Francis: A Big Brass Band of a Pope and Peter the Roman – UPDATED AGAIN

For years, I have been saying that each pope — each iteration of Peter — has his own style, which is why comparisons are always imperfect; a man’s nature informs his outreach. John Paul II was a trained actor and his papacy was like a giant, dramatic, nation-shaking pipe organ that could not be ignored. The shy and introverted Pope Benedict XVI, on the other hand, was like a tinkling piano, inviting you to come in be quiet and find some stillness. And the energetic, extroverted Pope Francis?

He is clearly a big brass band of a pope!

I just love that picture of him; look at his face! He looks like he’s found someone he hasn’t seen in a few years and is saying, “Hey, Marco! My Friend! Call me; we’ll have tapas!” I like to imagine him pantomiming a phone.

Some people are saying they’re worried about Francis’safety, but after some initial concerns I have decided that I’m not worried, because he is not worried. Just as, with his abdication, Benedict gave us a great lesson in trust, Francis is teaching us something.

Benedict always knew the papacy was not about him, and understanding that another speech, another trip would not make a difference — that people were not paying attention — he threw the entire church (and the world) into the path of the Holy Spirit, trusting completely that the God would not abandon her.

I would bet that Francis is the answer to Benedict’s prayers, because people are certainly paying attention, now; rapt attention. And we’re being given a deeper instruction in that lesson on trust. As I remarked to Sheila Liaugminas, last night, on her radio show:

I think he’s trying to teach us the same thing that Benedict was trying to teach us with his abdication, and that it’s about trust. . .you have Francis who is wandering into crowds. . .he’s in the little Ford Focus with the window down, he’s not in the popemobile with the bullet-proof glass, but the one that’s open on all sides, and I think he’s trying to teach us that, you know, maybe we’ve been a little too cautious; maybe we’ve been unintentionally adopting the world’s view of the world, since the [assassination attempt] of John Paul II. It was after that event that we told the pope, “you’re going to be behind this glass, and you’re going to be protected, and you’re going to be shielded”, but Peter was never shielded, and Peter is not meant to be shielded. Peter is meant to walk among the people and his shadow is meant to fall on them, and bring healing. Peter may end up being a martyr. He is called to give all of it — every single bit of it, every moment of his life — into the keeping and care of God; to simply go where he is led.

This is what Francis is doing; Francis is saying, “whether I live or die, it is Christ”. He’s echoing Saint Paul in that. “If I get through this motorcade and everything is good, well, everything’s good, and if I don’t get through this motorcade alright, then God has another plan. and I’m open to that plan! Meanwhile, bring me babies to kiss!”

It is a lesson in profound trust, being delivered to Christians who well may need to learn it and internalize it and practice it — because their own lives of faith may yet bring them into unusual, dangerous situations. It is Francis embodying his own exhortation for us to make room for God to surprise us and to trust that whether the surprise seems “good” or “bad” to our perceptions, our allowing the surprise enables God’s own plan to unfold; a plan that is always, always for our good.

I’ve been amused by the harrumphs coming from some who have perhaps never harrumphed at a pope, before. But there is nothing to harrumph about in Francis and his outreach to the flock. In an increasingly impersonal digital age, where we call strangers our friends and ignore our families while we do it, I suspect we need a Peter who can bring the human touch; whose shadow falls upon the people, and brings healing. He repeatedly hits the theme about idols and idolatry — so often that I really believe the Holy Spirit wants us to understand, to be able to recognize how routinely and easily we place something before God (and hence, erect barriers between God and us) so we can break ourselves of the habit. He wants us to make a clearing amid all of our distractions and all of our stuff, so that we may find God when we seek him; so that God can reach us.

That’s something else Sheila and I talked about, also: how Francis is trying to create in us an awareness of our idolatry, because if we are aware of all the ways we create idols, we can prevail over them, and turn again to the One who saves.

