Potpourri of Popery, 1st Sunday of Lent edition


Photo credit: Pope Emeritus BXVI showing reverence to his superior, the reigning Pope. Love! 

I'm as shocked as you are. Didn't know if I'd ever again find time or inspiration for Potpourri, but here we go.

To mark his first anniversary as Pope, the Holy Father granted an interview to Italy's Corriere della Serra (link is to English transcript). It's wide-ranging. A few of my highlights:

Hardly the most important thing, but let's just get this out of the way because I KNEW it. People have been passing around stories about the Pope sneaking out of the Vatican in the middle of the night to feed the homeless. It's been all I can do when I see those stories circulating not to become Wet-Blanket Gal and try to fix the internet by calling BS every time one pops up. They make no sense. There are no middle-of-the-night soup kitchens; homeless people also sleep. The articles never have any credible sources, and seem to originate with the kind of person who thinks the Vatican should sell all its art, give up the sacraments and send every priest to the streets -- using Francis as a scourge against everyone else.  I therefore feel smug when I read the Holy Father finds those stories offensive:
I  like being among the people. Together with those who suffer. Going to parishes. I don’t like the ideological interpretations, a certain ‘mythology of Pope Francis’. When it is said, for example, that he goes out of the Vatican at night to walk and to feed the homeless on Via Ottaviano. It has never crossed my mind. If I’m not wrong, Sigmund Freud said that in every idealization there is an aggression. Depicting the Pope to be a sort of superman, a type of star, seems offensive to me. The Pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps calmly and has friends like everyone. A normal person. 
They ask him some good questions -- for example, when he exalts poverty, does he mean "pauperism."? No. "Pauperism" was a medieval mistake, corrected by Francis of Assisi, who put poverty back on the Gospel track. But still: "The Gospel condemns the cult of well-being," and you can't serve God and money.

Does he not recognize that globalization has lifted many people out of poverty?  Of course it has, but it has also condemned people by picking winners, destroying culture and ignoring genuine human flourishing.
The globalization which the Church supports is similar not to a sphere in which every point is equidistant from the center and in which then one loses the particularity of a people, but a polyhedron, with its diverse faces, in which every people conserves its own culture, language, religion, identity. The current ‘spherical’ economic, and especially financial, globalization produces a single thought, a weak thought. At the center is no longer the human person, just money.
Some headlines have suggested the Pope hints at forthcoming changes in Church teaching in this interview. Quite the contrary. I don't we have to go any further than his praising Paul VI's teaching against contraception:
his genius was prophetic, he had the courage to place himself against the majority, defending the moral discipline, exercising a culture brake, opposing present and future neo-Malthusianism. The question is not that of changing the doctrine but of going deeper and making pastoral (ministry) take into account the situations and that which it is possible for people to do
It's clear from this and other passages in the interview no change in teaching is in the offing, but he wants an examination of how to engage the culture -- to encourage young people to marry, to help couples who do marry stay together.

I think the heart of the interview is a question people will probably pass over.  A question begins: "Kindness and mercy are the essence of your pastoral message…"

and Francis interrupts to say:
And of the Gospel. It is the center of the Gospel. Otherwise, one cannot understand Jesus Christ, the kindness of the Father who sent him to listen to us, to heal us, to save us.
When I was in Rome for the Vigil of Pentecost last year, the crowd was shouting at intervals, "Fran-ces-co! Fran-ces-co!" and he commented on it, departing from his prepared remarks:
What is the most important thing? Jesus. If we forge ahead with our own arrangements, with other things, with beautiful things but without Jesus we make no headway, it does not work. Jesus is more important. I would like now to make a small complaint, but in a brotherly way, just between ourselves. All of you in the square shouted “Francis, Francis, Pope Francis”; but where was Jesus? I should have preferred to hear you cry: “Jesus, Jesus is Lord, and he is in our midst!” From now on enough of “Francis,” just “Jesus”!
This is the thing we are all too clericalized (just as he always complains) to understand. Francis doesn't envision himself to have a "program" of his own and isn't interested in advancing his own ideas. He's just trying to live the Gospel in its fullness, and challenging anyone who professes to be Christian to do the same. You will rarely hear him speak of the Church in the formal sense, still less meaning only the hierarchy. He is usually using words in the colloquial sense, and speaking of Church in the broadest possible sense of every professing Christian. (See interview w/ Bishop Morlino below in Potpourri for more on this.)

We see this in his homily at the consistory appointing new cardinals. You're a cardinal, you're a bishop, you have a task, but before you are anything else, you are a disciple.
“Jesus was walking ahead of them…” (Mk 10:32).
At this moment too, Jesus is walking ahead of us. He is always before us. He goes ahead of us and leads the way… This is the source of our confidence and our joy: to be his disciples, to remain with him, to walk behind him, to follow him…
...This is something striking about the Gospels: Jesus is often walking and he teaches his disciples along the way. This is important. Jesus did not come to teach a philosophy, an ideology… but rather “a way”, a journey to be undertaken with him, and we learn the way as we go, by walking. Yes, dear brothers, this is our joy: to walk with Jesus.
It's funny, what made headlines in that homily and that of the concelebration with the new cardinals the next day is not at all what I think is most striking. "The world," if by that is meant secular media, highlighted a line about the College of Cardinals being a call to service, not a royal court. The world interpreted that to mean a call to poverty and humility, but I think instead it was a call to unity.

At the consistory he said:
as we are thus “con-voked”, “called to himself” by our one Teacher, I will tell you what the Church needs: she needs you, your cooperation, and even more your communion, with me and among yourselves.
And the following day, in the line about the royal court, he said:
"May all of us avoid, and help others to avoid, habits and ways of acting typical of a court: intrigue, gossip, cliques, favouritism and partiality."
But the passage closes with:
Dear brother Cardinals, may we remain united in Christ and among ourselves! I ask you to remain close to me, with your prayers, your advice and your help.
He does not strike me as a man (as some would have it) encouraging dissent!

If you'd like to know more about what Francis means by poverty, you can't do better than his Letter for Lent. It really isn't about pauperism, since he identifies moral and spiritual poverty as of deeper concern than material poverty. I'd say what he brings that's new in emphasis is the connection between material destitution and moral poverty -- the former often being the seed of the latter.

The homily for Ash Wednesday is simple and beautiful and challenging and wise. In his daily homilies he beings to emerge as a tremendous teacher of the natural law. He appeals to it constantly, illustrating it, calling it forth -- but in the Lincolnian style, without ever calling attention to it by name.
And finally: Alligator okay to eat for Lent.