His Holiness Pope Francis – My Thoughts & Reflections

Vatican Pope

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.)

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39 responses

  1. I concur with Linda. Thank you, Larry. Your thoughts are exactly mine. I prayed for him on the balcony, I feel he is my father, my shepherd, already. It will be a while before I feel like I know him; it was a while before I really knew Pope Benedict.

    Every Cardinal in that conclave had strengths and weaknesses. (For example, Francis is probably not the theologian that Benedict is; few are.) However, I will wait and see how he handles the Curia, who he trusts to address issues for which he lacks either the time or inclination to address himself, how he celebrates Mass, and what he says, does, and writes before even beginning to postulate what those strengths and weaknesses may be.

    In the meantime, I will pray. I will pray for the Holy Spirit to strenghten and protect him from evil, from the enemies outside the Church and especially those within. I will pray that he will set aside any ego or earthly preferences he may have and discern the will of God for himself and the Church.

    Finally, I will pray for all Catholics, especially those who feel “hurt” “betrayed” or “threatened” by Pope Francis’ election. He is the head of the Holy Church, the successor of Peter. Habemus Papem!

  2. Couldn’t have said it better. I, too, was appalled at the comments over at RC.

    I didn’t get my tax stuff together yesterday because I was so hyped up. Then I crashed. I certainly didn’t realize how I had been mentally holding my breath since the conclave began.

    So………

    here’s what I think. This man may pastor like a puppy, but has a steel spine. Why do I think that?

    He took the bus last night with the rest of cardinals and this morning he went wandering around Vatican City. I can feel the aftershocks of the Vatican security heads exploding all the way in Idaho. No sh*t!!! Francis will do exactly what he wants.

    Got to love it!

  3. Brilliant – and while you answer the traditionalists, I battle the “libtards” (love that) and their innumerable comments today. If only they understood this one, simple phrase:
    “Charity doesn’t mean passive permission of sinful behavior, but actively engaging the world with the Truth.”
    Thank you!
    Viva il Papa!

  4. Thank you LarryD, especially for the PS. Someone will always behave badly.

    If it had been a Pope that made people wonder if their Novus Ordo Mass would be abolished there’d be those who would bemoan as well…embarrass as well. I am sure our new Holy Father would want us to be forgiving. God bless him!

  5. No surprise. The neo-trads were going to complain regardless who was elected. They remind me of some people in my office at the time our company was bought by another. They were concerned they were not going to be able to wear jeans anymore.

  6. Spot on! As I read our Dear Pope’s bio I realized he would have persons in many different camps gnashing their teeth and bemoaning the Pope as “too much” of whatever they are not. I look forward to hearing which Francis’ he is honoring with his name choice. I’m hoping St Francis De Sales is one of them.

  7. While I have been looking at some of the attacks from the liberals I knew that they would start from the traditionalists, esp the sede vacantists just as quickly. The fact that he has so quickly come under attack from both sides is a sign that the right decision was likely made. No, I don’t expect him to do everything the way I would. But I trust in the Holy Spirit to guide & protect him. & that he will lead us as God wants.

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  9. Great Post,

    Im more traditionally minded but the anger shown by some is over the top. People posting that he might be like JP and not the second one at that just about blew me away. Just as we are starting to make some progress as not being seen as people putting themselves above others this garbage manifests. Its like they wanted all the work to be done from the top down in restoring sacredness because they are unwilling to do the hard things from the ground in building brick by brick like Fr. Z talks of. Frustrating, but these people along with the Holy Father need prayers. Oh and on a personal note last night at adoration the prayer intention book had many intentions for Francis which was fantastic!

    +JMJ+

  10. Okay, Larry, let me be the bad guy here, generally going against the spirit of this post and of the commenters in the boxes, two famous ones I notice.

