Pope Francis has finished his visit to us, a visit that I believe was a moment of grace for our country. There a countless reactions to his various talks and homilies. Apart from saying that I think that most of it was great I don't think that I have anything new to say in that regard. What I would like to do, as I did in my last blog post, is reflect on the context of his visit, his approach to us and a suggestion as to how to receive his inspiring words.
I was very impressed by the fact that his holiness dis his homework on our nation's history and on the history of the cities he visited. In Washington, addressing congress, he referred to us as "the land of the free and the home of the brave". He referenced Lincoln and ML King, Jr, as well as two important Catholics, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. He called us to live out the values of the founders of our nation. In Philadelphia he used one of the great women of the city's history, Katherine Drexel, as an example of how that city had a history of opening walls to others rather than creating barriers. In New York he exhibited a keen awareness of how the tragic events of 9/11 affected that city and our nation. Most importantly in all of this he offered us a framework in which to rethink some of the issues that divide us. That is the real challenge for all of us and for the leaders of our own country and the world. I am afraid that instead of doing that they will just check off what they agreed and disagreed with and that nothing will change.
The comments from both the left and the right of the political spectrum showed that we Americans, for the most part, while we have great respect for someone like Pope Francis, do not know how to receive his message. We're addicted to our political lenses. I really wish that they had banned applause during his talk to congress. The applause thing is great for the president's State of the Union Address and for speeches by other politicians. I wish that rather than that we were asked to respectfully listen and then ask "What did he say that comforted and strengthened me?" What did he say that challenged me?" " What did he say that offered me a new perspective on the issues?"
I wonder what would happen if congress and the UN members had a discussion on those three questions.
From a Church perspective I thought his homily at the Cathedral in Philadelphia was the clarion call for all of us. He cited Katherine Drexel's meeting with Pope Leo XIII When she
spoke to him of the needs of the missions, the Pope – he was a
very wise Pope! – asked her pointedly: “What about you? What are you
going to do?”. Pope Francis then turned those words on us, priests, religious and laity alike when he asked that question of us, "What are you going to do to build up the Church the Body of Christ?"
With those words he reminded us that we all have a responsibility to build of the Church. So often I hear complaints, and I must admit that I have uttered complaints, that began with the words, "Why Doesn't the Church, etc, etc.?" We are the Church, We're all in this together.
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