The Pope visited Naples this weekend, and the blood relic of St Januarius returned to its liquid state. Whether such a thing is a miracle or a dire warning seems to depend upon the personal feelings of the the person telling the tale. I tend to lean very far towards the “it’s a miracle” group, but I’m a fan of our current Pontiff, so that makes sense.
There are many within the Church who look at the actions of the Pope and his non-traditional approach to things, and these deviations from tradition (small t) cause them no end of angst. They worry that his non-traditonal approach to the poor, the media, and the world signal a tendency to emphasize being merciful over being Catholic. They are concerned that his love of the poor and emphasis on Social Justice are turning the Church’s focus away from the salvation of souls and towards some sort of false gospel of do-gooder-ism.
This isn’t what I see in Francis’s approach at all. I don’t see a man who is setting the whole Church on its ear, even if he is making certain parts of it a little seasick. I see a man whose approach toward the myriad problems of the Church and the world are from a completely different direction that that of his predecessors. I see a Father with an immense love for those entrusted for his care, and such a love can’t do anything but reach out to help.
Let me tell a personal story that I’m certain I’ve told before, and yet it perfectly shows what I mean:
When Ella was seven, she was preparing for her First Holy Communion and newly diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis in her knees, ankles, and feet. As the date for her First Communion drew near, her leg joints went into flare. She walked with a cane and an agonizingly slow, flappy-armed lurch. She didn’t care how she looked, she was determined to walk it and to process in with her classmates.
There were close to 200 children making their First Communion with her. They were to be divided into two rows, A-M and N-Z, for the triumphant walk into the sanctuary and up to their pews. The DRE, in her wisdom, scheduled a dress rehearsal for all of the children and our two priests on the day before the Day.
Ella was halfway down her line, and as they rehearsed the walk, her slow and painful-to-witness lurch caused the second half of her line to fall further and further behind. Within minutes there was a large gap in her line, and anyone could see that the other line would be almost completely seated before she even reached her pew.Our two priests stood up at the altar and witnessed this sad spectacle of her trying to bravely walk it. The elder priest called the DRE to his side and immediately suggested that Ella not walk in the processional, but wait instead in the front pew for her classmates to join her. He would bring the Eucharist to where she sat, and make the whole ordeal as easy on her as possible.
The second priest stepped down off of the altar, walked over to her, and scooping her up into his arms carried her to her seat. He cupped her cheek in his hand, lifted her tear-streaked face to meet his gaze and told her, “If you cannot walk it tomorrow, I will carry you.”