    Quite harsh comments by the Trads, true. But I think that, with the election of Pope Francis, their reaction should have been entirely expected and – yes – even sympathized with, considering what Pope Benedict did to bring back reverence to the Mass, Summorum Pontificum, SSPX negotiations, etc. Remember, things were in the ascendant since 2005, a course correction was manifest with Benedict XVI (which I still think is happening, though it will occur in “fits and starts”, as I indicated in a previous post of yours)… and then Pope Francis comes yesterday. He appears on the gondola without the traditional stole, subdued mannerism in his greeting to the crowd in the Piazza, starting off with a nonchalant “good evening”, instead of something like “Glory be to Jesus Christ, Lord of History, Redeemer of Humanity”. It was rather confusing, if not shocking, to others I have talked to, about their initial reactions (and, yes, I am aware of his humility, identification with the poor, etc. when a priest/bishop back in Argentina).

    Then, of course, everyone rushes to check out the background of our new pope, most of whom know not an iota, save through quick look-ups via Google and Wikipedia. Same with the so-called “experts” . The EWTN commentators were absolutely bewildered after Pope Francis was announced, and beforehand Robert Royal couldn’t stop name dropping on all the famous religious he knew or taught him, which was one reason why I turned the volume down most of the time.

    The facts show that our new Holy Father did do things to prohibit the TLM within his jurisdiction in Buenos Aires, despite the actuality that SP allows priests – wanting to celebrate it – to bypass any roadblocks, antagonisms put up by their bishop. And when you see Cardinal Bergoglio celebrating puppet “masses” with dancers in tow (see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwS9umpEkvs), your heart sinks even more.

    Also, the Holy Spirit informs the cardinal-electors, but they must with their freewill cooperate with the Holy Spirit. We’ve had Borgia’s in the past, evidencing that not all cooperated, submitted to the Holy Spirit. Not saying this is the case with Pope Francis. What I am saying is that I do not know. Time will tell.

    These are hard, cold, objective facts that cannot be denied. We must face up to this facts and we can’t be all ra ra just because. These must be acknowledged. We must deal with realities, expect tension, expect conflict, engage, which yes, does involve rough and rugged debate, smarminess, etc.. It’s always been the case in the Church. Again, what else was to be expected with the Traditionalist reaction? Let them vent, I say, as they have been royally shafted for decades.

    Cannot help that much of the reaction against the Rorate Caeli blog posts and others (including their commenters) involves manufactured rage, an inauthentic contempt and, perhaps, and underlying need to identify the “bad guys”, instead of looking underneath to the justified, reasoned, motivating factors (thought through for a long time beforehand) prompting the harsh commentary came immediately.

    Honestly, when I came across that “Habemus Antipapam” comment, I laughed uproariously. That’s fantastic Catholic humour. Larry, how can you – one of the funniest men in the Catholic blogosphere – be “embarrassed” by that?

    Can you really blame Trads? Again, it should be kept in mind that they have been suppressed and vilified for years by both the Modernists and the dominating Neo-Catholic/”conservatives” in the US , both groups who either deny and/or place minimal weight/focus to what happened in the Church pre-1962 (let alone the ignorance thereof) E.g. the “JP2 generation” mantra is analogous to “Talkin’ About my Generation” of The Who, and so forth. Self-revolving, self-aggrandizing, self-focussed. But the Church is universal, for all time, for all peoples, for all generations – and these are what Traditionalists emphasize, reflected in the Usus Antiquior. How we pray affects everything else.

    I agree with you on this point: Give His Holiness a chance. Yes, we must.

    Blessed Virgin Mary, keep and protect Pope Francis.

    • Honestly, when I came across that “Habemus Antipapam” comment, I laughed uproariously. That’s fantastic Catholic humour. Larry, how can you – one of the funniest men in the Catholic blogosphere – be “embarrassed” by that?

      Because it was one of several comments by the same person, and the others were far more vitriolic. They were at Fr Z’s blog, and he’s deleted them all. So I don’t think he found it all that amusing either.

