Pope Francis Scares Me

(source: Catholic News Agency)

Yes, I said it.  Pope Francis scares me – but in a good and challenging way.

You’ve probably seen the photo of Pope Francis embracing the man with neurofibromatosis, and you may have read some of the articles written about that truly touching moment.  You may have even read some of the critical commentary that implies that this has all been overblown, over sentimentalized, over emotionalized.

Those are all good discussions.

For me, it’s all been about the internal dialogue that has been occurring inside me.

When I see some act like that of Pope Francis, I can’t help but try to put myself into the shoes of those involved.

The nameless man with the disease put himself forward to meet Pope Francis.  I have no knowledge of why he did this.  I don’t know what he was hoping for, but it took guts to do it.   I don’t want to make any assumptions about that.  It’s a bit of a stretch, but his act reminds me of the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) which we heard recently in Mass.

Zacchaeus was a tax collector – an outcast in his society because of it.  He was “short in stature”, that is, different when compared with those around him.  When Jesus was passing through Jericho, Zacchaeus wanted to see him, so he climbed a sycamore tree – essentially “going out on a limb” for a better view.  Jesus, noticing Zacchaeus’ efforts to be closer to him, reaches out to him and treats him as a normal member of the community.

I see some parallels between this story in the Gospel and what Pope Francis did.

In his time, Pope Francis has constantly shown me in visible and humble ways how much higher the “love your neighbor as yourself”  bar is than I usually think.

I know I shouldn’t look for affirmations about my own faith and conduct only from the people I’m around.  It’s too easy to be complacent.   That’s why the examples of the saints and the saintly behavior of people like Pope Francis are important to consider and reflect upon.

Why does Pope Francis scare me?  Because in his simple actions, he shows me just how far off the mark I am.  How much more I could do.

How much more is being expected of us.  Of me.

Pope Francis makes it look so simple, but I struggle with the question:  “Can I do {THAT THING} that Pope Francis just showed us?”

When I try to put myself into his shoes, would I have been able to show love to that man, or would my instinctual fear, and yes, revulsion, have won the day?

And the next time I’m faced with a chance to show true love and charity, will I be brave enough to answer the call placed before me???


I was going to leave this post like that.  A hanging question in the ethereal air.

But then, providentially, this new article pops up on www.news.va as I’m editing this post and shows me what I was missing.  A marvelous story, called “An act of love for Noemi” , really should be read in its entirety.

But here’s the part that got to me.  Here Pope Francis is talking about a “communion of charisms”, which reminds me that the gifts I need to carry out what I’m called to do, what I will face each day, are freely given by the Holy Spirit and I needed not worry too much if I’m up to the task:

A second aspect of communion in holy things is the communion of charisms. The Holy Spirit distributes to the faithful a multitude of spiritual gifts and graces; the “imaginative” wealth, let us say, of gifts of the Holy Spirit is ordered to the building up the Church. The charisms — that world is a little difficult — are gifts that the Holy Spirit gives us, talents, possibilities…. Gifts given not to be hidden but to be shared with others. They are not given for the benefit of the one who receives them, but for the use of the People of God. If a charism, one of these gifts, serves instead as self-affermation [sic], then it is doubtful that we are dealing with an authentic charism or one faithfully lived out. The charisms are special graces, given to some for the good of many others. They are attitudes, inspirations and interior promptings that are born in the consciences and experiences of certain people, who are called to put themselves at the service of the community. In particular, these spiritual gifts further the sanctity of the Church and her mission. We are all called to respect them in ourselves and in others, to receive them as serving the Church’s fruitful presence and work. St Paul warns: “Do not quench the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess 5:19). Let us not quench the Spirit who gives us these gifts, these abilities, these very beautiful virtues that make the Church grow.  (source: www.news.va)

Pope Francis also reminds me that none of us is alone.  The Church as a community itself receives charisms from the Holy Spirit and if we work together, we can accomplish all those saintly acts, which we see in others, and more.


UPDATE:  I recently learned about the awesome cartoons of Jason Bach.  This one  is just right for this post:


2 thoughts on “Pope Francis Scares Me

  1. As a non-Catholic, I have to say that the more I learn about Pope Francis, the more impressed I am, and the more interested I become in knowing more. He does indeed challenge us – all of us – to try to be better people.

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