I have friends in other Christian denominations who are as excited about Pope Francis as I am. My friends remind me that Francis is “everybody’s Pope!” In past years there seemed not to be the same enthusiasm to identify with former Popes. Rather it felt like the Holy Father spoke and taught Catholics alone. The press and the media are happy Pope Francis is accessible and makes his time available to them. He is not guarded around photographers. He lets teenagers take “selfies” with their smart phones!
I was surprised to read in Time magazine that Francis has not watched television programs since 1995! Yet he is very much “on the news” as he goes about the work he accomplishes. It seemed a contradiction to me that he is media savvy and yet gives no time to television that so many people crave.
It is Pope Francis’ gift to give himself and his attention to others when he is with them. It may be unnecessary for him to watch “live television” or repetitive news. I, too, am often dissatisfied with television coverage and the many ads that pay for it. Now I am trying to monitor the programs I choose to watch.
In many years as a Jesuit, Francis became familiar with his practice of discerning the essential elements with which he wants to live. We get glimpses of the discernment that formed his choices and his heart. He has a familiarity with poor, rather than wealthy people. To understand the poor there must be actual faces he has seen. He learned those faces by riding the city bus, walking in neighborhoods, shopping and paying for his lunches, greeting sanitation workers and mothers with infants in strollers. These are the faces Francis remembers.
Now I ask myself: Do I know others in this way — their faces, hardships, hopes and failures? Another area for his practice of discernment is where he gives his time and daily efforts. Francis is a “natural” in the relationships he makes. His plans for the day at hand involve relating to others rather than making lists of work he hopes to accomplish. Morning Mass celebrated in a parish in Rome is as important for his prayer as it is for the people he sees and greets in the celebration of the Eucharist. It is at Mass he sees the Body of Christ in the people with whom he prays. Francis loves them for who they are when the table is shared. He takes the energy from the Table of the Lord into all the relationships of his very full days. His prayer is remarkably inclusive as he continues praying through his day.
Pope Francis is renewing the large definition of the word catholic. He uses the word with a small ”c.” It means understanding catholic without boundaries. Catholic as expansive, encompassing all believers with a great empathy. It is to see again that we are family. We make the effort to include others in the family as an important value worth doing. If Francis is “everybody’s Pope” why not give Catholic our best effort?
by Sr. Karlyn Cauley, SDS