Posted on: 2015-09-30

Our souls shall not rest

Pope Francis invaded American imaginations these past weeks. Given that whatever happens in the USA impacts on the rest of the world, that he captured the imagination of most people on earth as well cannot be far-fetched. Saint Augustine's dictum, "Our souls shall not rest until they rest in you, O God", rings infallible here! Pope Francis came to America to bear witness to God and to religion. Even those who would claim to care less about God had to pay him special attention It all sounds like the atheist who exclaims, "Thank God, I don't believe in God!" Fr. Martin Badejo, studying in Milan Italy, wrote an interesting analysis of the Papal visit. Here are excerpts of his analysis.

The Ordinary extraordinaire

Pope Francis, with his peculiar personality and style of leadership, carries out his duty as the Servant of the Servants of God and the Pontifex Maximus, a term which translates as, the Greatest Bridge Builder. He speaks in simple language and communicates with down-to-earth examples. He advocates the Church of the poor for the poor; a category which has always been present in ecclesial life right through the ages. He creates an atmosphere of attentiveness and intimacy, which speaks loudly while listening. We can describe him as il papa operaio, Italian for  "the Workman Pope". The operaio in the Italian context is the simple field worker who enters into daily work without the fear of soiling his hands. Indeed one of his tweets is, “it is better to have a Church that is wounded but out on the streets, than a Church that is sick because it is closed in on itself.” Truly every Pope in contemporary times has impacted greatly on humanity. But here we have one whose ordinary way of being the "Holy Father", strikes an extraordinary chord.

Different Sides of the Prism

The hype of the Pope's visit to the United States of America was overwhelming. Apart from celebrating the Canonization Mass of Junipero Serra and attending the World Meeting of Families, the Pope addressed many groups including the American Congress and the United Nations General Assembly. The six-day schedule, the longest of his ten apostolic journeys in his third year as  Pope, was packed full and no doubt, remarkable. While there were obvious expectations about how he would address issues on modern ideologies, abortion, gay marriage, global warming, migrants, divorce and war to mention a few, the Pope certainly did reassure millions of American Catholics and others gathered from other parts of the world of the joy of the treasure of faith.

Top Undercurrent

One important undercurrent of the pope's visit to America is how he wove into his reflections and speeches, the message of conscious reflection on the pristine image of the human person, in contrast to  modern minds  which tries to redesign it, and especially within a pluralistic society, where liberalism is considered absolute. The attention he paid to people, his ordinary way of expression, and the intelligence with which he did so will keep the discourse ongoing long after his departure from the United States of America. These will obviously dictate reasonable and responsible practical actions as well, especially in the coming months of the fourteenth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops  on the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World, and the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

One example of many

 As he delivered his speech of over forty minutes to the Joint American Congress Pope Francis told of the creative necessity to go back to the roots. On the one hand he reminded the American congressmen of their history, using four great characters in that history namely Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jnr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton to deliver his message of “liberty”, of “liberty in plurality and non-exclusion”, of “social justice and the right of persons”, and ultimately a message of “the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.” He emphasized in a creative manner, the need to respect life, as he said: “if we want life, let us give life.” He was even more direct when he said, ‘yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before from within and without.”  On the other hand the speech of the Holy Father found strong roots in the focus of the Church since the Second Vatican Council document, Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the modern world, bringing hope and joy as her mission. There is a strong accord between the papal speech and the Pastoral Constitution. For instance it touches the transcendent dignity of man as regards his use of liberty (GS 15, 19), the common good as the meaningful end of all political endeavour (GS 26, 60), a just reward for those who work (GS 67), the recognition of marriage and family life as most important to the growth of society, forming the minds of the youth (GS 31, 47-52), the right treatment for migrants (GS 66), and the dangers of war and the need to stop the arms race (GS 78-82).

One Speech, TouchingTears

John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, in tears for a good part of the Pope's address to Congress shed more than tears at the Pope's speech to Congress. He said later, “with great blessings, of course, come great responsibility. Let us all go forth with gratitude and reflect on how we can better serve one another.” There goes the reason; to be the conscience of humanity, to direct and re-direct the heart of man away from frivolous liberty, to his profound dignity, to put smiles of hope on the face of others, and where necessary to draw the tears that powerfully signify a resolve to be better.