More Pope Francis Goodness

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Fraternal embrace between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

See the Pope’s remarks to a gathering of religious leaders in which he refers to the Patriarch as “my Brother Andrew”. Oh so beautiful to see Peter and Andrew embracing! Shivers.

This just makes me happy:

 

Dominican sisters, joy. Tell me you didn’t tear up.

 

God Never Tires of Forgiving Us, Never

An over 80-year-old woman came up to me, humbly, very humbly. I asked her: “Nonna,” [grandmother]—because that’s how we address our elderly—“Nonna, you want to confess?” “Yes,” she told me. “But if you haven’t sinned…” And she said to me: “We have all sinned…” “But perhaps the Lord will not forgive you…” “The Lord forgives everyone,” she told me, with certainly. “But how do you know that, ma’am?” “If the Lord didn’t forgive everyone, the world would not exist.” I wanted to ask her: “Tell me, have you studied at the Gregorian [Pontifical University]?”, because that is the wisdom that the Holy Spirit gives: the inner wisdom of God’s mercy. Let us not forget this word: God never tires of forgiving us, never! ‘So, Father, what is the problem?’ Well, the problem is that we get tired, we don’t want to, we get tired of asking forgiveness. Let us never get tired. Let us never get tired. He is the loving Father who always forgives, who has that heart of mercy for all of us. [emphasis mine]

from his first Angelus on Sunday

 

Authentic Power Is Service

Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect![emphasis mine]

from his homily at the Inaugural Mass on Tuesday

 

We Must Not Be Afraid of Tenderness

Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness![emphasis mine]

from his homily at the Inaugural Mass on Tuesday

 

I’ve never been so happy in my whole life!

I just love this eyewitness report from a current UD student who was in Piazza San Pietro when the white smoke went up:

The ecstatic happiness of the crowd didn’t wane at all in the thirty minutes we waited for the new Papa.  The energy of the entire church seemed concentrated in that one tiny place. Everyone was either laughing or crying with joy, no one could stop. We were all there! We were all going to see our new papa! The emotions were limit less.

Then the lights in the rooms behind the balcony went on. Silencio! Shhh! Shhh! Oh wait, never mind, they just turned the lights on. Oh wait, wait. Never mind. Where is he? I’m so excited! I wonder what name he’ll pick. Not Benedict the 17th or Peter the 2nd, I guess. Oh, oh, oh! They’re opening the doors! Hurray! Hurray! Silencio! Shhh! Wait, what’s that he’s saying? Shhh! Who? Cardinal who? Wait, what? Okay, okay. Shhh! Silencio. Hurray! Viva il Papa! What did he say? Who is it? What’s his name? Gosh, I didn’t realize how bad my Italian was.

Wait, behind us. Wait, I heard them say Jesuit. He’s a jesuit. Okay. Bergolio? Who? I have no idea. What’s his name? Wait… Francesco! Francesco! Francesco! Francesco? Francis! He chose Francis! Francesco! Francesco! Viva il Papa! Viva! Wait, Francis the what? Goodness, there’s never been a Francis before! The first ever Francis! This is crazy! So much history in one semester! What a great time to be in Rome! Francesco! Francesco!

Oh, oh, oh! Here he comes! Hurray! Hurray! Papa! Papa! Papa Francesco! Papa Francesco! Oh, oh, oh, wait. Shhh! Silencio! Silencio! Brothers and Sisters… Uh huh, understood that. What’s he saying? What’s he saying? Hmm? Oh, Ave Maria, gratia plena… Oh, this is in Italian. Mumble mumble mumble. AMEN! What’s he saying? Oh, pray for me. Okay. Okay. Why are we all quiet? Oh! Praying for him. Right. This is the most deafening silence I’ve ever heard. Now it’s time for the blessing, but there’s not room to kneel. In nomine Patris et Filio, et Spirito Sancto. AMEN!

