Monday, March 18, 2013

Pope Francis!

I spent spring break (the past week) studying neuroscience and the drugs affecting the brain, nerves, and psyche. On Wednesday morning I finished some practice questions and answered all the emails, texts, and notifications on my phone before I took a break for lunch. I came back to find a few new emails (a rate of two emails per hour isn't unusual, but I also had about nine texts, which was weird).

The first email was from an intercessory prayer address connected to the Ordo Virginum. There were two new requests. The chronologically prior email was "Please pray in thanksgiving for such-and-such and so-and-so," and I started to say a dutiful prayer. Before I finished, my eyes wandered down to the second request (mea culpa). And I stopped mid-Hail Mary because the second email said, in big bold letters: "Habemus Papam!"

And then I seized my phone and read the texts, all of which were friends, facebook, or FOCUS telling me that I was no longer a sedevacantist.

I was alone in the apartment, but I wanted to share day this with someone! Who was still in town?? I texted a friend who lives in the next apartment complex. It was a long shot (she works), but it turned out she was home. I quickly got ready and drove over, fearing that I would be too late if I walked the (very walkable) distance.

She works in media, so I was unsurprised to walk in and find that she was using two laptops and a TV to virtually transport us to St. Peter's Square. Youtube, radio, and various apps helped, too. At several points she took out a phone to text friends the details, and this made me laugh (four screens in one room for one event!), so I took a picture.

We had plenty of time to feel anticipation with the rest of the crowd in faraway Italy (and in the rest of the waking Catholic world). Finally, the protodeacon came out and announced something, and all I could understand was "and...Francis." My heart soared. Francis? Pope Francis? Did I translate that correctly?

My desktop image the week of Pope
Francis' election. Source
I love St. Francis of Assisi, although not as well as I should and not in the way I'm sure he would like. He is poor, he was asked to rebuilt the Church, he is chaste, he is Christ-centered, he loved reverence, he loved the Gospel, he was radical, he loved the sick....

Usually my desktop image is the week's schedule of classes. Since I had no classes last week, I downloaded one of Zurbaran's St. Francis paintings.

People love to talk about whether this pope will be liberal or conservative or this or that. Everyone's spilling so much ink (pixels?) over it. Why can't we just allow God in him to shape us? Why search his words and actions for things we might not agree with? Why form an idea of Catholicism and try everything on it to see if it fits our style? It feels more fun, but it's laborious and seems militant, repulsive, and divisive to non-Catholics or not-so-involved Catholics. Besides, the humble "fiat" of being shaped by God through his Church resembles reality much better. </preaching>

I am amazed by the humility and simplicity of this Pope, before and after his election. My favorite work of literature opens with the description of a fictional bishop much like him. The first time I read Les Miserables, I fell in love with Bishop Myriel and wished that all Catholics were like him. Then, I thought, we would really win the world for Christ! He lived with minimal expense, he gave his allowances to the poor, and he walked so that the poor could also use his transportation stipends.

Courtesy of HuffPo.
I was lit up with desire to do the same thing! I got the same passion when I watched a documentary on Mother Teresa and saw how poor her sisters were. Opening a convent in New York, they uninstalled the water heater saying simply, "we will not need it." When the sisters moved in, each carried a cardboard shoebox tied with string instead of a suitcase. That's poverty! Pope Francis' example renews my hope that this is possible, and that it's also important. Poverty coheres with the rest of the Christian life and it's attractive to others. St. Francis and Pope Francis evidently know it! Maybe poverty is an important part of the new evangelization.

Final observation on the papal election: if I prayed as hard and as much for my local bishops as I did that day for the new Pope, I think it would help my diocese. So, one resolution born out of the conclave is to pray and offer sacrifices for my diocese and bishops. I should've been doing this already!

Let's pray for each other, our local bishops, and our Pope. Viva Christo rey!

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