When was the last (or the first) time you brought idolatry into the confessional, and admitted to breaking the first commandment? I can tell you truthfully, the very first time, for me, wasn’t until I was in the midst of writing my book. It’s been a part of every confession since then, because, awareness leads me to. Awareness of my own idolatry or the idolatry of others, comes to me every single day, now. And frankly, it has changed me; it has changed the way I see the world and the motivations of others.. It has changed my whole way of thinking, and being. The teaching of Benedict, the example of Francis, the awareness of the insidious way idolatry slithers into our lives and draws us from God; all of this has changed everything.

Not to freak out people who are susceptible to it, but our everyman pope…he’s kind of…Peter, the Roman, in touch with the cobblestones. He has a great deal to teach us, and it is every bit of it rooted in love of Christ and trust in his mercy. This is for all of us.

UPDATE:
By happy coincidence, Elizabeth Tenety
is writing, today about the differences in style we see in Benedict and Francis and how some Catholics are processing that. Check it out. Our own Katrina Fernandez of The Crescat gets quoted a few times. A nice piece.

UPDATE II:
Heh! Francis and I continue our mind-meld. He confirms what I suspected:

“Security lies in trusting people. It’s true that there’s always the danger that a crazy person will try to do something, but there’s also the Lord,” he said. Sealing off a bishop behind bullet proof glass “is also craziness,” but he said he prefers the craziness of trust.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • stefanie

    Faith, Hope, and Charity. So true.
    Thank you, Elizabeth, for putting a wee bit more light on our papas.
    Last night, my daughter in law & I were talking about the scariness of trust for someone who is trying very hard to live a Christian life. There comes a point when we become clinging babies and we forget to trust God. We agreed that the more experienced Christian is quick to tell a newbie Christian, “Trust in God. He will protect you. He is faithful even when — especially when – we are not.” But, gosh, how very hard that is for ‘ye of little faith’ just starting out! We need to be patient with Christians who have trust issues. Pray for them to learn to trust. We need to be patient with ourselves because we, too, stumble on the trust-in-all-things.
    It is not to be faux-humble that Papa Francisco says at every opportunity: ‘Pray for me.” It is a reminder. We all need to pray for one another because none of us are in heaven yet.

  • MeanLizzie

    What a great point, Stefanie. He does always ask us to pray for him. Perhaps this is why. So he can trust.

  • AMoniqueOcampo

    The comparison b/w Benedict and a piano is apropos since he plays the piano.

    Pope Francis as a brass band makes total sense too. It evokes an image of New Orleans Jazz version of “When The Saints Come Marching In”

  • Victor

    (((Not to freak out people who are susceptible to it, but our everyman pope…he’s kind of…Peter, the Roman, in touch with the cobblestones. He has a great deal to teach us, and it is every bit of it rooted in love of Christ and trust in his mercy. This is for all of us.)))

    Call me what “I” should be called but for whatever else, every “ONE” of our cells think of U?S, we are but “ONE” with U>S (usual sinners) and like “Jesus” said in so many words, destroy this temple and “I” will build “IT” UP in Three Days. All these earthly problems are as simple as “IT” is as simple to accept the first commandment where we must in so many “Words” love our GOD (Good Old Dad) with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our might, “I” guess some of us faithful Christians might say that in short, we must be prepared to LOVE GOD with all of our “life” but speaking for “ME”, “ME” and “ME” there’s no way that we gods are prepared to go that far and……

    END YA SAY sinner vic! Look don’t forget that GOD’s Second Commandment is just as important cause YA must love your neighbor has YA love yourself now!

    “FORGET BOUT “IT” VICTOR! :(

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcEI4RUomi0

    Go Figure brothers and sisters in Christ! :)

    Peace

  • Nicky

    Thank you, mean Lizzie, for this “good stuff” to consider! (Although I don’t think you are mean, I am just having fun!)

