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Catholic Communications in the Age of Pope Francis

February 23, 2015

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Below you will find the full text of Fr. Thomas Rosica's inaugural address for the Catholic Press Month lecture presented by the Catholic Courier and El Mensajero Católico, at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester, New York. 
Bishop Matano,
Bishop Clark,
Brother Priests and Sisters,
Dear Karen and Friends in Rochester,
It is a privilege for me to be home tonight and speak here in this Cathedral that is the mother Church of my home diocese.  Thank you for your kind invitation and for all the hard work that went into this evening. I am also very happy to join my voice to a chorus of many others who recently celebrated the 125th Anniversary of the Courier Journal of Rochester! In many ways, my “career” in media and communications began with the Courier Journal as a high school student back in late 1970’s at Aquinas Institute. I was conscripted to be part of “RapAround," a weekly section that featured reporting from young Catholics from Catholic High Schools in the diocese. Little did I know then what would be in store for me back in 1975. The Courier was one of the first newspapers in the country to engage young men and women as journalists and communicators.  That initial experience would mark me for the rest of my life. Though I left Rochester in 1980, I have followed closely the growth, transformation and progress of the Courier, first and foremost through my friendship with and great admiration of Karen Franz, with whom I had the privilege of studying at what was then St. Ambrose parochial school.
What has always impressed me about the Courier Journal has been the ways that this Catholic newspaper has lived up to the standards of the broader journalistic profession to which it belongs.  The Courier has resisted that growing tendency to “tabloidism” in sectors of the Catholic press and risen above the folly of some of the blogs which are not just filled with sectarian, half truths, but are at times galaxies away from the Gospel charity with which our Catholic story should be told.
At his first public audience with nearly 6000 journalists in Rome on March 16, three days after his election in March 2013, Pope Francis said: “Ecclesial events are certainly no more intricate than political or economic events! But they do have one particular underlying feature: they follow a pattern which does not readily correspond to the “worldly” categories which we are accustomed to use, and so it is not easy to interpret and communicate them to a wider and more varied public. The Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that that entails, yet her nature is not essentially political but spiritual: the Church is the People of God, the Holy People of God making its way to encounter Jesus Christ. Only from this perspective can a satisfactory account be given of the Church’s life and activity”. The Courier Journal took those words to heart from the beginning of its existence over a century ago.
You have asked me to speak about “Catholic Communications in the Age of Pope Francis.” In doing so, I wish to share a conversation I had just two days ago as I met with senior journalists at the ABC Television Network in New York City. A gentleman who headed up the network’s massive coverage of the Papal Transition two years ago remarked: “Look, Fr. Tom, whether one is Catholic or Protestant, Jew or Muslim, left or right, or nothing at all, for many of us for whom the Church was on a  distant horizon, we have all been brought into the heart of the Church and the Gospel and find the story fascinating and inviting.”
It is precisely this fascination that has gripped the world over the past two years. This evening, I would like to take a look at it with you.  But let me begin with this fundamental point: if today we are basking in the Franciscan light, it is because we owe a debt of gratitude to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and his courageous decision to step down two years ago February 11, an important moment in the life of the Catholic Church and in the life of the world.
Benedict’s resignation provides a rare but profound example of humility in action. True leaders put their cause before their power and self-interest. Far from a failure or weakness, his resignation was the most shining moment of Benedict’s papacy, and what will turn out to be a historically brilliant move. He has set a new course for the church.
In retrospection and commemoration of the second anniversary of Benedict’s resignation, many feel that in order to highlight the positive aspects of the “Franciscan” era, we must describe in negative terms the pontificate of Pope Benedict. That is not only absurd, but it is also indicates blindness, deafness and ignorance to what this great man accomplished. Comparisons between Francis and his predecessor are inevitable, and it’s no secret that Pope Francis is more appealing to the crowds… the huge numbers that continue to throng the Vatican to catch glimpse of the first Pope from the New World. There is a shift in tone under Francis in what could be described as a “moderate” or “pastoral” direction and a real concern for those on the peripheries of society and the Church.
Let us not forget however that many of the reforms now underway under Pope Francis’ leadership actually began on Benedict’s watch, especially in two chronic sources of scandal for the church: money and sex abuse.
Having had the privilege of serving as one of the “spokespersons” for the Vatican during the momentous papal transition two years ago, and now continuing in some small way in that capacity as I relate to English language media on a daily basis on behalf of the Holy See Press Office, I am an eye witness to this papacy and a transformation that is underway. Pope Francis has captivated the entire world, but why does he do and say the things he does? What makes this popular pontiff tick?
