The second thing I must confess, in a public forum such as this blog, is the reaction I had to the announcement of our new pope. I was downright nasty. I privately thought things and wrote things to friends that are so unbecoming a Catholic that I'm embarrassed. In this, I was more wrong than I was in my attempt to predict the next pope. I don't think it was my wounded pride in being wrong about Scola that had me so upset, because guessing was more fun than anything else. No, I think it was fear of the unknown and making assumptions and judgements of Cardinal Bergoglio with only a brief examination of him done over the years. After praying about it last night and going to Mass and adoration this morning, let me explain how I have come to understand my severely negative reaction last night, for which I seek forgiveness.
I am a troubled foster child...
Last night, I think I was in a process of being born, with all the stain of original sin that entails. I was ready for a certain kind of pope, and got a surprise instead, quickly bringing me from birth to adolescence as one without the grace of Baptism. I found myself as a young and troubled foster child who had found my spiritual "Daddy Warbucks" in Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and I threw a "teenage" fit when someone so different showed up to be my new spiritual father. What little I thought I knew about him was enough to conjure up the worst possible conclusions, and I threw a tantrum.
Before going to bed, I chose to pray and then read what was being said about the new pope. I read for hours. With each article, the form of my new spiritual father was coming into clearer view. My sense of the man had been dull enough before to cast shadowy doubts in my soul. Now with a sharper focus, I began to warm to him, and something inside me began to change. Like it or not, this is my new Holy Father. It would be better to learn to like it. I had to grow up in a hurry.
When I awoke this morning, I resolved to do a few things. First, I wanted to read some more. Then, I wanted to go to Mass and pray for him... for us... for me. Most importantly, today is the anniversary of my baptism 37 years ago, and I wanted to pray the Rite of Baptism, as has become my custom on this day each year. How perfect, I thought, to have a chance to do all this on the first morning of Pope Francis' pontificate? I had gone through a painful birth of sorts last night, but I needed to be re-born, and I knew it in the depths of my heart. When it was all said and done, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and consolation of soul. I could finally embrace our new Holy Father, Pope Francis!
Only now do I feel I can write about him with a measure of fairness which any person deserves, and certainly the Vicar of Christ. I think there is a tendency, that apparently I succumb to as much as anyone else, to caricature people. Progressives have done it for years with our last two popes, who were perhaps seen as being more focused on the inner life of the Church (truth and worship) than the outer life (charity and social justice). Now, I believe people may see Pope Francis as more focused on the outer life than the inner. In reality, we know these two are inseparable. That one is called to share his gifts by giving precedence to one over the other is part of being the Body of Christ. Popes are not exempt from such diverse gifts, and each is greatly shaped by their environment, but all popes care about the whole Gospel message. We must choose to resist the caricature and uphold the reality - we have a pope, like all popes, who believes the Catholic faith, will teach it authentically, and cares deeply for the poor of this world (which very much includes those who lack the greatest treasure of all - the saving grace of Jesus Christ). We need not worry, and it's worth remembering...
In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas
(In essentials unity, in dubious things liberty, in all things charity)
I may still be a spiritual foster child, for I will likely have another Holy Father one day, but I am no longer troubled. I prayed for the cardinals to elect the man who is most like Christ. That's a tall order in that kind of company, but who can doubt they got it right? By all accounts, Pope Francis is an enigma to the world, caught up as it is in secularism. He is an orthodox believer and teacher who feels the plight of the poor. Those who "get it" certainly understand that this is no contradiction. It may be foolishness to the world, but that's the Cross. That's Christ. I love the Holy Father. He has my full attention and support. I am going to simply be the best Catholic I can be and let Christ's appointed shepherd help me on the way. AMDG!