Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pope Francis

So, big surprise out of the conclave there, hm?  Though I would have been surprised no matter what.  I deliberately didn't research the papabile because I know how it goes.  Whoever is considered a likely choice ends up not being it, and relatively often it's someone no one has heard of.

Here are some random thoughts on the conclave and our new Pope, in no particular order.

We watched the white smoke livestreaming online.  Or rather, I watched while the kids whined and grabbed at me and destroyed the house.  Sigh.  And then the computer crashed and I spent five minutes restarting and freaking out that the announcement would come while I was struggling to get back to the website!  But no worries.  We had a long wait.

When the cardinal came out to make the announcement, my thoughts went like this: "Man, he looks dour.  Either his pick didn't win, or he is cross about something else.  George?  Who's named George?  Surely an English speaker then?  Wait, that's an Italian last name.  B-something.  Not Bertone?!  If it's Bertone I think I am going to have to give up on the idea that the Holy Spirit chooses the Pope, because the God I know would know better than to pick Bertone.  But no, his first name's Tarcisio, not George.  He chooses the name Francis?!  That's a good sign for sure!  Finally these announcers are telling us who it is ... and it's no one I've ever heard of.  Okay, research time."

I think it's awesome that by the time I got to Wikipedia it had already been edited.  "Jorge Bergoglio" redirected to "Pope Francis I" and then five minutes later to just "Pope Francis."  (Pope Francis I is incorrect because there's no Francis II.  That's like going by Joe Sr. if you don't have a son named Joe Jr.)

Pope Francis is the first New World pope, the first Jesuit pope, the first pope to choose the name Francis.  He's from Argentina, 76 years old (right when people were expecting a younger pope), the son of a railway worker.  Before entering seminary, he studied chemistry, and when out of favor with the leaders of the Jesuits, he worked as a high school science teacher.  He's known for being quiet and a bit shy.

I am really excited about him for so many reasons.  First of all his personal asceticism.  He's famous for leaving the official bishop's residence empty and living in a small apartment and cooking his own meals.  He used to take the bus instead of a limo or taxi.  There are photos of him all over washing the feet of various people, including AIDS patients.  In a time when we keep getting grief for the Pope's supposed wealth, I'm very excited to see someone who might cut down on all the pomp and circumstance.  I don't believe it does any good.

He wasn't even Pope for a day before I saw him criticized on Facebook for not wearing a red cape and a gold pectoral cross when he appeared for the first time.  Seriously?  And now I'm in a debate with some people on Facebook over whether all those trappings (tiaras, red shoes, sedan chairs, ad infinitum) really do anyone any good, or if we'd be better off without them.  I take the latter position.  Did you know the Popes used to wear a triple crown and ride around on a giant sedan chair?  I say, good riddance.  It looks ridiculous and it gives entirely the wrong idea of what the Pope is all about.  "Servant of the Servants of God" is the pope's oldest title ... and I am pretty sure St. Peter didn't ride through the streets of Rome on a sedan chair on the way to getting crucified upside-down.

Simcha Fisher did a great article about Pope Francis.  "Pope Francis, future patron saint of the socially awkward.  Oh, how we've needed you!"  That was how I found out he went home from St. Peter's on the cardinal's bus and went out the next morning to pray at St. Mary Major ... and pick up his luggage and pay his hotel bill.  I can just imagine those cardinals tagging along: "But Holy Father, you can't -- Holy Father, you don't have to -- Holy Father, let me carry -- oh, for heaven's sake!"  That makes me smile.

So did First Things.  "Cardinal Bergolio is an interesting figure and hard to place within the favored framework of “conservatives versus liberals.” That is in any case an ill-conceived opposition since it imports political or cultural categories into a religious context where they really do not fit. It also is especially ill-suited to Bergoglio, for seen from one perspective he appears to conform to the “progressive” profile, being a strong advocate of economic justice and compassion for the poor; but viewed from another he appears a stout defender of traditional Catholic teachings on sexual ethics and beginning- and end-of-life issues."

In other words, he is really Catholic, not left Catholic (super Catholic when it comes to caring for the poor, not so much into that doctrine stuff) or right Catholic (crazy about doctrine and liturgy, but thinks saying "get a job" is the same as caring for the poor).  He's Catholic like me.  And I like that.

7 comments:

FrB said...

Cardinal Tauran who made the announcement suffers from Parkinson's disease, which explains the 'grimace' on his face. I'm sure he's thrilled with our new Pope! :)

Sheila said...

Oh, good to know! Thanks.

Allison said...

I feel the same way right now, a Catholic I can relate to! Not just one side or the other, because I don't believe either left or right is correct.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

I confess that I missed the red cape. =( Issues of necessity to the Church aside, seeing that he had decided not to wear it saddened me very much. And I finally understood--or so I fancied--the dismay a lot of Catholics felt at the election of Pope Benedict XVI . . . as well as why a friend of mine says that one of his greatest sources of spiritual anguish is not understanding why the Holy Spirit picked John Paul II. Sometimes the Pope just isn't "your guy," and that's hard to deal with.

A couple of years ago, I told a friend who was wavering in faith, because of some scandals involving local priests, that even if every priest in the Catholic Church were a paedophile, I'd still remain Catholic. Tough words from someone who had never actually been tried--and in hindsight, very easy to say during Pope Benedict's papacy. I'm shocked at how much more I've been shaken by the election of Pope Francis than by any of the sex scandals.

Anonymous said...

That picture at Simcha's blog is so beautiful, it looks rather like a Norman Rockwell painting. (I mean the one of him washing the mother's feet.

Sheila said...

Enbrethiliel, I'm surprised that you say that actually. I came on here to post an angry retort to all the people who are criticizing Pope Francis ... but now I'm seeing it's not just a few crazies, a lot of people really do find it hard. So I don't think I'll write it after all.

One thing that may be helpful to remember is that nothing he did before Wednesday is even remotely relevant. He wasn't Pope then. He didn't have that special help from the Holy Spirit to guide the Church. *Most,* but not all, of his history I approve of. But none of it is necessarily a predictor of what he'll do next.

For my part, though, I haven't felt so reassured in my faith in a long time. I've been sickened by a lack of real holiness in church leadership ... a lack of poverty, humility, simplicity. Of course there are lots of holy people still if you look. But I was terrified it would be one of the cardinals I disliked, or worse yet, one of those who are known to have covered up abuse. And when I saw this humble, holy man ... I just don't care what he's wearing. I care about his heart ... which really seems to be in the right place. He seems to be "keeping it real."

I think it's perfectly fair to have a favorite, and a less-than-favorite. Only his teaching on faith and morals is infallible, after all, and the rest is open to debate ... and yes, criticism.

That having been said, I for one am full of hope that the next few years (I can't hope for a decade, but you never do know) will be a time of purification for the Church. Maybe after that we can get someone you like better. ;)

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Well, I'm starting "to get over it," as the saying goes. It helps that joy is infectious, especially when it's the joy of your friends--and that I recently started a novena to pray for Pope Francis's intentions. (I learned a long time ago that prayer can be a seed of love.)

Even when I was struggling with the news, I believed that Pope Francis was a humble and holy man--and I knew that my reaction to his election had more to do with my personal ideas about which "faction" makes the safest guardian of Church tradition. It was all very subjective, not to mention the wrong way to think. I'm trying to remind myself that it's not about "factions": the Holy Spirit is in charge of the Church and there are many mansions here.

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