From the very first moments, Pope Francis stressed his role with the ancient title of “bishop of Rome” who presides in charity, echoing the famous statement of Ignatius of Antioch.  Francis has brought to the papacy a knack for significant gestures that immediately convey very powerful messages. Pope Francis’ vision of the Church challenges all of us. He has an amazing ability to find simple words to pose fundamental questions about the life of the Christian and of the Church. No one can deny that the “secular media” has been fascinated and mesmerized by his expressions that come from daily homilies, addresses, and messages:
  • “How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor!”
  • "Have a good Sunday, and a good lunch!”
  • “Priests must be shepherds with the smell of the sheep.”
  • “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! 'Father, the atheists?' Even the atheists. Everyone!”
  • “We have fallen into a "globalization of indifference."
  • “Who am I to judge?”
  • “I want things messy and stirred up in the church.  I want the church to take to the streets!”
  • “I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.”
  • “It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.”
  • “I see the Church as a field hospital after battle.”
  • “The image of the Church I like is that of the holy, faithful people of God.”
  •  “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”
  • “God never tires of forgiving us.”
  • “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.”
  • “I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person's life.”
  • “An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral.”
  • "I dream of a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything.”
  • “Mercy is the greatest of all virtues.”
  • “The confessional must not be a torture chamber.”
  • “The Church is not a tollhouse.”
  • “I beg you bishops, avoid the scandal of being airport bishops!"
  • “We need to promote a culture of encounter."
  • “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
Asked if he would ever baptize Martians, Pope Francis responded: “Who am I to close the door?”
Initially perhaps many of us (myself included) may have thought that Pope Francis’ free-flowing interviews, homilies and quotes are more a source of consternation and frustration than opportunities to learn more about the Church, her founder and her message. But Francis has chosen many different opportunities to speak and encounter the world. No matter how fraught with the potential confusion and misinterpretation those methods may sometimes be, the world is now listening to the Pope in ways that have never happened before. No longer can we simply attribute this interest to an initial fascination, a “honeymoon period”, or other infantile ways of trying to analyze what is really happening.  Let me be very honest: we are no longer in the “honeymoon” period of this Pontificate.  The world is listening because Francis and the Church have something solid to say and to offer to a world plunged in chaos, war, terror, violence, despair and darkness.
What is the most important achievement of Pope Francis? He has rebranded Catholicism and the papacy. Prior to Pope Francis, when many people on the street were asked: "What is the Catholic church all about? What does the pope stand for?", the response would often be, "Catholics, well they are against abortion, gay marriage and birth control." “They are known for the sex abuse crisis that has terribly marred and weakened their moral authority and credibility." Though the media rightly exposed our sins for the abuse crisis, at the same it often falsely portrays us for our teaching and values at the core of our Catholic beliefs.
Today, the response is different. What do they say about us now? What do they say about the Pope? People are speaking about our leader who is unafraid to confront the sins and evils that have marred us. We have a pope who is concerned about mercy, compassion and love, especially for the poor. Whether we wish to admit it our not, Pope Francis has won over the media. By no means is this an indication that the teachings of the Church and message of the Gospel have been fully understood or received by all.  Neverthless, something has shifted in terms of Church-media relations. Many of my colleagues in the “secular” media industry have said that Francis has made it fun to be a religion reporter and journalist again. He has changed the image of the church so much that our prestigious graduate schools of business and management could use him as a case study in rebranding.
To those in several countries who have said that the Pope is not speaking out enough against abortion, Pope Francis is profoundly Pro-Life. He is simply doing what the Bishop of Rome and successor of Peter should do, positioning the evil of abortion within its proper moral context, the failure to recognize the dignity of every single human person at every age and stage of life. Procured abortion is only one of the poisonous fruits from the rotted tree growing in the corrupted garden of a culture of death.
Over the past months, Pope Francis has strongly denounced efforts to redefine marriage, and issued a thundering condemnation of abortion, euthanasia, and in-vitro fertilization, calling them “sins against God.” In emphasizing these truths, Francis has never urged withdrawal from the public square; on the contrary, he has declared: “Getting involved in politics is a Christian duty. We Christians cannot be like Pilate and wash our hands clean of things.”
The inability of commentators to pigeonhole Francis into a single category is frustrating to some people. Francis is strongly opposed to ‘parties’ or ‘lobbies’ in the Church. He does not compromise on the hot-button issues that divide the Church from the secular West – a gap liberals would like to close by modernizing doctrine. Yet he is also not a pope for the Catholic Right. For him contrasting positions, held together in tension, loyal to fundamentals but open to the action of the Holy Spirit, are necessary to forge a new, better consensus and the differences make for an honest, open discussion.
