Friday, April 15, 2016

Pope On A Rope

Francis became the Bishop of Rome... the Holy Father... the Pope... a little less than a year after I was received into the Catholic Church. He shocked us when he refused the pomp and asked for our prayers. He refused the traditional red shoes & the Papal apartment. People fawned over him, secular & religious alike, for his humility & accessibility as a person. Who was this man? In some ways, it was encouraging to see the positive coverage. In other ways, the red flags began flying. A charismatic leader doesn't always lead to good things & I was wary.

I suppose I still don't understand the relationship Catholics have with the Pope. Whenever I watch televised events from wherever he tends to be, I see hordes of people screaming, laughing, crying... they bring their flags & signs & hold out their rosary beads like lighters at a rock concert. This has always troubled me. In my eyes, Pope Francis is just a man. He's a guy with a title- Bishop of Rome. The Bishop of Rome also happens to be the overseer of every other Bishop who oversee the rest of us Catholics throughout the world. I get that he has authority. I respect that. He's the Vicar of Christ, but he's still just a man. I'm amazed at how so many uninformed people tend to think he is (or believes he is) God in the flesh or that every word that falls out of his mouth is infallible.

If he says something that seems off the (expected) mark whether deliberately or by mistake, everyone writhes & flails in a frenzy because now we know he's the anti-Christ & he's going to destroy the Holy Catholic Church. What would it mean to actually "destroy" the Church? We're always told the gates of Hell won't prevail over it... and I believe that's true. But what if God deliberately means to allow some destruction, a renovation of sorts? Maybe some walls will be taken down. Perhaps the streets will get cleaned up & community gardens will go in. No doubt this may drive some people away. But maybe God means for Francis to lift Christ up above the rubble of expected perceptions in order to draw even more people to Himself. Could He be asking the same of us? At this point, I think the most shocking thing about Francis is that he faithfully challenges what we know of Catholicism... and that may not be such a bad thing.

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