Unexpected Delight: Pope Francis Shines

Here’s something I wasn’t expecting:  to make my first official post on RemarkableIdea, discussing the thoughts of our relatively new Pope.  But here we go…

On Wednesday, the Pope was speaking after his daily morning mass, to those gathered in the chapel at his residence.  My understanding is these gatherings are made up of invited guests, mostly Vatican staff and visiting dignitaries of the Catholic Church.  Every day, the Pope delivers a “homily”, which is a short sermon, usually unscripted remarks on a topic of interest.  During this particular homily, the Pope mentioned that God “has redeemed all of us…not just Catholics.  Everyone.”

He went on to talk about the nature of performing good works, saying, “If we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter…  we need that so much.  We must meet one another doing good.”

Huh?

This is not your average Pontiff.  I’m not Catholic, but I have close friends and family members who are, which has given me reason to attend mass much more frequently that most non-Catholics.   And one of the things I know from the Catholic Church is the sense of separation into “us” versus “them”.  I’ve always felt welcomed by the Church throughout the world; one of my favorite things is to visit churches and cathedrals when I travel.  There’s a sense of quiet and peace and timelessness that soothes my spirit, even in the busy-ness of business and personal travel.

But I’ve always known that I wasn’t “one of them”.   I could be their respected and beloved guest, but that’s all I was.  It was fine with me.  My Presbyterian upbringing included everyone, and I was happy to include Catholics inside my circle, even if the Church didn’t necessarily include me in theirs.

In reading about Wednesday’s homily, I was impressed.  I have long thought that it’s time for a renaissance of accountability.  By becoming more accountable to each other – through good works, interpersonal and international respect, and deeper understanding – we make the world a stronger, better place.  In fact, I’m being to wonder if this return to accountability is our best (and possibly only) chance to cure the biggest and most intractable of our world’s ills.

As a result, I wondered if Wednesday’s homily could be the start of something big inside one of the world’s biggest “organizations”.   Turns out that Wednesday’s message was not “the start”.  In his two-month old papacy, Pope Francis has already delivered many hopeful and joyful messages.  On March 23, he made reference to how having a heart of stone makes us pick up real stones against our fellow man, especially the weakest.  On March 28 (Holy Thursday), he addressed how speaking poorly of fellow humans is equivalent to selling them “like a commodity”.  On April 4, he advised against complaining about other people or circumstances, saying that it damages the heart and takes away hope.

So many powerful messages, from a position of considerable influence.  This is leadership of the finest kind, which is remarkable today for its recent scarcity.  I can’t guarantee that I will agree with everything the new Pope says or does.  I’ve had my issues with the Church and its history.  But messages of joy and acceptance are always welcome in my world.

For the moment, I have to agree with a comment I read on The Washington Post’s website, “The things that I am hearing out of this pope leads me to believe that he is a pretty cool dude.”

Remarkable.

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