By Father Kevin M. Cusick
You’re shocked, I know. “What do you mean, Pope Francis is not polite?” you ask. On the other hand if you agree with me it may mean you also misunderstand. What do I mean by saying, “Pope Francis is not polite”? Pope Francis does not act or speak with regard to social conventions or human respect but instead puts in first place his unique role of teaching and speaking for God as a prophet for the world. Pope Francis is not “polite” because the love of Christ and truth comes before people’s feelings.
Pope Francis is also a tease. When I was in Rome at a Wednesday audience and asked a woman from Argentina who stood closer to the Pope to present my gift of a zucchetto in exchange for the one he was wearing, he took his off and began to compare the two. “I don’t know if this is the right size,” he said. "Where did you get this? I don't this is the right size,” he said while I responded, “Holy Father, it’s the right size”, in Italian. Eventually after spending some time egging me on he put my zucchetto on briefly and then gave it back to me, a relic to bring back from Rome. My theory is that he could not pass up the chance to tease a priest, with some help from the unsuspecting woman from his home country. In the end, everyone went away happy, but most of all pleased with Pope Francis. One of the most compelling things about him is his sense of comfort with himself and with others, a real sign of the presence of God in his life and the source of his mission as supreme pontiff.
All teasing aside, however, the mission of Pope Francis is a very serious one for as pastor of the world he is responsible for the salvation of souls. As the most visible presence on the internet and perhaps the most talked about person this year he certainly has the attention of the world. One of the reasons for this is that he isn’t concerned about being polite: he doesn’t consider the potential reactions or feelings of others a reason to use less pointed words in his preaching and teaching. For this reason he has faced some strongly negative reactions on the part of some traditionalists. We can suppose that some liberals or progressives may be also unhappy as they become aware that Pope Francis is not going to change moral teachings or the deposit of faith. Those who believe such can change do not understand the Faith. We certainly must pray that Pope Francis will be able to help them as well.
What has changed is style, as with every change in Church leadership. Pope Francis’ style is more accessible, less studied or academic, more spontaneous. This has weaknesses as well as strengths. We see the strength of Pope Francis’ approach in the great crowds of pilgrims who overflow Piazza San Pietro on Wednesdays for the general audience and on Sundays for the Angelus prayer and message. Pope Francis’ almost daily teachings from Casa Santa Marta in his celebration of Mass result in “mass” Tweets and internet buzz which spreads his teaching beyond the faithful around the world to the curious, the unbelievers and the skeptics. The Pope’s very public dialogs with atheists and others outside the Church set an example for apologetics and evangelization.
Above all else, it is Divine Providence which sends us Pope Francis at this moment. It is not possible for any pope to be anyone’s “perfect” pope because it is not possible for such a person ever to exist. Not even Jesus Christ Himself, perfect God and perfect Man, was able to please all His hearers and for this reason was put to death on the Cross. The pope is an imperfect human instrument in the hands of the perfect God. Let us pray for him that he will continue to call others and enable others to open their minds and hearts to the one true God who has perfectly revealed Himself in Jesus Christ and continues to do so through the Church which Pope Francis leads.
(Follow Father Cusick on Facebook at Reverendo Padre-Kevin Michael Cusick and on Twitter @MCITLFrAphorism.)
Meeting Christ in the Liturgy for the Second Sunday of Advent
“Repent” (Matthew 3, 1ff)
“The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit isconversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus' proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. ‘Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.” (CCC 1989)