Friday, March 15, 2013

Shoe Leather Evangelization, as God Intends

The shoes always made me slightly uncomfortable. Yes, I'm talking about the red papal shoes, a bit of flair on which I tried not to pin too much symbolism. "He's the Pope, he can wear whatever he likes," was my ultimate response. A flash of color, a spark of life, these are no bad things, right? Isn't it true, though, that in our world of blips and sound bites, it was enough for those who find comfort in rejecting the Catholic faith to see the symbol of custom Italian shoes as a harbinger of excess and disconnect, a dismissal of our wounded world?

Perhaps the only thing that makes some among us more uncomfortable than the appearance of excess, is the appearance of material wanting. We read that Cardinal Bergoglio's friends bought him some new shoes just as he departed Buenos Aires for Rome, since the pair he was wearing were pretty shabby.

Spiritual truths are, by their nature, simple. I've always found conviction and inspiration in the question, "What if we spent at least as much time working on our 'insides' and we did on our 'outsides'? Francis' Argentine life seems to overflow with this possibility. Even the charming description of his sister's reaction shows us we are not witnessing a fluke of Catholic religious life. He's doing it right. It's been reported that as a priest he spent most of his time offering masses and hearing confession. He's spent over four decades among our wounded world, gaze fixed, heart entwined, hard at work and prayer. We must now pray for every priest, bishop and Cardinal who lives similarly. And ask God to show us how to do it too.

We can check 'yes' in the box for both camps' requests, from radical stewardship to unwavering fidelity to Magisterial teachings. These camps of Catholics need not be disparate. And here's the crux, if you will: it's not so much that our new Holy Father has fulfilled each of our criteria. He does --  yet he adds more. God is adding more to the dimensions of our hearts and lives, by having less and doing more. For one camp this means a braver, more visible evangelization. As then Cardinal, Pope Francis spoke of our church needing "to spill onto the streets, for Jesus is the King of the Streets." For still others it will mean an equally brave interior quest which results in assenting (or not) to the teachings of the Catholic faith in order to call themselves Catholic (or not).

Pope Francis has said 'yes' to God, humbly giving himself to our world, in this age and beyond.
Just like Mary.

Who was/is Pope Emeritus Benedict? Deeply dignified, a man of resplendent faith, insistent on sharing the transformative power of God's love.

Francis appears to be this and delicately, more --- by showing us less. Less of himself, more of God.
Just like Jesus.

It seems each person who clamored, even casually, for the Church or the papacy to change is getting their way. What's more, we're being newly invited on The Way.

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