Triage in Francis’ Field Hospital: Room for Sarah?

Triage in Francis’ Field Hospital: Room for Sarah? September 24, 2013

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Antonio Spadaro, SJ is one of the nicest, most humbly centered and joyful men I have ever met, and his remarkable interview with Pope Francis is, almost a week after its publishing, still dominating conversations among Catholics and even non-Catholics. Bravo, Antonio!

The talks that are happening are remarkable, even among people who we may presume have discussed an issue many times, and perhaps have reached an impasse, or simply not known where else to go with it. Check out this affecting video of Father Jonathan Morris reading a letter from his gay, civilly wed sister, who writes of the Spadaro interview that its validation for her human dignity and God belovedness was only a small part of what moved her in Francis’ message. She wrote:

I would have been disappointed if after reading the whole interview–12,000 words–it did not include anything more than what the news cycle has been talking about (gay marriage, etc) it was filled with radical empathy, radical love, radical humanity while not at any point watering down the pope’s understanding of objective truth. The news clippings conveniently left out the parts about moral consequences flowing from the simple, profound, radiant message of the Gospel.

Morris added, sounding both proud and chagrined, “This is my sister, legally married to another woman, experiencing Jesus in a way that I haven’t been able to communicate to her, as well as I should have.”

Well, Father Morris, welcome to the club. Lots of us have fallen short of communicating Jesus to others as we have wished to; sometimes it has seemed as though there was a weakness within our spiritual vocabulary, keeping us tongue-tied. Or perhaps we simply needed to let out a breath, take in a breath and allow the Holy Spirit to move on the air, a little.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, responding to the Spadaro interview said, “[the pope] is a great relief to all of us.” Well, what happens when you are relieved? You exhale; you let out a big, cleansing sigh.

I write about that relief over at First Things today, as I let out a sigh for Sarah, whom some of you might remember from combox days of yore:

I never met Sarah; ours was one of those modern online friendships defined by two people who never reside in the same time zone, yet–thanks to the combox and email–become intimate, devoted friends. She was a Lutheran, a scholar, a veteran who served twenty years in the military and then took up accounting, and she wrote the most fascinating, informative missives. When I mentioned that I was considering purchasing a handgun, Sarah gave me serious advice about what weapon might best suit me and also sent along images of handbags suitable for gun-carrying. When I was slow to make my purchase she hectored me about it, because, in her considered opinion, self-sufficient, firearms-proficient women could civilize the whole world in a week.

I loved her. She was kind and funny, and generous; the sort of person who is aware of her own shortcomings and therefore quick to give everyone else the benefit of a doubt. Although a Lutheran, she loved the Rosary and prayed the beads every night along with a podcast recording I had made of each mystery. She read, and loved, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Edith Stein, and also Pope Benedict XVI, with whom she identified, calling him “undervalued.” Still, she declared she could never convert because “the church wouldn’t have me, as I am.”

I always believed the church would. Sarah, as she was, something else. You can read the rest of it, here.


1) Why yes, Benedict and Francis have said many similar things, but Francis gets the tone just right.

2) I really loved the little primer of Ignatian Spirituality that the Pope provided in the interview, as well as his references to high art as a means of describing what the life of faith is, and also is not.

3) Eve Tushnet on Francis’ “sort of” Conservatism

4) Melinda Selmys with a well-done piece on the field hospital for the wounded. That would be all of us, in truth.

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