  • Martha O’Keeffe

    If this Wikipedia article is correct – “Bergoglio is also a fan of the films of Tita Merello and of neorealism and of tango dancing, with an “intense fondness” for the
    traditional music of Argentina and Uruguay known as the milonga” – then our Papa is a milonga band :-)

  • Mike

    Great article. Thanks. During our family prayers last night, we prayed for Pope Francis and my 12 year old son gently reminded us all to also pray for Benedict because as he put it, we would not have Pope Francis without the action of Pope Benedict. Who says the young cant provide wisdom and teach the old.

  • AntoniusVII

    St. John Paul was a Philosopher/Carmalite
    Pope Benedict XVI is a Professor/Theologian/Augustinian
    Pope Francis is a Pastor/Franciscan

    Three different professions and more importantly three different spirituality’s .

    (I love the Hope-Faith-Charity picture!)

  • mary370

    Thank you. I needed to hear this message. I have been mourning the loss of Benedict too much and not seeing what was right in front of my eyes.

  • MeanLizzie

    Victor, what the heck is that?

  • Adam Frey

    As far as I’ve been able to tell, Victor’s posts are a combination of his hopeful thoughts contrasted with a “Screwtape” character which tries to dissuade him. I assume that he’s one person expressing his internal conflict through two voices. I still haven’t figured out what “IT” is, though.

  • MeanLizzie

    I meant the picture. I don’t know what he posted.

  • Adam Frey

    Oh gee whiz, I didn’t even see a picture. My server at work is selective in what graphics it lets in.

  • Mike Lyons

    Elizabeth, Thanks for your perspective. I still indeed have great hopes for our Church under Francis, and I pray the spirit guide him in our renewal as a pilgrim people in an Alleluia time in our life. I for one was very glad when Benedict resigned, but have some renewed respect for him and what he tried to do. Perhaps Francis will lead the Orchestra in bringing us all back to the basics of Christian Love and Respect, and unite conservatives and liberals alike. We need both for the hope of the Church!

  • MeanLizzie

    Yes. The church is really too big to fit into the narrow niches of “left” and “right” or “liberal” or “conservative.” It’s not “either/or” it’s “both/and”. Catholicism embodies and then transcends all of that. People seem to slowly be figuring it out, and I really think that’s b/c both of these popes have shown that while they were different in style, they are united in purpose; I think it’s why Francis makes a point of visiting and praising Benedict. He understands better than most, I think, that he is Peter now, b/c Benedict was the trusting Peter before him. Still, I wonder if Benedict will ever be understood by those who were simply inclined to think the worst of him and believe the media garbage. I wonder if Benedict will get sufficient props, for instance, by being the prime motivator to finally make this happen: http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/inquiries-and-interviews/detail/articolo/romeroromeroromero-26757/

  • Naomi Kietzke Young

    Tis a link to a YouTube vid. of Hank Williams singing “Drifting Too Far From the Shore.”

  • TheodoreSeeber

    It’s slightly more confusing than that. It’s a bunch of bits of youtube videos strung together.

    Sinner Vic, what does your Fr. Confessor say?

  • NCMountainGirl

    If Pope Francis is a brass band luring others to join the parade then I’d liken John Pall II to a Beethoven symphony, full of richness and drama, inspiring us to be heroic. Benedict, one the other hand, is one of the more cerebral works by Bach. All who listen can enjoy the music but the full greatness is only truly savored by those who really pay close attention to how thoughtfully the work is structured.

  • Victor

    Long story short, thank you again for your continued patience with U>S (usual sinners) Anchoress.

  • Victor

    As for the picture, I’m not much of a computer expert and all “ME”, “ME” and “ME” can do is pray and hope that The Holy Spirit will in the long run get u>s (usual sinners) on the straight and narrow while all of our bodily spiritual reality cells are learning to become perfect like our Heavenly Father is Perfect! :)

    I hear YA folks! Good Luck Victor! You’ll need “IT”! :(

    Peace

  • Victor

    Theodor, please don’t be building UP sinner vic any quicker than he needs to be. Remember that he’s only a lower case god so give him time to evolve now. :)


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