Sunday, March 24, 2013

I am so excited about Pope Francis!

I've been so busy lately that I just haven't had the energy to blog. But instead of writing about any of those things making me busy, now that I have a few minutes, I prefer to write about Pope Francis.

As the conclave of cardinals was setting up, Bob and I watched with sort of cynical interest. We read the analyses and followed the handicapping and figured some Italian cardinal who was a good administrator would be elected pope. If we were lucky, he would clean out some of the people who had led to the scandals in the Church. If we weren't, he would move the the Church even further to the conservative side, making the changes implemented after Vatican II more and more impotent.

Instead, the conclave did something unexpected. They elected a cardinal from Buenos Aires, Argentina. A cardinal who was best known for his humility and simple lifestyle. And he did a bunch of surprising things. He took the name Pope Francis, when there has never been a Pope Francis before. (And no, major media outlets, that doesn't make him Pope Francis I. He will be known as “the first” in retrospect when and if there is a Pope Francis II.) He declined to sit upon a throne and accept the tribute of the other cardinals, preferring to stand at their level and greet them each that way. When he made his first public appearance, he asked the assembled faithful at St. Peter's to pray for him. He chose not to take the papal limousine back to his quarters for the night, opting to ride the bust with the other cardinals. He stopped on his way back the next morning to pay the bill at the place he had stayed in the days leading up to the conclave.

And he continues to surprise. For example, instead of performing the traditional washing of the feet at St. Peter's or the main parish church there in Rome, he is going to a juvenile detention center to wash the feet of those incarcerated. He personally called the owner of the kiosk back in Argentina, where he used to buy his daily paper, to cancel his paper order.

I am not naive. I don't think this pope is going to be the one who makes the big doctrinal changes in the church that many liberals hope for. He's not going to begin to ordain women, or even married men. He won't change the church's stance on homosexuality. He is fairly conservative in his beliefs and he won't be the one who makes any of those changes. But no one else who was realistically likely to be elected was, either. Those changes were not in the cards for this papacy. Period. 

But I think this pope may make changes that have far reaching effects. This is a man who views his papacy...his ministry.....probably the entire world … the context of the beatitudes. He is someone who believes in simplicity, in meekness, in mercy; Who has lived his life dedicated to these concepts and trying to integrate them into his own life. And I am naive enough.....or idealistic believe that this world view can make a powerful difference. I can't wait to see what new examples he presents us, and how that mindset affects the decisions he makes. I actually dare to hope that this pope could be such an example of the Christian life that he inspires Catholics and non-Catholics to think about their faith and how it affects their life in a new way.

It's like we've been given an Easter gift. Alleluia!