“The principal mission of the Church,” Pope Francis has declared, “is evangelization, bringing the Good News to everyone.” This was also Pope Beneidict’s mantra at the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization: “The Church exists to evangelize.” This is the only agenda of Pope Francis: to lead people to Jesus Christ, so that their lives and joy may be full.
In two years at the helm of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis has opened the floodgates of communication in an institution that has been effectively cloistered for centuries. While it is no exaggeration that a pope has never been so widely quoted by the secular press, it could also be said that a pope’s intentions have never been so widely misinterpreted. While it may seem like the pope is sending mixed signals, the truth may be that most of the press and non-Catholics are just projecting their own wishes and values on him.
He is not quite "conservative" nor entirely "progressive . His message is filled the paradoxes because life is a paradox and Christian life is a great paradox.  The world is listening to him because Francis models a solid consistency, the one between his words and deeds, and that between its current papal mission and life forever. It gives us great shepherd a beautiful model of the new evangelization.
Globalization of Indifference
Francis startled the world in July 2013, several months after his election, when he traveled rather spontaneously to the island of Lampedusa off the coast of Sicily- to that dangerous area were so many refugees have lost and continue to lose their lives in their journeys to freedom and safety.  The Holy Father’s voice rang out across the sea as he asked the world to reflect on:
“The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!”
The Challenges and Temptations of the Church
Speaking to Bishops in 2013 Rio de Janeiro, the Bishop of Rome spoke soberly and frankly about the temptations facing the Church: the temptation to turn the Gospel message into an ideology; the temptation to run the church like a business; and the temptation of clericalism. In an address July 28, 2013, to the episcopal council of CELAM, the Latin American conference of bishops, Pope Francis laid out these temptations and how the church should respond to them.
Making the Gospel message an ideology
This temptation to make the Gospel message an ideology has been present in the church from the beginning. It attempts to interpret the Gospel apart from the church or the Gospel itself. Francis says you must look at the Gospel with the eyes of a disciple. This temptation interprets the Gospel message through the lens of social science, whether from a Marxist or libertarian perspective and the Gospel is manipulated for political reasons. It is a temptation of both the right and the left to use the Gospel to serve political goals.
Functionalism
The second temptation of the church is to functionalism, which Pope Francis believes has the effect of paralyzing the church. "More than being interested in the road itself, it is concerned with fixing holes in the road." It "has no room for mystery; it aims at efficiency." This is the temptation of church bureaucrats. "It reduces the reality of the church to the structure of an (nongovernmental organization). What counts are quantifiable results and statistics." Francis does not want the church to end up "being run like any other business organization."
Clericalism
A third temptation is to clericalism, which, as its name implies, is a particular temptation for bishops, priests and deacons, but Francis argues that often, the laity is complicit. "The priest clericalizes the layperson and the layperson kindly asks to be clericalized because deep down it is easier." Liberal clericalism tends to disdain popular piety while conservative clericalism fears giving the laity a greater role in the church. Although these were presented as temptations for the Latin American church, it is obvious that they are universal. They are alive and well in Rome and in North America.
But there were more temptations… At the end of the two-week Extraordinary Synod last October, Pope Francis gave a profoundly moving address to conclude the synod. He wove together the various strands of the spiritual and ecclesial experience of the Synod, fashioning them into a stunning tapestry for the Church. Without the Pope’s final speech – and to a lesser extent, his homily at the closing Mass, the Synod would have remained incomplete, and not been read with the interpretative or hermeneutical key of faith that truly inspired and motivated it, according to the mind of the Pope.
Pope Francis made clear to the whole Church that there should be no reason for fear or confusion in the church after such an extraordinary synod, in which not only had the traditional doctrine on the nature and indissolubility of marriage been confirmed, but also important pastoral questions relating to the family – including those related to the church’s approach to the divorced and remarried and to homosexual persons – remain on the table for the 2015 synod. More than anything else, this text indicated to the entire world that the barque of Church is indeed guided by the Lord and entrusted to a most able helmsman.
Allow me to share with you some of the highlights of Pope Francis’ concluding address to the Extraordinary Synod on Saturday evening, October 18, 2014:
And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. …And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:
-One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.
-The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”
-The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).
-The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfill the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.
-The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms…”
Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.
And then, in what many have described as a magnificent crescendo, Pope Francis shared with us in the Synod Hall the nature and reality of the Church:
…And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.
