It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since you were elected Pope. The Catholics around me all went nuts from the day Benedict XVI stepped down. Some of them calmed down shortly after you were elected, others never did.
I remember being totally thrown off by the news, because I had never heard of a pope resigning before. It ended up piquing my curiosity enough to start doing some research into the history of the Church.
Then there was the papal conclave. I didn’t really know who any of the cardinals eligible to become pope were beyond what I could find in the newspaper (I read everything The Globe and Mail published on the subject.) and I didn’t expect it to be over so quickly.
I was in class when the white smoke came. The girl behind me saw it on twitter and told me. I have no idea what we talked about for the rest of the class because I spent it googling your name and reading everything I could find.
Then I got excited. I read about how you welcomed in single mothers and baptized their children, and I smiled. I read about how cared for an elderly priest and took public transit, and I thought “this is a pope who knows people.”
Friends who aren’t involved in the church were interested for a brief time. Friends baptized but not practicing were curious but didn’t want to deepen their relationship with the Church unless the Church fundamentally changed. Friends already involved in the Church didn’t seem to know quite how to respond. Some were really excited, others concerned. A lot of people warned me that one man can’t change thousands of years of tradition.
Jesus did. He didn’t reject the traditions, but his actions and words while he was here on earth did change them by giving birth to a whole new tradition. A tradition which has morphed over the years and continued to build on itself as it reacted to an ever changing world.
Pope Francis, people tell me that you’re not really changing anything with the way you talk about homosexuality and about women. They tell me the media is twisting everything you say to fit what they want it to say.
I have a hard time believing those people, because it seems to me the tone you speak in is what’s different. It might not change the teaching, but it is changing the focus by shifting the conversation back towards how much God loves the world. That’s not a small change.
The Vatican has a press office. I’m sure if there were an egregious error in the story the mainstream media has presented about you it would have been corrected by the press office.
St. Francis of Assisi, whose name you took when you became pope once said “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words.” You do use words in your preaching, but it is your actions which have kept the world’s attention this year.
Thank you for reminding us of our duty to the poor, of the joy to be had in service to others. Thank you for being so different from every other pope I’ve seen in my admittedly short time on earth so far. Thank you for being a pastor to the whole church, because we need that care more than anything.
I can’t lie, there’s things about my Church I want to change. Things I want desperately for you to change. But if it comes down to big changes causing a schism, or little changes bringing more people to God and helping with the practical realities of life, I’ll pick the little changes every time.
Thanks Pope Francis. The way you pope makes me proud to be part of this.
Hoping to meet you somewhere between here and Paradise,