The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis
The Light of the World by Pope Benedict XVI
It’s not all about us. We remember this every time we hear a reading or a sermon that doesn’t apply to us, and doesn’t seem tailored to our particular needs or concerns. That’s not a sign that someone is doing the Mass wrong; it’s a sign that this is how God wants us to do it: together with other people. That is what all the apostles did, on Jesus’ command: they went out and started drawing in as many other people as they could. The Prophet Jonah wanted to hog God and His salvation all to Himself, but God took away his sheltering shade and insisted that he go out and be with people. Noisy people. Undeserving people. People who distracted Jonah from spending his lovely, private, sacred communion with God.
Why? Why does He want us to do it this way? Wouldn’t it be better if we could just be with God one-on-one, without anyone to distract us?
“Christians who are afraid to build bridges and prefer to build walls are Christians who are not sure of their faith, not sure of Jesus Christ.” The Pope exhorted Christians to do as Paul did and begin to “build bridges and to move forward”…
There is no singular and uniform Catholic worldview, but nevertheless it is possible to describe some general characteristics that encompass both the faithful and the renegade among the literati. Catholic writers tend to see humanity struggling in a fallen world. They combine a longing for grace and redemption with a deep sense of human imperfection and sin. Evil exists, but the physical world is not evil. Nature is sacramental, shimmering with signs of sacred things. Indeed, all reality is mysteriously charged with the invisible presence of God. Catholics perceive suffering as redemptive, at least when borne in emulation of Christ’s passion and death. Catholics also generally take the long view of things—looking back to the time of Christ and the Caesars while also gazing forward toward eternity. (The Latinity of the pre-Vatican II Church sustained a meaningful continuity with the ancient Roman world, reaching even into working-class Los Angeles of the 1960s, where I was raised and educated.) Catholicism is also intrinsically communal, a notion that goes far beyond sitting at Mass with the local congregation, extending to a mystical sense of continuity between the living and the dead. Finally, there is a habit of spiritual self-scrutiny and moral examination of conscience—one source of soi-disant Catholic guilt.
The Catholic worldview does not require a sacred subject to express its sense of divine immanence. The greatest misunderstanding of Catholic literature is to classify it solely by its subject matter. Such literalism is not only reductive; it also ignores precisely those spiritual elements that give the best writing its special value. The religious insights usually emerge naturally out of depictions of worldly existence rather than appear to have been imposed intellectually upon the work.
As the late, great Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete once said, and I’ve quoted it before: “If tomorrow it was revealed that the pope had a harem, that all the cardinals had made money on Enron stock and were involved in Internet porno, then the situation of the Church today would be similar to the situation of the Church in the late 12th century … when Francis of Assisi first kissed a leper.”
I think this approach is suited to our times for a couple of reasons: First, because the power of modern secularism is vastly overrated. It is a decadent system with no interior consistency that has deliberately sterilized itself. It causes enormous unhappiness and anxiety. It is defensive and noisy like a hyena, not strong and silent like a lion.
Second, the Francis Option makes sense because the world has a hunger for authentic Christian witness, not an aversion to it.
The world embraces figures such as Mother Teresa, John Paul II and Pope Francis.
Imagine what would happen if you and I were more like them.