This is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.
Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.
And, as I have dared to tell you, as I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.
When Pope Francis finished speaking, the synod fathers all rose in a spontaneous gesture and gave him a five-minute standing ovation. That said everything; it is the best answer to any fears people may have about the current direction of the Church.
Where does Francis want to lead the church? What does he want the bishops to do? What does he expect of us, ordained ministers?  And what is he modeling for laymen and women?
The Church is reconciler: In his address to the Brazilian bishops, Francis said that “from the beginning, God's message was one of restoring what was broken, reuniting what had been divided," Francis explained. "Walls, chasms, differences which still exist today are destined to disappear. The church cannot neglect this lesson: She is called to be a means of reconciliation."
A Church of the heart: For Francis, faith enters the church through the heart of the poor, not through the heads of intellectuals. Francis confessed that "perhaps we have reduced our way of speaking about mystery to rational explanations, but for ordinary people the mystery enters through the heart."
A church with a simple message: Francis has clearly stated: "The results of our pastoral work do not depend on a wealth of resources, but on the creativity of love." Francis knows only too well that at times we lose people because they don't understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity. He argues that the message should be kept simple. Rather, let us present Jesus as the compassion of God.
The Church of Emmaus: Using the Gospel story of Emmaus, speaks openly about people who have left the church because they "now think that the church -- their Jerusalem -- can no longer offer them anything meaningful and important." We need a church unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a church capable of meeting them on their way. We need a church capable of entering into their conversation. We need a church able to dialogue with those disciples who, having left Jerusalem behind, are wandering aimlessly, alone, with their own disappointment, disillusioned by a Christianity now considered barren, fruitless soil, incapable of generating meaning. …
Are we still a church capable of warming hearts? A church capable of leading people back to Jerusalem? Of bringing them home? Jerusalem is where our roots are: Scripture, catechesis, sacraments, community, friendship with the Lord, Mary and the apostles. … Are we still able to speak of these roots in a way that will revive a sense of wonder at their beauty?
The Church: A Field Hospital and a Guiding Torch
When the pope speaks of the church as a “field hospital after a battle” he is referring to this image of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He explains the role of the church in light of God’s gaze upon the world: “so many people that ask us to be close, that ask us for what they were asking of Jesus: closeness, nearness.” It is the opposite image of a fortress under siege. The image of a church as a field hospital is not just a simple, pretty poetic metaphor; from this very image we can derive an understanding of both the church’s mission and the sacraments of salvation.
Where are the battlefields today?
  • decline in birthrates and the aging population have reversed the relationships between young and old persons
  • contraception enables the splitting of sexuality and procreation; assisted procreation divides the process of giving birth from being a parent
  • stepfamilies lead to new bonds and new parental roles that have complex relational geographies; de facto couples place the social institutionalization of their relationships into question; homosexual persons ask why they cannot live a life of stable affective relationships while remaining practicing believers.
The church must shine with the light that lives within itself, it must go out and encounter human beings who – even though they believe that they do not need to hear a message of salvation—often find themselves afraid and wounded by life. The Lineamenta for the 2015 Synod, which reflects the discussion of October 2014, offers a clear direction for the Church. In one of his well-known poems, Blessed Cardinal J.H. Newman wrote about a “kindly light.” We also find this image of light in the Encyclical Lumen fidei: “Faith is not a light that dissipates all of our shadows, but rather a light that guides our steps in the night; and this is enough for the journey” (n. 57). According to Pope Francis today more than ever we need “a church that is again capable of restoring citizenship to so many of its children that walk as if in exodus. Christian citizenship is above all the result of God’s mercy.
Conclusion
With the surprising election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the See of Peter two years ago, I have frequently been asked this question: Is this all the work of a PR company, clever media strategists or slick spin doctors hired by the Vatican to rebrand its image? Or is there something else at work? What has happened in the church, and how can it be that a 77-year-old, retirement-bound archbishop from Buenos Aires has captivated the world? How can we describe the sense of springtime that has come upon the church? How is it fathomable in our day and age that not only Christians and Catholics but millions of others are speaking about “Papa Francesco” as if he were their own?
Let me tell you what I think is afoot! The new Pope took the name Francis upon his election as Bishop of Rome and told us he did so because of his love for Francis of Assisi. Over the past two years, many of us have been associating the Pope’s gestures and actions with the “Poverello” or “Little Poor One” of Assisi, perhaps the most beloved saint of the Catholic tradition.
