Excitement and Catholicism are rarely linked, but they have been since March 13, thanks to Pope Francis. His faith cannot be ignored, nor can the words and actions with which he expresses and lives it — and by which he instructs us to do the same.
The front pages of the three previous issues of the Catholic Herald featured our Holy Father, and for good reason: There is a hunger for his from-the-heart wisdom and his practical advice, and we’re aware of the desire by committed Catholics to read his words within the context they are spoken — a context the secular media doesn’t always report.
Here’s an example of what endears us to Pope Francis. In the last issue, we ran a story about his visit to Assisi. There, he said: “I always advise newlyweds: ‘Argue as much as you want. If the plates fly, let them. But never let the day end without making peace, never.’”
There it is — a part of the theology of marriage conveyed in easy-to-understand terms. A married person reading that will nod in agreement and be grateful for the reminder.
Another example: Last month, the pope accepted a 1984 Renault, with 186,000 miles on it, as a gift. We don’t expect our Holy Father to be driving something whose next stop could be the demolition derby or the salvage yard. He is, to use Blessed Pope John Paul II’s term, “a sign of contradiction.”
Yes, it’s an act
There are those who wonder if the simplicity of the pope’s Gospel-based lifestyle is an act. Yes … acts of faith, hope and love!!! And Pope Francis does them with a smile. It is evident he enjoys living his faith; he does not view it as a burden or a chore. And he doesn’t expect us to see it that way either.
Here is how Catholic News Service reported the pope’s homily from a May 10 Mass: “Using a phrase that translates literally as ‘the face of a pickled pepper,’ Pope Francis said that when Christians have more of a sourpuss than a face that communicates the joy of being loved by God, they harm the witness of the church.”
Are you aware of anyone else who is so genuinely happy being Catholic?
Words we can understand
Other than completing an encyclical begun by Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis has not issued any lengthy documents, the kind meant for the faith community but often only read and understood by the scholarly community.
Instead, he has the ability to say much in so few words. For example, the following is from his Oct. 9 Angelus talk: “The life of the church is variety, and when we seek to make it uniform, we erode the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”
Speaking at the cathedral in Assisi on Oct. 4, he said, “Enough with these interminable, boring homilies of which nothing can be understood.”
Each quote is textable — 112 characters for the first; 141 for the latter. No need to be a scholar to understand and apply what Pope Francis is saying.
Celebrate, live faith
Remember last spring’s conclave and all the speculation about the next pope? None of the public lists of papabili — popular candidates for the papacy — included the name of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, our Pope Francis.
Whoever the experts and insiders thought would be chosen, and whatever background and traits they thought he should possess, were for naught. They didn’t consider Cardinal Bergoglio. If there is a papal job description, Pope Francis has rewritten it or recycled it. Through his words and actions, he has taught us how to celebrate our faith, and how to live it. And that’s what makes it exciting to be Catholic.
Brian T. Olszewski, Editor