Well, there he goes! Goodness! We have a pope! We were here! Here! In St. Peter’s Square when it all happened! We definitely picked the right time to come! Oh my goodness, I’m so happy I could burst. I’ve never been so happy in my whole life!

 

Pope Francis on Priestly Celibacy

This conversation between then-Cardinal Bergoglio and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, appears in the book Sobre el Cielo y la Tierra (“On the Heavens and the Earth”) published in 2012 by the Sudamericana publishing company.

Pope Francis is refreshingly forthright. The description of how he dealt with priests who broke their vows of celibacy by being with women shows both compassion and decisiveness.

When I was a seminarian, I was dazzled by a girl I met at an uncle’s wedding. I was surprised by her beauty, her intellectual brilliance… and, well, I was bowled over for quite a while. I kept thinking and thinking about her. When I returned to the seminary after the wedding, I could not pray for over a week because when I tried to do so, the girl appeared in my head. I had to rethink what I was doing. I was still free because I was a seminarian, so I could have gone back home and that was it. I had to think about my choice again. I chose again – or let myself be chosen by – the religious path. It would be abnormal for this kind of thing not to happen.

 

For the moment, I am in favor of maintaining celibacy, with all its pros and cons, because we have ten centuries of good experiences rather than failures. What happens is that the scandals have an immediate impact. Tradition has weight and validity. Catholic ministers chose celibacy little by little. Up until 1100, some chose it and some did not. After, the East followed the tradition of non-celibacy as personal choice, while the West went the opposite way. It is a matter of discipline, not of faith. It can change. Personally, it never crossed my mind to marry. But there are cases. Look at the case of the Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo. He’s a brilliant guy. But as a bishop, he had a fall and resigned from the diocese. This decision was honest. Sometimes we see priests fall into this.

 

And he agrees with Pope Benedict on zero tolerance for pedophilia:

  The idea that pedophilia is a consequence of celibacy is ruled out. More than seventy percent of cases of pedophilia occur in the family and neighborhood: grandparents, uncles, stepfathers, neighbors. The problem is not linked to celibacy. If a priest is a pedophile, he is so before he is a priest.

  Now, when that happens, we must never turn a blind eye. You cannot be in a position of power and destroy the life of another person. In the diocese it never happened to me, but a bishop once called me to ask me by phone what to do in a situation like that and I told him to take away the priests’ licenses, not to allow them to exercise the priesthood any more, and to begin a canonical trial in that diocese’s court. I think that’s the attitude to have. I do not believe in taking positions that uphold a certain corporative spirit in order to avoid damaging the image of the institution. That solution was proposed once in the United States: they proposed switching the priests to a different parish. It is a stupid idea; that way, the priest just takes the problem with him wherever he goes. The corporate reaction leads to such a result, so I do not agree with those solutions. Recently, there were cases uncovered in Ireland from about twenty years ago, and the present Pope [Benedict XVI] clearly said: “Zero tolerance for that crime.” I admire the courage and uprightness of Pope Benedict on the subject.

 

The First Jesuit Pope

Amy Welborn highlights a couple of comments from Catholic Answers that discuss many of Pope Francis’s decisions—as regards to dress and liturgy—in light of the fact that he is a religious (as in a religious order, the Jesuits) as opposed to a secular priest. He isn’t sloppy or breaking with tradition but very much in keeping with the tradition of religious popes in the past. It’s just that none of us have experience of a religious pope—the last one was Gregory XVI (1831-46). He was a Benedictine monk. (Someone notes that Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II were a third order Franciscan and Carmelite respectively but they were secular priests.) Note that when he uses the word “regular” he means in the sense of the Latin regula meaning “rule”, as in the rule of life that religious live under.

Here are some excerpts from the comments of a very helpful Franciscan

There was also a strong Jesuit influence in the Holy Father’s own vestments. They followed the simple and unpretentious Jesuit style. The Jesuits have always shunned any form of extravagance in vestments for mass. This is a tradition that goes back to the 1500s.

