Tag: Pope Francis

Pope Francis on the Middle East Conflicts – Children “Who Cannot Smile Anymore.”

The Boston Globe’s Inés San Martín has a summary piece of Pope Francis’ involvement in the various Middle East conflicts. She quotes Pope Francis: “I think especially about the kids,…

The Boston Globe’s Inés San Martín has a summary piece of Pope Francis’ involvement in the various Middle East conflicts. She quotes Pope Francis:

“I think especially about the kids, who have been robbed of a hope for a better life, a future: kids being killed, wounded, mutilated and orphaned. Kids who as toys have the debris of war, who cannot smile anymore.”

Reminds me of my brother’s description of the average 5-year-old he would see in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2008. He said that you wouldn’t recognize it as a child’s face because of all the suffering the child had endured. The faces reminded him of a 40-year-old who’s had a really, really tough life. Only for these children that intense suffering has been crammed into a short five years, half of which probably wasn’t able to be remembered. But that suffering has left it’s mark.

We need to get back to that space in June when he and Presidents of Israel and Palestine gathered to pray for peace, not physically. But spiritually.

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Olive tree from the Pope’s prayer gathering with the President’s of Israel and Palestine. I took this picture in mid June while at the Vatican for a conference.

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Understanding Pope Francis, From A Jesuit Perspective

With all that’s been written about understanding Pope Francis, fellow Patheos blogger and newly ordained Fr. Sam Sawyer, SJ, may have one of the best responses I’ve seen so far….

With all that’s been written about understanding Pope Francis, fellow Patheos blogger and newly ordained Fr. Sam Sawyer, SJ, may have one of the best responses I’ve seen so far.

He starts with St. Ignatius, whose feast day we celebrate today:

“There are very few people who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves entirely into his hands, and let themselves be formed by his grace.”

Fr. Sawyer goes on to lay out a pretty convincing argument as to how Pope Francis has worked this into his ministry and he addresses head on one of the most controversial quotes from Francis:

Perhaps you hear an echo of this approach in Francis’s first and most famous off-the-cuff remark: “A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will — well, who am I to judge him?” This is not dangerous moral relativism; this is not even lazy moral equivalence. This is profound confidence that God is at work with people who are seeking him. It’s the insight of the 15th annotation, applied to the present situation of the Church and the world.

 
The reason Francis is so “uncareful” in interviews… might not be some grand master plan; it might not involve a prediction of how this will all turn out. Francis’s hope — and I’ve said this before — is to get us to pay attention to God and to seek him out. Beyond that is God’s business. That doesn’t mean that anything goes; it doesn’t mean that the teachings of the Church get tossed out the window and truth becomes subjective.

Back in March, I wrote about a related facet of this, taking my cue from one of John Allen’s talks at Religious Ed Congress.

Allen noted that this is a “missionary moment” with the whole world looking at the Catholic Church. The question is, what do we want the world to see?

Here are his suggestions [and my comments]:

  1. Stop using the Pope as club to beat up on other members of the Church. Give it up for Lent.
  2. Despite the age of social media, we don’t have to have an opinion on something the Pope says or does minutes after it happens. Give it up for Lent. Instead, sit with it, meditate on it, pray with it. Try it for Lent.

The whole world is looking at the Church. We need to be a Church that the rest of the world wants to be part of, not a Church that they just want to watch for entertainment or scandal. Almost every lapsed Catholic (or other person who’s decided not to become a Catholic) can point to an experience where they saw, even encountered, a Catholic behaving badly.

As much as Pope Francis’ mode of communication might trouble some people, I think Fr. Sawyer’s perspective, based on Ignatian spirituality, helps to close the loop on this.

Look, either we believe that Pope Francis was elected by the cardinals under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Or we don’t.

Either we believe that teaching – as he sees fit, not as we see fit – is a part of his divine office. Or we don’t.

As Fr. Sawyer notes, the Pope has

[A] radical confidence that God is at work among his people, and that God’s master plan, even when we don’t understand it, is far better than anything we would come up with on our own.

