What is it about Pope Francis that causes me to weep?
This is the April “Concerning Women” column for the Catholic Free Press. I still feel as strongly about this pope today. I was sent a link to a blog, Whispers in the Loggia, which contained a 38+ minute video of Pope Francis answering 4 questions, pretty much off the cuff. His answers, as always, are presented in the simplest terms and yet inspire pondering and reflection.
If you are able to spend about 40 minutes with our pope (perhaps move the laptop to the kitchen and listen while preparing dinner), you will be amply rewarded. I was able to listen on my iPhone while driving and welcomed the traffic jam so I could finish listening before getting to work.
Here is the video:
And here is the April “Concerning Women” column:
“Habemus Papam! “We have a Pope!” Moments after the announcement an elderly man stepped forward, appearing a bit dazed and raising his hand in greeting. Far from a sweeping gesture to a large crowd, it was a simple “hello.” And his greeting to the crowd? “Good evening.”
His face broke into a smile as he addressed the hundreds of thousands before him. His voice was soft, gentle. Before giving the crowd his blessing (the Urbi et Orbi), he asked a favor: could they pray for him? Then he bowed low and the crowd grew silent. And as the scriptures say, the prayers rose up as incense before the Lord.
And I wept.
It would not be the last time that I would weep. I felt very drawn to this man and began looking for every opportunity to learn more about him. With each subsequent article, with each television appearance, I would weep.
I watched Sunday mass being celebrated on March 17 at St. Anne’s just outside the Vatican. Pope Francis looked like any parish priest, wearing simple Lenten robes. After mass, he stood outside and greeted each and every parishioner, often conversing with them. And I wept.
The most compelling image occurred as he arrived for the inaugural mass on March 19. Touring the overflowing crowds at St. Peter’s Square in the pope mobile, Pope Francis suddenly ordered the vehicle to stop. He stepped out and walked towards the crowd, to a disabled man. He kissed the man with such tenderness on the forehead and caressed him. The man’s caretaker beamed and the man broke into a glorious smile.
I saw Jesus in that instant, getting a sense of what it must have been like to have been in His presence when He tended the sick.
I wept again. And each time I wept, my heart swelled with hope and a burning desire to change, to follow the example of Pope Francis.
In his imitation of Christ, Pope Francis points to Him. His invitation to us is gentle, loving and compelling. I watch him and find myself pondering, wondering how I also can imitate Christ.
Who around me is poor: in need of material goods, uplifting conversation, or just someone being totally present to them? Aren’t they often the people I see every day at work or school, in the marketplace and at home? Don’t I also see them on street corners, holding signs, asking for help?
On April 3 in St. Peter’s Square Pope Francis addressed an estimated 50,000 people on the special role of women in the Church. He spoke of a woman’s unique capacity for showing love: “Women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord, in following him and communicating his face, because the eyes of faith always need the simple and profound look of love.”
The pope reminds us that the Gospels give women a “primary, fundamental role” as witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. Since Jewish law at that time did not consider women or children as “reliable, credible witnesses” he concludes that “This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria. The first witnesses of the birth of Jesus are the shepherds, simple and humble people, and the first witnesses of the resurrection are women.”
It is true that some women will still believe it is necessary to assume official positions in the Church in order to serve. Perhaps this will be open to discussion. There are already, however, many faithful women consecrated to religious life, along with professional lay women who devote their skills to spreading the Gospel that allow them to have an official position. We all can be leaders, shepherds of the small or large flocks that God deems to give us.
In his statements, the pope is reiterating that whatever position in life we may be in, that it’s all about simplicity and the heart. Do we recognize Jesus in those around us? Are we overflowing with love for Him so that this love serves others? These truths can be known and administered in any position, in any stage of life.
Pope Francis makes me weep. His example opens my heart and prompts me to change. He is a true Vicar of Christ.