Francis I: Can a Simple Name Simply Change the World?

Mom and me at the Sistine Chapel, 1972
Fashionistas: Mom and me at the Sistine Chapel, 1972

It already has. Merely hearing it in Saint Peter’s Square brought a collective sign of relief and delight the world over. Compassion is officially back in style.

Last night the second most powerful man on Earth, the newly anointed Pope Francis I, slipped onto the bus to go to dinner with his brother Cardinals; this morning he slipped through a side door of a church to pray. For as long as it is possible, it seems, he will not be chauffered and feted. He will engage and move among his people, a Holy Father in the best way. With each act of humility, I hear spiritual and literal moneychanger’s tables being overturned. It is not as though the trappings of the Church are not beautiful, but they have come to be seen as just that: traps that ensnare the innocent and that shield men from blame and accountability in the things that matter most – the care of the flock. In recent years, the Vatican and its treasures have come to be seen as glorifying a hierarchy out of touch with its people, too hobbled by its own traditions to spread a gospel of compassion. Maybe now we can look at at the art, architecture and rituals again as a gift of holy culture that embraced (and funded) talent and artisanship instead of the folly of men.

Our local pastor is our own Francis – a beacon of wisdom and kindness who reminds us how Christ’s lessons can inform our everyday lives. It has been difficult for my children to reconcile what they see and hear at Mass and what they see in the press, and I haven’t been very good at that myself. In this Lenten season, I welcome – and take to heart – the promise of the Resurrection that Easter brings with fervor I thought long gone. Maybe now I will have more help building athe Catholic spiritual legacy that has for so long seemed elusive.

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