In the romance languages the word sin means lacking or without. As a catholic, this word has always meant something different to me: to commit a crime against the will of God. If we look at the word through the lens of what it means in a different language, we can see the connection between sinning and being without God. I didn’t realize this connection until I saw the movie “Pope Francis: A Man of his Word.”
This interview style documentary is revolutionary. The Holy Father opened up the Vatican to allow the conversation to be filmed in the Vatican Gardens. Watching this man on the screen for the the entire movie felt to me like having a conversation with a friend. Even though the topics discussed – including poverty and the lack of respect for our resources – were often heart wrenching to watch, it was evident that Pope Francis was compelled to offer a warning about the state of affairs of the world.
As the documentary started, I was giddy. I found out about the movie through web surfing prior to opening day. Playing at the independent movie theater in Indianapolis, on the Saturday I attended, I was clearly the youngest in the theater. As someone who often walks a different path than my peers in terms of my expression of faith, this did not surprise me. It does however concern me.
One of the primary messages of the film was how pervasive the throw away culture has become world wide. For those unfamiliar with the term, Pope Francis uses it to discuss the different ways that we as humans waste our resources from the Lord. This particularly applies to the ways the earth is being desecrated and polluted. There are many scenes of the Holy Father visiting impoverished areas. As part of the generation where there is the least retention rate church wide, I think it would benefit my peers to see this film. No matter where in the world he visits, the look of joy on the faces of those he interacts with is the same. Part of this phenomenon is that he is a celebrity, yet a bigger part stems from the way that he treats everyone he encounters with human dignity-as if he just met God. How quickly we forget that is exactly what happened.
During the film, Papa refers to “Three T’s”- that is the three things needed to give glory to God. In translation the “Three T’s” do not all start with the letter “T.” According to Pope Francis, every person, in order to best give glory to God requires “work, land, and a roof”. These are things that not everyone has access to and that is a point of injustice for Francis. During the opening scene of the movie, a memorable quote appeared: “As long as the church places it hope on wealth, Jesus is not there.” Pope Francis repeated this line. It is a good framework for the rest of the film as the disparity in wealth around the world is one of the most apparent aspects of throw away culture.
I struggle with this aspect of my faith and privilege when they intersect. I am uncomfortable around those in my community I see begging on the streets. I am uncomfortable giving money and I am uncomfortable not giving money. Instead, I often try to engage in eye contact or a short conversation when the situation permits. Do these conversations take effort? Sometimes. But one of my takeaways from the movie is that the more we attempt to live in a culture of encounter, the more chance we have of making a difference against throw-away culture and all the sins that come from being without.
For those who know Francis, this stance will come as no surprise. Upon election, Jorge Mario Bergoglio radically and purposefully chose the name of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis has long been one of my favorite saints. As a fellow steward of the earth, I am inspired by him. As a fellow steward of people his heart gives me hope. From the portrayal in the film, Papa seems to draw inspiration from his namesake. At one point he says “We are all responsible, no one can say I have nothing to do with this”. This resonated with me as I read the subtitles across the bottom of the screen. These words came after a particularly harrowing scene where we see the way that our indifference directly affects and oppresses those living in poverty. One of the premises being warned against in the film is that throw-away culture acts as a direct assault to the innate human dignity of the poor. Sin. Without God. Without resources. Without care. Sinning.
Even though the film tugged at my heartstrings, I enjoyed the experience of watching it. It did what it was designed to do, in that it encourages people to take better care of the earth and the poor. While Pope Francis admonishes the audience, he does it from a place of love and joy- from a place of God. I would recommend using this film as a resource for any stewardship committee, or social justice community. Or if you are like me and find the jovial face of Frankie to be a much needed reminder of where to look when I can’t see God.