Monday, October 07, 2013

Rules for Reading Pope Francis: Rule #5

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?

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Please God they don't get tired of him. The church needs the positive attention he's bringing. Disillusioned is another story. If he doesn't make changes people think need to be made (in the tradition) not the faith) we might all be disillusioned. I'm trying to stay upbeat, but as a woman whose been beaten down it is increasingly difficult.

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Keep your hope up! I am sure that Francis will do all he can--he already has introduced some small changes (in style, not substance). Let's support him in prayer and pray especially for any who might impede the action Of the Holy Spirit

Anonymous said...

All he can do might not be enough, the church HAS to get into the
21st century soon or it will become the museum that John the
23rd said it shouldn't be. Too many instances to sight, but treatment of the "other" (women, gays, etc.) has to be updated. Many of us are too old to wait much longer.

Anonymous said...

@Sr Anne,
As a Catholic I fully accept the Church's authority on faith / doctrine. And i believe that heresy is evil. Plus i think it is just as evil to break up the Church in anyway i.e. schism.
BUT, why is it that so many of the Popes over the generations have been from the ruling classes (nobility, merchants etc ..). I'm NOT saying any of the Popes have been invalid (but that not, necessarily, the best Popes were elected due to the sinfulness of man NOT to any inadequacy on God's part). And that we Catholics often confuse 1) faith / doctrine with 2) the way the Church is led / the personal morality of Church leaders.
I think St Catherine of Sienna was one of the greatest saints precisely because she challenged the Pope BUT with love and humility (and she never, as far as i know, challenge them on faith / doctrine nor did her challenge lead to schism). She can't be accused of idolatry of the Popes.
But i think Catholics can be idolatrous in how their approach to the Pope (not now really but in the past, when the Pope - was more like a mighty prince or Emperor than a humble pastor in the sense of the sort of place he lived in and the way life was conducted in the Vatican).
Now we have a Pope who is taking a BIG leaf out of the book of St Francis of Assisi. And of St Peter - the first Pope!
To me, Pope Francis is turning out to be one of the greatest Popes ever (and I really mean that).
Sure, there are a few things I think he could have been more careful about. But he's a human being. Jesus rebuked St Peter with "get behind me Satan". Doesn't mean St Peter was a terrible man (overall).
Pope Francis is really becoming more like the first Pope, St Peter, in his humility, "ordinariness", hope and spirituality.
And he's causing a few shocks (in general). Good. I'm glad!
God bless Pope Francis.
Ed (UK)

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Ed, I'm not an historian, but it seems to me that early on bishops, generally speaking, needed to be literate--and that fact alone would narrow the field of potential Popes. Then, once the church became a property holder, the merchant/noble class found it advantageous to position their relatives in the lineup (with most unfortunate consequences for the Bride of Christ). Later, not so bad. Diplomats, etc. were in higher relief; more "known" to the rest of the Cardinals (this happens in religious life, too!). Holy Spirit can work with anything.
Saintly Popes came from the nobility (Gregory the Great; Leo XII) as well as the peasantry (Pius X, John XXIII; JP2 from middle/working class).

Anonymous said...

Sr Anne,

I'm no way against the nobility nor money in the Church (and i very much agree with the Church when it condemned SOME of the early heretical Franciscans who focused on these things - not all Franciscans of course ..).

And i don't disagree at all there haven't been great saintly Popes from the nobility.

But where were all the carpenter Popes? Or fisherman Popes (or working class Popes)? It's no fluke that Jesus chose a fisherman as his first Pope. He didn't choose a St Paul. But so often it has been the St Pauls we've had as Popes. Not the St Peters. Ideally, there should be a mixture (and everything inbetween).

"Holy Spirit can work with anything"

- God will ALWAYS safeguard orthodoxy (in faith / doctrine) in the Catholic Church (i believe). But that is NOT the same as saying He will, necessarily, safeguard everything else. If so, then we wouldn't have had all the terrible evils that occurred in the Church which the good Pope John Paul II apologized for (one reason why i think Pope John Paul II is one of the greatest Popes we've ever had, along with Pope John 23 who was a "peasant", and Pope John Paul II from an "ordinary" middle class family).

It was thanks to great saints such as Catherine of Sienna that we've had Catholics not afraid to say what they think (but NEVER in a way that undermines faith / doctrine - leading to the evil of heresy, she was no heretic St Catherine, nor in a way that leads to schism, nor in a way that humiliates individuals, or undermines the overall authority of the Pope / religious leaders - and that when we do challenge, always, to do so in private, and with love and humility).

And if we had had more Catherine of Siennas, then, no doubt, there would have been less evils in the Church, less evils for Pope John Paul II to apologize for.

Lastly, St Francis challenged the Church, too (its worldly aspect) but not in words (directed at them in private or otherwise), but in the way he lived, no doubt, putting to shame, many prelates who lived like worldly princes at the time.

Ed (UK)

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

As one blogger suggested, maybe God is preparing us for something...

Anonymous said...

You mean the end of the world / and coming of Jesus?
People have been predicting that since almost soon after Jesus' Crucifixion.
What I'm more certain about and focused on is that Death can come for us all at any time ("like a thief in the night"). So we should live everyday as our last (and treat others as if it is possibly their last day, too).
And when I say that, always, have to include a prayer to Jesus / The Holy Trinity "Please Lord may we all be prepared - by Your grace - for Death; that after mortal death, we'll be prepared to be with You in Heaven".

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Always wise to live in view of our end! My own interpretation of the blogger's comment was that we are being made ready to give witness. For example, what if the power grid went out and we did not have media access to the pope or bishops? We would more clearly be responsible for the spread and defense of the gospel and less likely (as can happen now) to leave that for the religious professionals!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Sr Anne,
God bless,

Yaya said...

Sister Anne,
Your blog is uplifting and helps me to remain hopeful and to continue to trust in our Lord Jesus. I will continue to pray for Papa Francis and for all my brothers and sisters in the faith and for those who do not share it. Your five rules are excellent and very helpful to me. Today, I was upset with other blogs who remain critical of our Holy Father. I prayed about it and with God's help, I will stay away from those blogs and just pray for those folks and try to live my faith as Jesus would have me do.

I hope to learn and understand more what it means to be a Catholic woman of faith from your great posts.

Thank you so much and God bless you in all of your efforts to help the rest of us!

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Yaya!