I recently read an article from OnePeterFive titled: “Four Years Later: Reflections on an Unprecedented Pontificate.” When I first starting reading the article I found myself rolling my eyes a bit, and I guess they may still be rolling. It started off with this quote:
“On March 13, 2013, I sat in my office and watched my screen as a new pope — a man whom I had never seen before that moment — walked out onto the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica. I had never heard of him. I did not even know his name. Like most Catholics, I had approached the papal conclave with a sense of hopeful anticipation. But the feeling that came over me when I saw the man the cardinals had elected was shockingly forceful. It was a feeling of icy cold dread. As I looked at him, standing there, staring out at the crowd, I heard seven words distinctly in my mind, unbidden: “This man is no friend of Tradition.”
At first I began to recall my first impressions of the Pope, but when I started reading the comments on the article, I was disturbed. One commenter suggested that Pope Francis is “possessed by the devil.” Another said he is the “chastisement.” I found the whole thing event distasteful, wondered if the people who go to that site are completely in their right mind. I know that they are, of course. They were taking their subjective first experiences of this Pope as some sort of heavenly verification about how unfit this Pope is. When in fact, they are just people who long for a past that will never return and perhaps never existed.
If labels must be used, I would say I am a “moderate” Catholic. That means that I love tradition — for me it a living reality — but I also love many good things about the Church today. I remember the past. I was 14 when the Latin Mass was stopped and the Novus Ordo took effect. At the time I told the priest that it was too sudden: there was little if any preparation. Why could not keep both the old Latin Rite and the Novus Ordo and let the laity choose which one they would want to go to. He said to me, “Rome has spoken.”
Today many who are speaking out for the Tridentine Mass come across as just angry and frustrated and seem to have an overly sentimental attachment to it. I often feel that it’s theater to them, not based on how the Mass was actually celebrated in the past, when I was young. The Mass was often rushed, the altar boys would often get tongue tied over the Latin, and the rubrics were so rigid that I imagine most priests were glad when the English came in. The new Mass could actually be understood by Catholics without a sure knowledge of the Latin. After a short time, I grew to love the Mass in English.
Pope Francis is from a poor country that has had many political struggles. He is a champion for the individual human being and their worth before God. He also understands that his office, as well as the office of Cardinals, Bishops, and Priest, are a call to deeper service of the people. He truly believes in the example of Jesus Christ when he washed the feet of his Apostles.
Pope Francis speaks to the people, not at them. He uses everyday language and does not disguise what he wants to say by using words that soften what he wants to say. He also understands the messiness of life and how before anyone should judge we should enter into their life’s experiences.
Reading the Gospels show how Jesus related to others, to “the sinner,” to the “outcast.” So it’s natural that he would seek to enter into the lives of those who are divorced and remarried outside the Church, which is messy, not easily sorted out. We are told not to judge for a reason. Many sins are overlooked by the pious, which are just as serious, or more so, than those who are living in marriage outside the church. Perhaps we should look into our own hearts before judging others.
As a Catholic, I understand at ever more profound levels what it means to belong to the Body of Christ. Imagine when we pray, in union with Jesus Christ, we are one will all, outside of space and time. It is in that space, outside of time, that we are in union with all. I do not think we should ever underestimate our role in the Church. The world has always been a rough, messy, cruel, going-to-hell-in-a hand-basket of place, yet Christ Jesus came to us, loves us, and when we pray we are to open up our hearts to all.
Yes, the Church struggles, yet we are promised that the Gates of Hell will not prevail. I doubt that this Pope is seeking to destroy the Church. He wants to bring us to Christ Jesus, to lead us to understand that how we treat the poor is how we treat Christ Jesus. If we as Christians lived that out, I doubt many of the troubles in the Church and in the world be would be so serious.
I would like to close with a quote from the Pope. Perhaps if all of us prayed over this, and sought to live it out in a more conscious way, we would join together in ways that are important, and not waste time over arguing if this Pope is good or evil, or the anti-Pope. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is trying to break open our hearts, to be not afraid like Christ Jesus was not afraid to feel the pain of others, even the pain of this Pope, who I believe carries the heart of Christ within his own heart. As Pope Francis writers,
“Go out to others and share the good news that God, our Father, walks at our side. He frees us from anonymity, from a life of emptiness and selfishness, and brings us to the school of encounter. He removes us from the fray of competition and self-absorption, and he opens before us the path of peace. That peace which is born of accepting others, that peace which fills our hearts whenever we look upon those in need
as our brothers and sisters.”