I for one, despite all my various opinions, find that Fr. Sawyer’s perspective really does make sense. And there’s just no way that most of us who are very removed from the Pope are even in a position to begin to understand, much less criticize his communications. At least, that’s my opinion.

And, you know what? The confusion that ensues may indicate that we all need to do a better job of informing and forming ourselves. If something doesn’t make sense to us, why do we quickly assume that we’re right and the Pope is wrong? I just don’t get it. Even after careful consideration, if we are still struggling, I think we have to step back and assume that radical confidence in God that Francis demonstrates.

Happy feast!

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Is Francis a Liberal or a Conservative?

Ideologues of all kinds have been trying to figure out Pope Francis for over a year now. Many, if not most, are still trying to fit him into their own…

Ideologues of all kinds have been trying to figure out Pope Francis for over a year now. Many, if not most, are still trying to fit him into their own boxes. But try as they might, he can’t be stuffed into a box.

Archbishop Chaput gave a recent talk for the Napa Institute in which he explains quite clearly how Pope Francis is simply Catholic. He’s not a liberal. He’s not a conservative. And if you consider him only through the lens of one of these categories (which are not two, but a vast multitude, depending on a variety of social and cultural factors), you won’t understand him.

In order to understand Pope Francis, it helps to first understand the saint whose name he took. Contrary to some popular beliefs, St. Francis was not a 13th century hippie. Archbishop Chaput begins his talk with this clarification:

I’m a Capuchin Franciscan, and I’ve often found that people think of Francis of Assisi as a kind of 13th-century flower child. St. Francis was certainly “countercultural,” but only in his radical obedience to the Church and his radical insistence on living the Gospel fully — including poverty and all of its other uncomfortable demands. Jesus, speaking to him from the cross of San Damiano, said, “Repair my house.”  I think Pope Francis believes God has called him to do that as pope, as God calls every pope.  And he plans to do it in the way St. Francis did it.

Pope Francis took the name of the saint of Christian simplicity and poverty. As he has said, he wants “a Church that is poor and for the poor.” In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, he grounded this goal in Jesus Christ, “who became poor and was always close to the poor and the outcast” (186). That’s a very Franciscan idea.

Just to clarify, the Church may in fact handle large sums of money. But it’s not for the purpose of growing her coffers. It pours the money into services for people of all backgrounds and situations. It’s sort of a pouring out of the Church herself.
The Archbishop notes:

What concretely does Francis believe about economic justice? He has never offered his systematic thoughts about it or the policies that promote it.  And, frankly, we can sense some ambiguity in his thinking. When he calls for a better distribution of wealth among social classes, he doesn’t say how this should be done and what a proper distribution would look like or who will decide who gets what. But he’d probably say that he’s giving us the principles of a rightly ordered social and economic life as the Catholic Church understands them, and that the Church gives to laypeople, and especially those called to public service, the job of best applying those principles in each nation. [Emphasis mine.]

Did you read that carefully? It’s not the job of Church leadership to come up with economic policies. That’s the role of the laity. Because of our various roles in the world, we are better suited to that work.

It’s one thing if we as individual lay Catholics subscribe to specific political, social, and economic theories. In fact, we probably should have some ideas about our beliefs in these areas. But simply because we as individuals happen to believe in something doesn’t mean that it is necessarily Catholic or that it fits with the Pope’s thinking. He may have even left it us, as Catholic lay people to come up with the answers.

To that end, I refer you to my fellow blogger Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry’s interesting post on whether Catholic social doctrine is a set of guidelines.

And do be sure to read the entirety of Archbishop Chaput’s talk as I haven’t come close to doing it justice in this short post.

 

 

 

 

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How the Pope’s Invocation for Peace Relates to “Evangelii Gaudium” and to Crises Everywhere.

Pope Francis’ recent Invocation for Peace with Presidents Peres and Abbas, respectively of Israel and Palestine surprised the world. First, that he extended the invitation and, second, that they readily…

Pope Francis’ recent Invocation for Peace with Presidents Peres and Abbas, respectively of Israel and Palestine surprised the world. First, that he extended the invitation and, second, that they readily accepted the invitation. (You can watch the video of the service here.)