      I understand where you’re coming from, TH2, and your comment proves your more reasoned approach to the Holy Father. But regardless that certain elements within the Trad community are shocked, dismayed, upset or a combination of all the above – they aren’t reasons for some – some, not all – to go off on Pope Francis as if he were going to suppress SP and turn back the clock on liturgical matters right out the gate and let loose with Modernist disciplines and run roughshod over the liturgy. Seemed over-reactive to say the least.

      Perhaps the perceived harsh commentary came so quickly because the reactions of some in the Trad camp came even more quickly. And I probably didn’t even see the worst of it – over at Canterbury Tales, Taylor Marshall seems to imply that some rather vile comments were left in his combox. Didn’t read them, so I can’t say for sure – but he seemed rather upset about them. And he considers himself more in the Traditionalist mode.

      As to the “puppet” mass video you linked to – yeah, that’s a big disappointment, if it is what it seems to be. But from what I’ve learned – and I haven’t done a whole lot of research – but it would appear that prior to that Mass, some skits were performed for the youth in attendance, and then-Cardinal Bergoglio referred to the skit in his homily (I kinda heard him say Pinnochio). Perhaps the cutaway to the acting puppet people was on a video, or it was edited in afterwards. So, to be fair, we might not know all the particulars as it applies to that Mass. We have to be careful on what we see, and what the reality of it really happens to be.

      What’s been said has been said. I stand by my post, as I feel it’s a fair assessment of what I’ve come across and how I’m preparing for Pope Francis’ pontificate. I wrote it late Wednesday night, and edited it up to the point of publishing it at 8 AM Thursday. So it’s not a shoot-from-the-hip, inauthentic, manufactured rage sorta post. I really don’t know what to expect from Pope Francis, but based on his first day and a half, I think we can expect that he will do things differently than what we have been used to the past 35 years.

      Can I really blame those Trads? Not for how they feel. But for how some reacted? Yeah, I think I can. Let them vent? As if I could stop them. I hope and pray their worst fears don’t come true. And I hope and pray that they come to love Pope Francis and allow themselves to be shepherded by him.

      You’re a good man, TH2. Your posts are some of the most exhaustive, well-researched ones in the Catholic blogosphere (you need to do more Mr Scampers!) and I learn quite a bit reading them. Time will tell how Pope Francis’ pontificate will play out, and I join you in praying for Mary’s intercession and protection.

      • Larry: Very good, well-reasoned response. I understand your position now that you have elaborated. It was certainly not my intention to mischaracterize, if that’s how it came across.

        I acknowledge your observations on the video (also mentioned by Roberto in his comment below). I will re-explore, checking for origins, etc.

        As for the blogger at Canterbury Tales, he may have been upset by the comments, and be of the Traditionalist mold. Though I don’t have much sympathy. I say this because, on the day of Pope Francis’ election, he a posted on “10 Facts” of His Holiness, then immediately after: “Did you know that I have a brand-new book on the Papacy and Rome…”. Distasteful, off putting, using the momentous day as a vehicle to make a few bucks. Give it a day, at least.

        As you can probably tell, I am very good at diplomacy.

    • I must reply to the issue of the Mass video, as Larry seems tentative about it. Regardless of validity of the other points being made, it is obvious that the video is edited, unless the Cardinal could teletransport instantly both himself, from behind to in front of the altar at the end of the reading, and the dancers, in and out of the tennis court where the Mass was celebrated during his homily.
      If this is the evidence on which criticisms of Pope Francis stand, they are as childish as the puppets used to bring the Gospel message to the children (ninos) who were attending. What the video shows is a Bishop who relates to children, who gets them excited and teaches them the true faith (Jesus is the only one who can change hearts). May He heal the hearts of those whose faith at times seems so weak as to doubt Peter’s successor on the basis of calumnies.

  11. As one who breaks out in hives during praise and worship, never felt a close connection with St. Francis of Assisi, loves chant, loves Burke, loves the writings of the early and medieval Church, and has a nasty strain of Jesuitophobia, I fully and honestly admit that I was disappointed when the name was read.

    I’m sad that I feel this way, but I’m human and I cannot help emotions. My actions? I put on a brave face, prayed, and kept my complaints to myself and to a few close confreres.