For those who are worried about tradition, there was a lot of tradition there. It was simply tradition that is not usually seen in secular circles. Since posts during that last 150+ years have been secular Catholics, we have not been exposed to this part of Catholic tradition.

It was also important to notice that he did not use the cathedra to preach. This is also a very Jesuit custom. Jesuit bishops (the few that there are) do not use the cathedra, because it’s a royal symbol. St. Ignatius banned all forms of the regal from the Jesuit order.

Being a religious myself, I know how much it is drummed into our heads to avoid all of these things, to the point that they make us feel very uncomfortable. Think about it this way. It takes 10 years to become a solemnly professed male religious. That’s the reason that there are so few communities in solemn vows. Most make simple vows. The formation is shorter. During the 10 years, the idea of simplicity and shunning anything that makes you look like a secular priest is drummed into you to the point that you have to push yourself, when you do have to accommodate. This may take some time for him or he may never do it. We’ll just have to wait it out. The good part is that he is not being liturgically sloppy. He’s just being a religious.

We’ll be doing a lot of learning and a lot of surprises are yet to come.

and in another comment the same Franciscan:

Now, let’s go back to the first Franciscan bishop, St. Bonaventure. Bonaventure was an absentee bishop who was named a cardinal and who hung the red hat on a tree branch and refused to wear it or the choir robes. He never wore anything other than the brother’s grey habit. Later Franciscan popes also refused to wear the usual papal red. They wore the Franciscan habit or the white cassock.

The Dominican popes, Pope Benedict XI, Pope Benedict XIII, Pope Innocent V, and Pope Pius V wore the Dominican habit, not the red robes. Pope Pius V was such a holy and beloved pope that Pope Gregory XIII honored him by wearing a white cassock, hence the traditional white cassock worn by popes.

As you can see, there is a tradition that is part of the line of regular popes. We’re not familiar with it, because none of us were alive during the pontificate of the last regular pope.

Not wearing the mozzetta or the pontifical stole is not a rejection of tradition. On the contrary, it’s very consistent with the tradition of the regular popes.

What the Holy Father chooses to do, to wear, to speak, or not do, etc is all a mystery, because we have never had a Jesuit pope.

I can’t say whether he will or will not wear red, but those who have a desire for tradition will have to go back to the 18th century and further back to understand that there is actually a tradition for regular popes. It’s a tradition of simplicity of manners, scholarship, preference for the poor, and liturgical simplicity. They have a tradition of being popular (as in men of the people).

One more thing, the Vatican did comment on the vestments on the day of the election. I don’t know who made the comment about the carnival, but that’s not what the Vatican quoted the Holy Father. Apparently, the master of ceremonies pointed to the mozzetta and other vestments, not trying to tell the pope what to wear, but just pointing to the fact that they were there. This would make perfect sense. Go figure, you’ve just been elected pope. You’re probably overwhelmed. You need someone to show you around the dressing room. In any case, his response was, “Leave them there.” Then he asked the MC to bring the stole for the blessing.

It seems that he knew these clothes were available to him, but he was not interested in wearing them. This is no indication that he will never wear any of it or that he is snubbing them. It means what he said. “Leave them there.”

I don’t think that there is a need to read anything negative into that comment. If we recall, someone asked the Capuchin Franciscan cardinal what he would wear if elected. He looked perplexed. Then said, “My habit. What else?”

To religious, these things are not part of our mindset or of our view of the Church or the papacy. We see these things as OK for a secular pope, but it would not occur to us to dress up unless it was mandated, such as for the conclave. That situation is different. You’re not the boss. You follow the rules. When you’re the boss, you’re free to think as a regular, not a secular.

For those who want to try to understand Pope Francis, you’ll have to start thinking like a regular. If you perseverate in thinking like a secular, you’ll be very confused. We just don’t think the same way that secular Catholics think. It’s drilled out of us during 10 years of formation between postulancy and final vows.

Illuminating, no?

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