As others have noted, the Vatican  came up with a theologically acceptable way for people of different faiths to come together and pray. Namely, they come together and they each say their own prayers. No one pretends that the faiths are equal or the same. There’s no watered down prayer for all to join. Each prays in the richness and tradition of one’s faith.

Which means that in order for something like this to be effective, participants have to be willing to listen.

Hmmm…sounds like Evangelii Gaudium, n. 171. I offer the text here  interspersed with brief commentary. [Emphasis mine.]

Today more than ever we need men and women who, on the basis of their experience of accompanying others, are familiar with processes which call for prudence, understanding, patience and docility to the Spirit, so that they can protect the sheep from wolves who would scatter the flock.

In other words, the flock will not be kept together or increased simply by hitting people over the head, even if one is using the truth as the club to do so. The good shepherd, recall, is so concerned that he does allow even one of his flock to be lost. He goes searching for the sheep even if it may not be searching for him.

We need to practice the art of listening, which is more than simply hearing. Listening, in communication, is an openness of heart which makes possible that closeness without which genuine spiritual encounter cannot occur.

I think this is huge. When we hear people, we generally react. “I hear what you’re saying, but…you really are wrong.” When we listen to people, there’s more of an encounter with the person, sort of an empathizing: “I see where you’re coming from….Have you thought of…?” We may not agree with where someone is at, but we go there with them. Jesus modeled this for us throughout the Gospels. My favorite example might be the woman at the well. (John 4, 4-28) He listens to her, understands perfectly her situation, and he also reveals something to her which may not be recorded anywhere else in the Gospel: that he is the Messiah (vv. 24-25).

Listening helps us to find the right gesture and word which shows that we are more than simply bystanders.

As Jesus did in John 4.

Only through such respectful and compassionate listening can we enter on the paths of true growth and awaken a yearning for the Christian ideal: the desire to respond fully to God’s love and to bring to fruition what he has sown in our lives.

The woman goes back to the town and “[m]any of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman.” (v. 39).

But this always demands the patience of one who knows full well what Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us: that anyone can have grace and charity, and yet falter in the exercise of the virtues because of persistent “contrary inclinations”.

So, bringing it back to modern day when we have the Pope sitting with the Presidents of two of the most high conflict nations in the world, when many crimes are committed in the name of religion, these men all modeled good religious behavior. Listening to the tradition of each other. Simply allowing those traditions to exist and not tearing them apart or critiquing them. Maybe even entering into the experience of each, really listening.

In other words, the organic unity of the virtues always and necessarily exists in habitu, even though forms of conditioning can hinder the operations of those virtuous habits.

This type of listening doesn’t happen on its own. We have to work at it.  We have to see it modeled. We have to model it. It has to be something that we practice in every aspect of our lives, not something that we do only in front of the cameras or on special occasions: everywhere and always.

Hence the need for “a pedagogy which will introduce people step by step to the full appropriation of the mystery”.

The Invocation for Peace was a step in developing that pedagogy. Sure, we’re going to need a whole lot more to develop it, but it was a very public witness of how to listen even when we don’t agree on very deeply held beliefs.

Reaching a level of maturity where individuals can make truly free and responsible decisions calls for much time and patience. As Blessed Peter Faber used to say: “Time is God’s messenger”.

And now’s the time for joining in prayer, particularly for those suffering in Mosul, about which I wrote yesterday.

Fr. Najeeb, the Domincan priest in Mosul whose email I cited yesterday commented a while ago:

“We are not protected by anyone, just the prayers . . . we need your prayers . . . I believe in the power of prayers . . . they can change the mind of persons . . . I ask in the name of all Christians in Iraq . . . to pray for us.”

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2 Essential Resolutions For Lent

Ok, at this point in Lent, our resolutions are not unlike our New Year’s resolutions. We start out with good intentions and, well, you know the rest. Sometimes the ashes…

Ok, at this point in Lent, our resolutions are not unlike our New Year’s resolutions.

