cut through a lot of dross, and help them to “seek the Lord while he may be found!”
Or, you know: “Come together and don’t dawdle about it.”
By the way Relevant Radio, which hosts A Closer Look, has a terrific free app, too.