Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It's Cool to Be Catholic

I've been meaning to write this post for many a moon, and this little ditty in my Facebook feed this morning gave me the kick in the seat I needed to get 'her done.

Image via Time Magazine, of course. Do take
some time to read the lovely article.

Some have called it the "Francis Effect." Others have dubbed him the "people's Pope." Whatever you call it, all of a sudden, it seems it is cool to be Catholic again. The Catholics are crawling out of the woodwork! I was flipping between radio stations a few weeks ago, and within a half hour, two hosts had begun talking about being Catholic. One was mentioning being part of his parish's Alpha Program, and the other was hosting a fundraiser for Catholic Charities in her her diocese. Two hosts I regularly listen to, and have never heard a peep from regarding their faith.

Pope Francis has given us either the permission or the inspiration to be open about our faith. Suddenly, maybe being Catholic isn't all about being a hater. Maybe it means being on fire for Jesus, filled with love for our neighbor, concerned about the poor, walking in compassion with one another. For those of us "in the know," this is really nothing new. Every Pope has maintained the beautiful teachings and traditions of the Church. It is just that at this time of human history, the Holy Spirit sent us a Shepherd who seems to have the right charism to make it crystal clear. Honestly, who of us hasn't heard the "I'm not Catholic, but I love Pope Francis!" bit over and over? Busting down doors, this Pope.

The problem of Pope Francis remains, though, that we risk making him an idol unto himself, forgetting the One he has been charged with serving. In response to the first post I saw about the Time Magazine piece, I mentioned that while I am so proud and Papa certainly has turned the world upside down and all atwitter (not be to confused with "the Twitter"), I do hope that in all this buzz people begin to see and know the person of Christ. How sad Papa would be if he became a rock star and Jesus and the Gospel were left behind.

Not minutes later, I ran across this statement from the Vatican:
Vatican spokesman Lombardi said that "the Holy Father is not looking to become famous or to receive honors. But if the choice of Person of Year helps spread the message of the gospel — a message of God's love for everyone — he will certainly be happy about that."
Still simpatico, Papa and I.

We saw this phenomenon with Blessed John Paul II in so many ways as well.

Who doesn't remember this moment?

A magnanimous leader, many people lived quite happily in the tension of loving him, but still keeping at bay many of the teachings of the Church. Papa Benedetto was more of a teacher, a scholar, so the pop star route wasn't his to take. Pope Francis brings back, with his larger than life actions, that celebrity surrounding the papacy. A very different type of celebrity, but it risks being simply celebrity nonetheless.

While there are reports of people returning to the faith upon the witness of Pope Francis, and this is a beautiful thing, I can't help but wonder if some of them will be shocked to see that Papa doesn't waiver on the lines of our moral teaching, or as people have said with sometimes biting humor, will they be shocked to find out that the Pope is Catholic?

Regardless, and without belittling the wisdom and work of any prior Pope, I am so encouraged to see that the world is taking notice that we Catholics are not just a bunch of legalistic curmudgeons. It is encouraging and challenging at the same time to think that perhaps the perception of the Church is changing to one in which people see that we are a people of sacrificial love, of welcoming the stranger, of being emissaries of God's love to the least of these, who at their very essence are Jesus coming to us in distressing disguise. If that opens the door to filling our pews again so people may be in the presence of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, fantastico! What miracles the Lord can work when we give him but a fraction of an inch.

Through Love, we draw the heart closer to Jesus. Through love, we invite people into a divine relationship. Through love, we carry on the salvific work Christ has entrusted to His people. Through love, we allow Christ to transform hearts and conform them to His ways, His truths and His person. We simply carry Christ and must let Him do the work. Thank you, Papa Francis for being such a bold embodiment of this message.

Thus, I say well done, good and faithful servant. Through this honor, serendipitously bestowed in the season of Advent, may the hearts of all the world be opened to the wonder of the Christ child and filled with the love of God and a love for God and one another.

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