We start out with good intentions and, well, you know the rest. Sometimes the ashes on our foreheads last longer…Nevertheless, I’m offering two that each one of us can embrace and which will serve the Church and the world.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This past weekend, I attended the LA Religious Ed Congress. I know, many of you thought people like me should either not attend the REC or would not survive the REC. Here’s my advice: attend the REC next year.

Did I agree with all of the content offered? Nope. But people are allowed to have different opinions, even in the Catholic Church.

Nevertheless, there was a lot of really good content. And the exhibit hall is a must for anyone involved in anything Catholic.

But the strongest take away came from a place that I wasn’t expecting: John Allen’s talk, “The Francis Revolution: The Papacy at the One-Year Mark.” Don’t get me wrong, I admire John Allen’s expertise immensely. In fact, that’s why I went to the talk. I was looking for his analysis of the Francis papacy. He gave that. Superbly. But his analysis provided the basis for two Lenten resolutions that we can all take to heart. [Full disclosure – I know John and really appreciate his description of me in his book Opus Dei, which was something like, “an intelligent, sometimes brash, young woman.”]

Allen is a fan of Francis, as he was a fan of Benedict. And he will strongly dispute the Francis good, Benedict bad narrative. He gave some vignettes to demonstrate the Francis effect. Simply put, the world is taken with Francis. Consider his effect in the US alone. Allen cited a recent CNN poll that puts Francis’ approval ratings at 88%. Almost 90% of Catholics in the US agree upon something. That in itself, as Allen noted is huge. When was the last time 90% of Catholics in the US agreed on anything?

Allen went on to lay out why he calls Pope Francis the Pope of Mercy. Francis lives mercy, preaches mercy, communicates mercy, and – not for nothin’ – has emphasized the sacrament of mercy, namely confession/reconciliation. [An audio recording of Allen’s complete talk can be ordered here. You may have to wait a few days/weeks for them to be posted online. The talk was Workshop 7-01.]

So what to do with this “missionary moment”? Here are his suggestions:

  1. Stop using the Pope as club to beat up on other members of the Church. Give it up for Lent.
  2. Despite the age of social media, we don’t have to have an opinion on something the Pope says or does minutes after it happens. Give it up for Lent. Instead, sit with it, meditate on it, pray with it. Try it for Lent.

The whole world is looking at the Church. We need to be a Church that the rest of the world wants to be part of, not a Church that they just want to watch for entertainment or scandal. Almost every lapsed Catholic (or other person who’s decided not to become a Catholic) can point to an experience where they saw, even encountered, a Catholic behaving badly.

In the words of Bob Newhart, “Just stop it.”

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White Smoke!, Women & the Church, Shoe Leather Evangelization, and Pope Francis’ Pontificate

This post is going to be a bit rambling as I want to mention several different things. But most importantly, happy anniversary to Pope Francis on the first anniversary of his…

This post is going to be a bit rambling as I want to mention several different things.

But most importantly, happy anniversary to Pope Francis on the first anniversary of his pontificate. I was out for a walk, convinced that I didn’t need to be glued to the television because it would be quite some time before the cardinals reached a consensus. (Shows you how dialed into the Holy Spirit I was/am…) I was on the phone talking to Teresa Tomeo and suddenly she kept repeating, “White smoke! White smoke!” Well, my walk turned into a run at that point. I made it home in time to see some of that smoke myself.

My initial inclination was that this would be the Pope of shoe leather evangelization. John Paul II reminded the world that the Church was still here and as relevant as ever. Benedict XVI made clear that Church teaching was the same as always. He was also one of the great reformers, even if he received few accolades for his effort. Francis is building on his predecessors and making our faith as alive as possible, encouraging us to live it. He doesn’t focus on “issues” that Catholics of various stripes would prefer. He encourages us to meet Christ in the person before us, whomever God has put in front of us, whether it’s a hungry person, someone in prison, a woman in a crisis pregnancy, a friend, or a family member. The point is to see this person’s humanity, their need, and in so doing to see Christ. Joan Desmond at National Catholic Register did me a lovely courtesy by picking up on this theme of shoe leather evangelization for her current post.

