Tom and I did something out of the ordinary last Thursday. Tackling rush hour traffic, we headed to St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston to hear John Allen speak. Mr. Allen is a journalist with extensive time and experience covering the Vatican. He is the Associate Editor of http://www.cruxnow.com and he has an insider’s perspective on Pope Francis, as he is part of a press corp that travels with the Pope. I’m not sure what I expected to hear but I left that evening feeling hopeful. According to Mr. Allen, Pope Francis has three strong pillars which are emerging as part of his agenda. In italics are a few notes from his talk.
Leadership As Service
Did you know that when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the Pope lived in an austere apartment complex? His heat was from his kitchen stove. So when I see photos of him among the poor, I can be sure that he is authentic and sincere. While his actions are planned and scheduled, they are not just for show. As a church, he expects his bishops, priests, and the laity (us) to follow his lead.
The Church is a Missionary Church.
“Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel.”
— Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, #20.
Mercy is the most important Christian message of our time.
When a priest is ordained a bishop he chooses an “Episcopal Motto.” The Pope’s motto is “Miserando atque eligendo,” which means, “because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him.” This is referring to when Jesus chose Matthew, the despised tax collector and said, “Follow me.” (Matthew 9:9-13)
I wanted to make sure I understood the context of this idea of mercy and the Pope, so I did a little research and (in my own words) this is what I found… mercy... that even though we all sin, God does not immediately punish us, even though that is what we deserve. He holds back his judgement and allows us to recognize our sin, find sorrow in our act of rejecting him, and come to him for forgiveness and grace. Why would he do that except that he desires all of us to be one with him? Mercy isn’t the same thing as acceptance or tolerance. Those imply that we approve of, allow, or respect the beliefs and practices of another, and we cannot expect to be in agreement with everyone all of the time. But can we, as Christ did with Matthew, see with different eyes… perhaps with eyes that embrace another as a unique and wholly loved child of God?
Being merciful as Christ was merciful is what I’m striving for. I hope to see as with the eyes of Christ – seeing more. If Francis is the “Pope of Mercy” then that’s a lead I’d like to follow.