Reading (and rereading!) the recent interviews Pope Francis gave (one to a fellow Jesuit; another to an atheist journalist), I have had to come up with a set of guidelines to make sure I "get" what the Pope is saying, without letting my own presuppositions (or the way I would say things) distract me. First, I have to get used to the fact that the Pope is going to be speaking off the cuff (Rule #1); that he isn't necessarily speaking to me (Rule #2); that the newspaper headlines are interpretations and fail to communicate the whole point (Rule #3); and that the Pope's message is, far from diluting the content of the faith, challenging my puny faith to acknowledge how much greater the Truth is than I usually give it credit for (Rule #4).
But is there a rule for putting it all together?
Sure there is, and it is the one your mother taught you: Always say "Thank you."
Until the media get tired of Francis (or disillusioned with him) his comments will create openings for the ordinary Catholic to speak about the faith, or about Catholic life, in settings where that would never have been possible without my "forcing the matter." If you have been shy about one on one evangelization, Pope Francis has gotten people interested enough that anyone known to be Catholic is assumed to be a reliable fount of information. If he speaks about the saints, you can mention them now and again, too. If he mentions the need for Catholics to be involved in politics, you have a ready answer to those who would reproach me for bringing your religious convictions into the voting booth (or being active in the political process).
Francis is leading the way, not as a classroom teacher, but as a shepherd who "walks ahead of his sheep, and the sheep follow him." I get the feeling he is deliberately acting "non-pontifical," not to diminish his office as Successor of Peter, but to carry it out in such a way that we, too, carry out our role of being leaven in society. Jesus did the same: "I have given you an example, that as I have done, you also must do."
So what do you say?