I also have a piece at Patheos’ “Public Square” on the role of women in the Church. I think we have to listen carefully to what Pope Francis has been saying. Yes, he’s said that women need a greater role in the Church; but we can’t limit our thoughts on women as to what offices they might hold in the local chancellory (where they already tend to have a significant presence) or try to fit them into clerical boxes. My thoughts here. As always, non-troll feedback is welcome and enjoyed!

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Why We’re Praying & Fasting Today

Because these people need help and it’s not clear that a military intervention will help them.   In fact, it’s pretty well understood that the most vulnerable segments of society…

Because these people need help and it’s not clear that a military intervention will help them.

Photo from the Pontifical Council for the Family's appeal in support of Pope Francis' call for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria.

 

In fact, it’s pretty well understood that the most vulnerable segments of society and the minority communities (e.g. Christians) will suffer the most.

John Allen, an expert Vatican journalist has an excellent piece comparing the similarities in the Pope’s/Vatican’s approach to Iraq and Syria. He makes the very important point that despite John Paul II’s call for peace in Iraq, he never called the war in Iraq illegitimate (or unjust).

In his Angelus Address last Sunday (rough Vatican English translation here), Pope Francis enunciated the evils of war. As world leaders consider any type of military attack on Syria, it is absolutely fundamental that they realistically consider the reality of the effects of war, particularly on the innocent and the weak. Part of the criteria for the just war theory is that every other means of stopping the aggressor “must be shown to be impractical or ineffective” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2309). Leaders and citizens around the world have yet to be convinced.

Consider the response from a Senator of President Obama’s same Democrat party. James Taranto in his “Best of the Web” column on Thursday, picked up on it following the Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote (10-7) on Wednesday to approve the President’s request for authorization to use military force in Syria:

The committee vote shows that both parties are divided. As the Washington Post notes, two of the panel’s 10 Democrats, Connecticut’s Chris Murphy and New Mexico’s Tom Udall, voted “no.” Three Republicans voted “yes.” The Senate’s most junior member, Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey (elected in June to fill the John Kerry vacancy), voted “present,” although his comments suggest he was leaning toward “no” owing to “my worry about a greater involvement in Syria.”

One is tempted to mock Markey for that old Obama gambit–“he vowed to make a decision by next week,” the Globe reports–yet one resists the temptation when one reads his rationale: “Asked why he didn’t just oppose the authorization, as did some of his colleagues who had similar concerns, he said, ‘A “no” vote would have indicated I had sufficient information on which to base the decision. Which I did not.’ “ Given the way this administration bullied through ObamaCare and other domestic legislation, it is easy to believe that concern is well-founded. [Emphasis mine.]

I’ll take Sen. Markey’s comments and vote as a suggestion that the Pope is not off-base in calling for prayer and fasting.

There’s a reason why we have the saying, “Pray like it all depends on God; work like it all depends on you.” Part of the role of prayer is that it can lead the mind to greater understanding and clarity. Since the world doesn’t see yet a clear and better solution, the Pope’s suggestion might actually lead to some successful options. Fasting is a means of detachment and a way of offering sacrifice for one’s own sins, for reconciliation, or for the good of others. It “expresses a conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others” (Catechism, 1434). That’s what we’re looking for: conversion. And part of conversion is to better understand the will of God. We know that his will is peace; we just don’t know yet which forms of justice we need to arrive at that peace.

Representative Chris Smith has come up with an interesting alternative to a military strike: set up a Syrian war crimes tribunal:

It [A war crimes tribunal] shows the power of what happens when everyone’s watching and you know you will be held accountable. Before Bashir got indicted, he was a free agent. Even people like Charles Taylor [who was indicted of war crimes by the Sierra Leone tribunal] understood this when he fled to Nigeria, then the Nigerians coughed him up, and now he’s convicted. People get genuinely concerned when they’re isolated and know that we’re going to be relentless until they’re behind bars.

