By Javier Soegaard
I get a lot of great emails from my brother. He always seems to find the best, most analytical articles on sports, politics, and entertainment. He sends great invites to Brooklyn Dance Parties and other things that people in Brooklyn do that we Bostonians don’t quite understand (we’re a simpler, sleepier folk).
The best email I’ve ever received from him, however, was a forwarded email from the City of New York. It indicated he received two tickets to see Pope Francis’ procession through Central Park, and, more importantly, that he’d like me to attend with him!! I don’t remember which came first: My celebratory dance or my affirmative response back to him. Either way, I was brimming with joy then, and am even more excited now as the day draws nearer.
As the onslaught of articles surrounding the Holy Father’s visit attests, it is clear I am not alone in my excitement. Look here, look there, if it’s a news outlet, a culture blog, or an interest group they are covering his visit to Cuba and the US.
For a while, however, I thought I was alone in the cause of my joy. Many are interested in the way his speeches and presence will affect political and economical affairs, some are excited to champion this or that reform in Church teaching. This left me disheartened, because I thought many folks were missing the mark, falling short of the real value of his time in America. I was dangerously close to becoming one of those “Let-me-tell-you-what-Francis-really-said” commentators.
But then I read a bit more, specifically these articles from The Atlantic and from Crux. They keyed into the idea that, while there are certainly political and economic, even theological issues at stake here—Francis’ visit is first and foremost that of a priest and a pastor.
This is what I’ve always loved about him, even more than the content of his teaching or his quotable wisdom. He carries himself as a humble priest, one you could expect to see on a Sunday morning at your parish. There is an everyday-ness to him. Thus, even for me as a lay minister or you as a whatever-you-are, he becomes easier to picture, easier to become part of your day-to-day life.
This is nothing against the persons or pontificates JPII and Benedict. But let’s face it, one of them helped take down the Soviet Union and the other was prodigious author and acclaimed professor of theology. The weight of their actions and their obvious stateliness were hard to empathize with; as much as I read them and revered them, I found it hard to translate their personalities into my own life and work.
But Francis, the man they characterize with words like grandfather and uncle, priest and pastor, him I can relate to; him I can picture as a part of my life; him—hopefully—I can learn to imitate as I seek to serve God’s people with humility and compassion.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ – 1 Corinthians 11:1