Thursday, March 13, 2014


   Pope Francis celebrates his first anniversary as a very popular pope who has made the church more acceptable to the public at large.  But he has not done much to unite the church within itself.  If the so-called "liberals" are happy because of Francis' very necessary focus on the poor, the "conservatives" are unhappy because Francis is upsetting their rigid view of the faith.  The divide among the one people of God remains.  It is deep, and Francis can't heal it by himself.  In the end, unity in the church is up to us.

   I know it seems impossible at this point in time, but we should stop describing ourselves in political terms.  Living our faith is not a political campaign to win power in our church.  We should describe ourselves according to the one faith that we all share.  Our basic concern should not be what side are we on but how spiritually mature are we.  Before I wrote this Post, I re-worked the page, "The Spiritually Mature Person."  I invite you to read it again.

   Our spiritual maturity requires an ever-evolving understanding of our faith.  We cannot live our faith in today's society and culture with the understanding we picked up when we were children.  Yet, how many of our public school children end their Christian education when they receive Confirmation?  How effective is the Religious education our children receive in Catholic high school and in our Catholic universities?  And beyond Religious education, how effective is their Christian formation?  How effective Christians are they--individually, in their families, in their work and professions, in education, business and economics, politics, science, the arts, etc.?

   As Pope Francis stresses care for the poor, I cringe at how many of our Catholic government and business leaders--almost all of them well off or even affluent--appear to be living and working in a bubble that isolates them from knowing and caring for the people they are responsible to serve.  As for ourselves, how well are we working with others of good will to care for and elevate our society and culture, and where necessary, peacefully heal and correct them, in the loving, saving grace of Christ?

   Pope Francis is an absolute monarch.  But that pertains to how he runs the church.  Our church may not be organized as a political democracy, but our faith is a graced democracy.  As Francis himself makes clear, neither the pope nor the bishops nor the rest of the clergy are superior to us.  We all share equal baptismal dignity, which is the Christ-like dignity of serving one another in peace and love--even to the extent of sacrificing something of ourselves for others.

   Making the world as much a luminous expression of Christ's saving love is not Francis' job alone.  Nor is it something he can or should try to do alone.  This Lent, let us remember anew that it is the job of all of us.  


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