Pope Francis Speaks...Again!

Catholic news junkies were abuzz yesterday morning when the Italian newspaper la Republica published an interview between Pope Francis and Eugenio Scalfari. Following less than two weeks after the interview published in America.

There are two quotes I find particularly interesting/moving.
The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don't even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: can you live crushed under the weight of the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.

One detects, immediately, the Pope's empathy within this observation. Last night, as we began our RCIA program at St Cecilia's (you're welcome to join us at 6:30 on Tuesday nights!), we had the opportunity to share a bit of our present journeys in coming to know the Lord. Again and again, I was struck by wonderfully talented women and men who would say things such along the line of, "I just knew there was something more" or, "I felt such gratitude in my life that I wanted to respond." For them, they have glimpsed on the horizon of their lives the light of hope and have begun walking toward it. 

Although they are not the minority of young people, I fear they are far from the majority. How many of our young feel like cogs in the wheel, little disposable bits of a much bigger corporate machine. They go to college in order to get "jobs," not to discover their passions and find their lives' vocation. Matters of consequence grind them down into a fine dust. Their former dreams and aspirations pulverized, they "settle" and grow "content" as they are bricked into some business structure. 

A second, and particularly quotable/Tweet-able line: 
You know what I think about this? Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy.
Anti-institutional Westerners picked up on this immediately. Put into context, however, he's not claiming the Roman Curia or the whole structure to be afflicted with leprosy. Instead, it must be read in the wider context of decrying clericalism and narcissism. 

Even in the Church, the ethos of "I am what I do...and that makes me important" has crept. A sort of professional arrogance, an idea of privilege and "being special," marks some persons in all professions (it's no only bishops: think of some surgeons, lawyers, athletes, and corporate workers!). The key to understanding Francis on this point arises in his decrying the "Vatican-centric" defect: the Church must not focus its energies inward but, rather, "go back to being a community of God's people, and priests, pastors and bishops who have the care of souls, are at the service of the people of God." 

***

I don't know about anyone else but, for as much as I love the Holy Father, I'm sort of Pope-d out right now. I have enough reading for my five graduate courses to do that his lengthy and interesting interviews are really cutting into my own research schedule! 

Seriously, though, I do have a bit of worry. I can imagine some segments of the Church setting their faces against him. I remarked to a friend yesterday morning, after reading the latest interview, "Sniff. Sniff. Do you smell the odor of singed lace hanging in the air?" I can imagine these interviews being somewhat traumatic for Catholics whose main faith-focus places a particularly high value on the beauty and pageantry of the liturgy. 

An old friend - a young diocesan priest - found yesterday's interview overwhelming. "Ryan," he texted, "it doesn't seem like the Church I joined!" It may have been more emotional than factual, but I am sympathetic. I'd love it if the Pope would continue living the Gospel in his powerful way but would give us a break from the interviews: we need time to digest, and process, and pray. 

Indeed, we need the space to pray. I firmly believe the work of the Spirit is being seen in Francis and I'm overjoyed at the excitement he has wrought. Yet, in the frenzy of the words and gestures, it is easy to lose focus and forget to pray. 

My plea to the Holy Father: give us a few moments, all of us, to have some Catholic quiet, some time to pray. As much as I love the spectacle and find myself greatly excited, I know I need to pray to keep myself in touch with the Risen One who is at the center of my life and faith. Truth be told, the Holy Father is helping to make my Christian faith richer and more exciting, no one can ever take the place of the One in whose name we pray: Jesus Christ. 

After all the excitement of recent weeks and months, I need a bit of quiet to take it all in, to discern, and above all, to pray. 





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