One day as a young man, Francis heard the plea of Jesus from the crucifix in the dilapidated San Damiano chapel on Assisi’s outskirts. “Go and repair my Church,” he heard Jesus say. And he certainly did that in his lifetime and through the huge Franciscan family that he left behind to carry forward his dream and continue his work.
We become easily fixated on lots of eye-catching, buzz-causing externals and great photo opportunities: A Pope who abandoned the red shoes - that were never an official part of the papal wardrobe! A Pope who dresses modestly, pays his own lodging bills, rides around Vatican City in a Ford Focus, who invites street people to his birthday breakfast. This Roman pontiff specializes in kissing babies and embracing the sick, disfigured broken bodies, and the abandoned of society. A pope who knows how to use a telephone, and uses it often. A pope who waits in line for the coat check at the Vatican Synod Hall, lines up for coffee, and introduces himself: “Sono Francesco. Come ti chiami?” We sit back, smile and utter: “What simplicity!” “Wow!” “Awesome!” “Finalmente!”
And for many who are watching all of this with differing forms of anxiety, they ask “Will the Francis reform succeed?”  The answer is: “Yes.” And I will tell you why. Francis’ reform is inevitable because it is not emanating from Assisi, Loyola, Manresa or even from Rome, as significant as those holy places may be! It is coming from another land where we find Bethlehem, Nazareth, Nain, Emmaus, Mount Tabor, Galilee and Jerusalem: the land of the Bible.
Francis will succeed because his life, vision, hopes and dreams are founded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are indeed living a moment of kairos, the appointed time and hour, when the Gospel story is unfolding before us once again in the life of Pope Francis. Everything the Pope is doing now is not just an imitation of his patron saint who loved the poor, embraced lepers, charmed sultans, made peace and protected nature. It’s a reflection of the child of Bethlehem who would grow up to become the man of the cross in Jerusalem, the Risen One that no tomb could contain, the man we Christians call Savior and Lord. Pope Francis has given us a powerful glimpse into the mind and heart of God.
This Bishop of Rome demands a lot while preaching about a God of mercy, by engaging joyfully with nonbelievers, atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and those sitting on the fences of life- many who thought that Christianity has nothing left to add to the equations of life. I go back to those words of my colleague at the ABC network: “We have all been brought into the heart of the Church and the Gospel and find the story fascinating and inviting.”
On the late afternoon of March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio received the call to go, rebuild, repair, renew and heal the church. What we have witnessed over the past two years is simply a disciple of Jesus, and a faithful disciple of Ignatius of Loyola and of Francis of Assisi, repairing, renewing, restoring, reconciling and healing the Church. There are those who delight in describing the new Pope as a bold, brazen revolutionary sent to rock the boat. Others think he has come to cause a massive shipwreck. But the only revolution that Pope Francis has inaugurated is a revolution of tenderness, the very words he used in his recent major letter on "The Joy of the Gospel." [Evangelii Gaudium #88]
And the second revolution he has inaugurated is the revolution of normalcy.  What he is doing is normal human, Christian behavior. These are the revolutions at the heart and soul of Pope Francis’ ministry. It is his unflinching freedom that allows him to do what he does because he is unafraid and totally free to be himself at the same time of being such faithful son of the Church. It is his goodness, joy, kindness and mercy that introduce us to the tenderness of our God. No wonder why he has taken the world by storm, and why so many people are paying attention to him. No wonder why magazines and newspapers acclaim him as “Person of the Year”, “best Dressed man,” “Rolling Stone” icon and “Advocate” champion, to name but a few! No wonder why the Pope, and many of those who are trying to serve him and represent him are considered to be subversive! Pope Francis, himself shared that with us in his closing message to the recent Synod of Bishops last October when he said: “the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul – His disciples should not expect better treatment.”
We need the Francis revolution of tenderness, mercy and normalcy now more than ever before. I invite you to join me in praying for the Holy Father tonight:
 
Lord our God,
We thank you for always providing shepherds to guide the Church.
We thank you most especially for Francis,
the one you have chosen to be our chief shepherd
and guide at this moment in history.
Bless him with health and vision, boldness and courage,
wisdom and compassion, and boundless joy and hope.
Make him an instrument of your peace, compassion and mercy,
In your mercy you called Francis and you call each of us
to cling to Jesus, the rock of fidelity and truth.
May Pope Francis inspire us to be better Christians,
faithful Catholics and architects and citizens
of the civilization of love that your son entrusted to us.
We ask this in Jesus’ name, who lives with you forever and ever.
Amen.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us, and watch over Pope Francis.

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