Friday, September 20, 2013

exploding 12-6 curveball

So yesterday I burned through an hour playing blogging catch-up.  Among others I posted this about Pope Francis.

Then, literally 15 minutes later, America magazine posts a lengthy interview with Pope Francis.  And thus I'm again playing catch-up.  At times I feel like the political scientist who specialized in the military reliability of Warsaw Pact nations and finished a definitive study in early 1989. Then just a couple months later...ka-blooey.

To start, as attempted yesterday Pope Francis' first six months have surprised many.  Yesterday Aggie Catholic posted seven good reminders about the new pontificate.  (And, while they don't say it, there's an implication reminding all of us that Pope Francis is still new.  It's only been six months.  Relax.)  Maybe it's Bill Placher or Karl Barth, maybe it's Dorothy Day or Walker Percy or Thomas Merton, but #6 particularly speaks to me:  Pope Francis reminds 'us the being a Christian isn't "safe".' Yep, that pretty much nails it.  The trad crowd needs to shed its nostalgia while the lefties shed their hatred of the past, and then everybody should scroll back through the pontificate of Benedict XVI.  Is this infinite, qualitative difference? 

Uh, no--and to give the usual suspects a rest, I'll abstain from hurling links from Elizabeth Scalia and George Weigel. 

Picking up yesterday's pitching meme, Francis' different pontifical style (something else Aggie Catholic and others duly note) leaves many a knee buckled.  Again, it's the thirst and underlying hunger that generates and sustains the spiritually diabetic condition....and those reacting to the Pope's words--without fully recognizing context and nuance--certainly suffer  here.  It's their knees, so to speak, that are buckling. #throwingbabyoutwithbathwater #legalizeeverything #hopesandfears The right fears Francis will undo the Johano-Pauline-Benedictine era, and the left hopes he'll do the same.

How much you want to be Pope Francis does neither?  He's Argentinian & thus the first pope from the Americas, a Jesuit, has extensive pastoral experience, he's the first religious order pope since Gregory XVI, and it's only been six months.  I hope we have several more innings--to continue the metaphor--to learn from and understand Pope Francis.

Meanwhile, Fran Szpylczyn, one of the Capital District's real and really Catholic bloggers, offers her take at There Will Be Bread.  Fran, apparently channeling Cardinal Dolan, starts with a very good point.  The Francis interview is a wake-up call.  Furthermore, she deftly recalls one of the more important parts of the interview which the mainstream media seems to have utterly ignored:  the pastoral and Ignatian context.  Francis spends far more time talking about his prayer life and the Church's pastoral needs.  Thus I think Fran really hits a chord with TBTG AMDG.  My own few years of Jesuit education seem justified now.  They all brought  me to this:  the task of understanding our new Jesuit pope.

Meanwhile, to link to popular culture if I may, as I read over the interview I listened to The Gaslight Anthem, a band worthy of several blog posts all their own.  One song, "Too Much Blood," from their recent CD Handwritten includes the following:

if I just tell you the truth are there only lies left for you
If I put too much blood on the page
Now as my ear turn witness to the pride and the shame 
are you worried I'll say too much 
are you scared to take me away
Now I am no devil but I've got things on my mind 
and they're gonna come out and they're gonna come up time to time
What can I keep for myself if i tell you my hell
what'll be let to take to my grave

Long story short:  Brian Fallon, TGA's lead singer, is quite a lyricist (and, I should add, a fervent evangelical Christian). Here he sings about the all too real problems of communication, selflessness, and self-centeredness in relationships. The song grasps one of the knots we face with papal interviews:  the papacy is such a focus and media-attractant and yet we all apparently read such interviews with our own sets of rose-colored glasses.  We see what we want to see.  Or, if you prefer, it's another Procrustean bed:  we will either stretch or hack whatever the Pope says to fit our own standards.  And, riffing on Fallon, are we worried what we'll find in the Pope's words?   The telling feature with this particular interview of Pope Francis is that both sides--left and right--fall right into this, each in their own way.

Thus the reactions tell us more about those reacting than anything about Pope Francis himself.  For that we each need to read the article for ourselves.  Yet another slow-and-steady, diet-and-exercise approach.  It's not fast, it's not sexy, but eventually it works.

1 comment:

  1. You are far too kind to me, Jeff. We are living in a time when it is pretty amazing to be church together. And church together is what we - and everyone else - is.

    Thank you for your thoughts and for the link.