Not a bad idea. I’ll leave it to the relevant experts to examine it. But it points to the very reality that there are other options to consider before military aggression.

Another consideration was put forth in an explosive article by Oriana Fallaci in 2003, just as the U.S. was preparing to invade Iraq. Versions of the article were published in The Sunday Times and The Wall Street Journal. Fallaci, also an expert journalist, though not a Vaticanista by any means (she was a professed atheist), argued that in order for an invasion to work, the culture on the ground had to be primed for regime change. As a member of the Italian resistance when the Allies invaded Italy, she lived the experience of wanting and fighting for freedom and democracy. The resistance was the Italians who were the boots on the ground before the Allies arrived.

There was no significant resistance to Saddam Hussein waiting to meet troops as they went into Iraq.

 

A generation of young people had grown up without much education and people with means had fled the country. That does not leave a society ready for democracy. Sure, there were plenty of grateful people, like these school children with my brother in Iraq. But many factors, including the embargo (which was not supported by the Vatican because, again, the least among them would suffer the most) left a society that was not prepared.

Fallaci explained:

To redesign it and to spread a Pax Romana, pardon, a Pax Americana, where freedom and democracy reign; where nobody bothers us any longer with attacks and massacres. Where everybody can prosper and live happily as in the fairy tales — nonsense. Freedom is not a gift, like a piece of chocolate, and democracy cannot be imposed with armies.

Yes, I know it’s odd that I’m quoting a woman who at the same time targeted John Paul II with her screed. But part of good prudential reasoning when deciding whether to use military force includes a consideration of a variety of opinions and, perhaps most importantly, history.

In his Angelus Address, Francis forcefully stated, “War never again! Never again war!” John Paul II said the same about Iraq. He was quoting Paul VI. Maybe one way to understand these exhortations would be to see them as a goal, not unlike Jesus telling people to “go and sin no more,” even though they most likely did and we certainly do.

The decisions we make now will pave the way for the future. If we are striving for a world without war, then we must act justly. At this point, justice demands that we ascertain whether all other means have been exhausted, success is a strong possibility, and that the evils caused by the use of arms are not greater than the evil to be eliminated. As long as those questions are open and debatable, we need serious prayer so that we and our leaders can approach things with clear minds and honest hearts.

Pope Francis will lead the prayer vigil today in Rome from 7p.m. to 11p.m. local time (Eastern Time 1p.m. to 5 p.m.) You can follow along in the Italian/Latin booklet. You can watch live. Wherever you are, whatever your faith, do take a moment to lift your mind and heart to God for peace in Syria and throughout the world. I’m certain we can all think of situations requiring the blessing of peace.

 

 

 

 

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“But I’m the Pope. Sit down.”

An Italian soccer news site has a sweet story about Pope Francis who apparently gets up very early without an alarm. Loose translation of the story: Recently, when he left…

An Italian soccer news site has a sweet story about Pope Francis who apparently gets up very early without an alarm.

Future papal guard. Currently eats jam and bread.

Loose translation of the story:

Recently, when he left his apartment at Domus Marta and went out into the hall, the Pope found a Swiss Guard standing at attention outside his door.

He asked him, “And what are you doing here? Were you awake all night?

“Yes,” the guard answered respectfully.

“Standing?”

“One of my colleagues gave me a break.”

“And you’re not tired?”

“It’s my duty Your Holiness, for Your safety.”

The Pope looked at him with kindness. He went back into his apartment and, after a few minutes, returned with a chair in his hand: “At least sit down and rest.”

Shocked, the Swiss Guard replied, “Forgive me, but I can’t! The rules don’t allow it.”

“The rules?”

“My captain, Your Holiness.”

“Oh, is that so? Well, I’m the Pope and I am asking you to sit down.”

So, between the rules and the Pope, the Swiss Guard, complete with his halberd, chose the chair. And then the Pope brought him some bread and jam for a snack, saying, “Buon appetito, brother.”

Happy Saturday!

 

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