Yesterday was a totally awesome day. I worked from home, and didn’t get a darn thing done from 1 PM onward. What a blessing to be a witness to a historic event, full of firsts: 1st Latin American Pope, 1st Jesuit to be elected Pope, 1st Pope named Francis. I was pretty geeked all afternoon and evening.
Which is why I’m bothered by some things I’ve seen written about the new Holy Father on other Catholic blogs. The guy hasn’t even broken in his zucchetto yet, and already I’ve read comments like “We’re screwed”, or “Great – a modernist Pope”, or “Habemus Antipapam”. On Catholic blogs! One blog, a traditionalist hang-out, even reprinted an article with the title “Horrors!” I’m not linking to it, but it was over at Rorate Caeli.
Now, I shouldn’t have been surprised. I’ve been blogging long enough to know that there are whiners and complainers everywhere. Heck, some people even call me a whiner and complainer (I know, it’s hard to believe, but it’s true). The extremes on both sides of the orthodoxy aisle are going to have their nits to pick and teeth to gnash. I’m not that naive to be surprised by such behavior.
But let me just say this. I read such things from traditionalists and I’m absolutely embarrassed by it. Yeah, pissed off too, but mostly embarrassed. It’s bad enough when the libtards in the media spout off stupid things and give witness to their bias and lack of intelligence when it comes to the Catholic Church. It’s worse, I think, when the more-rabid wing of the traditionalists get apoplectic and write off the new Holy Father because he didn’t wear his stole the entire time on the balcony (gasp!) or didn’t chant the Urbi et Orbi (egad!) or asked the people gathered in St Peter’s Square to pray for him (gadzooks!!). Or express fears that he will undo Summorrum Pontificum or squash the TLM (triple gasp!!).
Give me a freakin’ break.
I was as surprised as anyone when the announcement was made. I had never heard of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. I had no clue who the man was. Over the course of yesterday afternoon and evening, at various places across the internet, I have come to learn a little – a little, mind you, and probably no more or less than most everyone else – about him. Certainly not enough to make any absolute judgments about his pontificate which is LESS THAN 24 HOURS OLD!!!!!!
Nobody knows what he’s going to do. Pope Francis probably doesn’t know what he’s going to do. But I will say this.
Our world is lacking in charity and compassion. It’s dying from a dearth of love, and doesn’t even know it. The world is seeking answers to its questions in every conceivable wrong place, and will not – refuses to – accept the Church’s plausible and simple and correct responses to those questions. They’re written off as impractical, or controlling, or outmoded, or bigoted. Thus, the Church is ignored and maligned. So the world continues on its way, stumbling about in the dark, oppressive clouds of doubt, searching. It has believed the lie that evil is good, thus sinking deeper in sin, thinking it’s found the solutions to its problems. Meanwhile, the Church stands still and waits. It’s why the Church doesn’t change – cannot change – her teachings. Because when people are finally ready to accept what She has to offer, they will know where to find Her. Where She has always been. Waiting patiently to accept the sinner in, and then, by one conversion followed by another, work to convert the world. To bring the Gospel message of hope to a hope-less world.
God knows this. He knows our Church needs healing, too. The vitriol I’ve read in various places is evidence of that. Heck, I need healing. We all do. All of us know that our Church is wounded – we’re separated by pride, divided by self-righteousness. The worst of the Church’s sins have been exposed to the world, and the most painful of attacks have come from within.
So what does God do? He guides the conclave and gives us a Pope who, by all accounts, is a humble, loving man. We have been given a pope who has a great and abiding devotion to St Francis of Assisi. Have you seen the image where he is kissing the foot of the AIDS patient? It is very moving, and demonstrates his love and compassion. It shows me that he sees Christ in the lowly. This man, from what I can tell thus far, has a heart full of love for those whom the world has absolutely no concern.
I read a comment on Twitter last night that pretty much says it all for me, and I’m sorry I can’t locate it now, but basically it said this: “Thank you, God for Pope Benedict to help me learn the faith, and thank you for Pope Francis to show me how to live the faith.” What more do we really need? We could all use a model of humble obedience, gentle charity and firm resolve in this mad mad world and even madder Internet. What better place to see it demonstrated than by the guy at the very top.
Is Pope Francis going to be perfect? No, absolutely not. Is he going to make everyone happy? That’s impossible. Is he going to “screw us”? I’m still flabbergasted by that remark.
I don’t know what Pope Francis is going to do, and neither does anyone else. It is my hope that by his example, he will show the world what it means to live the Catholic faith. With humility, simplicity, charity. It is my hope he will show the world the true meaning of social justice, of displaying the preferential option for the poor, while upholding Church teaching on abortion and contraception. It is my hope he will show the world that charity doesn’t mean passive permission of sinful behavior, but actively engaging the world with the Truth. It is my hope he will manfully bear his cross – whatever it may be – and be an example to the rest of us, in the tradition of Blessed John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Jesus Christ. It is my hope that by his example, he will be used by the Holy Spirit to lead more souls to Christ and draw back home some, or many, who have left the Church.
We can’t ask for more than that. If we truly believe in the words of Jesus Christ, that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church, then we ought to have enough faith that the man chosen to lead His Church believes it as well. So for you belly-aching traditionalists out there who might be reading this – recall to mind the words I’m sure your mothers told you over and over: Suffer in silence, and offer it up. Recall how Pope Francis bowed in silence for what, about ten seconds, asking for us to pray to God for His blessing. Follow his lead, and try the silence thing. Yes, someday there will be a great apostasy, and yes, someday, we will have a rotten Pope. Who knows, it could – *could* – be this Pope. But let me tell ya – it’s not going to happen within the FIRST THREE HOURS OF HIS PONTIFICATE!!!!!
I didn’t write this post to get into arguments over forms of the liturgy, or Church governance, or the End Times, or any of those things. Here’s my reason for the post: Give the man a chance. Give God the benefit of the doubt. Pray for him unceasingly, to guard Christ’s flock from the wolves. For me, I already love this man. I don’t know much about him, but he’s my papa, and I’m going to pray for him as I did for Benedict before him. As time goes on, I’ll learn more, and my opinion may evolve, or it may not, based on what he does and says as Holy Father. It’s going to be difficult to not compare him to Pope Emeritus Benedict, but in all fairness to Pope Francis, that is what must be done. We are entering a new era of the Church – the reign of Pope Francis – and based on what I see happening in the world, in the Church, and yes, in the Catholic blogosphere too, I believe that the right man has been elected.
(ps – I don’t lump all traditionalist Catholics together. The comments and posts I read are not representative of the majority – I understand that. I know that there are other traditionalists who are as equally embarrassed by their comments and attitudes.)