    I admit that I have a fragile faith. I am a cradle Catholic who wandered off for over a decade into atheism and relativism. I was drawn back by the truth I encountered, not by the personal relationship with Christ thing. That relationship is developing, but its going to be a while. When Benedict would write and speak, it bolstered my faith, just as when I would read Augustine, Aquinas, and even Newman from a much later period. But yesterday, I just felt like I was punched in the gut…like in February as well.

    I probably could not have made it in the era of horrible popes. God has me here and now because I am weak. I hope Francis is good for the Church, and selfishly, I hope he is good for me. Without the Church – if my faith should fail – I have nothing else to live for anymore.

    Pray for me, please.

      • I do appreciate it, Larry. I’m in your diocese.

        Maybe its just me. I can’t get into the whole “St. Catherine of Sienna Institute” or evangelical “personal relationship” thing. It just reminds me of the ficus plants and polka masses of my youth, with the groovy ex-nun on guitar singing us black spirituals. It just seemed so stupid. Like they were pandering to us as if we were the lowest common denominator. I grew to hate it, in time, and I have trouble letting that go. When something feels like that – like a return to that era – I’m shaken again, because I know what happened to me last time and how far away I went.

        Thanks again. I need to pray more. It is difficult right now.

    • Bruce,

      I will pray for you too. Like you, I spent years as an atheist. I am also a Catholic “convert/revert” who fell away from the Church, partially due to poor RCIA formation. I returned to the Church after discovering the faith of the early Christians (i.e. Catholicism), both from serious study of Sacred Scripture and from reading the early Church Fathers. As Blessed John Henry Newman wrote, “If Christianity is historical, Catholicism is Christianity.” I’m thankful to be back in the Church and reconnected to 2,000 years of Catholic faith and practice.

      With all of that said, the Catholic Church does teach, and has always taught, the vital important of having a personal relationship with Christ through faith in Him. This concept of a personal relationship with Christ is not only an “evangelical Protestant” one. The Catechism teaches about the importance of such a relationship in its section on prayer (and all throughout the Catechism, if one reads it carefully). Prior to Vatican II, the Church may have described having a personal relationship with Christ in *different terms*, in some cases, but the concept has always been there. The early Church Fathers definitely had that strongly Christ-centered emphasis.

      Similarly, it is wrongly believed, by too many Catholics today that “Vatican II changed everything” in the Church. For some very mistaken priests and nuns, that does seem to be their *misunderstanding* of Vatican II– that it was a massive rupture with Tradition, rather than a continuity of it–, but I have to wonder how much these priests and nuns have actually *read* of the *documents* of Vatican II. Those documents, themselves, certainly do not allow for the post-Vatican II abuses, poor catechesis, and liturgical fads that the Church has suffered from in the last fifty years. Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI actually helped to *write* some of the documents of Vatican II. Unfortunately, in the decades following the Council, it certainly seems that many clergy followed a very distorted understanding of Vatican II that was not in keeping with the documents of the Council. The last two Popes did much to try to call the Church to a more accurate, traditional understanding of Vatican II. In particular, I was very, very thankful for Pope Benedict XVI.

      At the same time, I am very, very hopeful, and even excited, for Pope Francis. He is a man of strong faith and deep humility. He has called out lukewarmness in the Church in many ways, He may not have the exact same kind of liturgical mind that Benedict XVI has, but that doesn’t mean that he (Francis) is opposed to the Latin Mass. Not living in Argentina, it is hard for us to know the reasons that the Latin Mass is not more widely celebrated there. It could be due to lack of demand among most Catholics. Argentina has deeply serious problems of poverty and political strife, and it is quite possible that many lay Catholics there are so busy just trying to survive that they haven’t had the chance to educate themselves about the Latin Mass. In any event, reading the first homily of our new Pope, I am encouraged about his being elected. I hope and pray that you will find it encouraging too. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/deaconsbench/2013/03/the-first-homily-of-pope-francis/

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