I remember “working” at my grad student job at Boston College in the Roche Center for Catholic Education with both eyes locked in on the live feed focused on the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. I, along with much of the world, awaited the simple, yet dramatic, sign of white smoke that would signify a new era of Catholicism.
Though we get to experience something similar every four years in the United States, this type of event is different. Electing a Pope is not usually something that happens as often or as regularly as the election of the President of the United States. This particular papal election was even more significant in that it was preceded by the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, an event about as unusual as a total solar eclipse occurring at the passing of halley’s comet (6 times in last 2,000 years to 5 papal resignations). It was, to say the least, a monumental moment in history. Continue reading A Look at the Francis Effect→
I had just finished explaining a particular exercise to my senior religion class (Catholic Social Teaching). It involved primary sources and analysis.
Are we allowed to be real in these reflections… like, can we talk about real issues and things?
And that, I think, sums up what I might call the “real problem” for American Catholics working at schools, parishes, hospitals, and agencies. There is a basic problem that doctrine and teaching don’t seem *real* to listeners. It is, first and foremost, an intelligibility problem, which takes on two particular mutations (that come to my mind immediately.)
(1) Doctrines such the Trinity haven’t been described as “real” and relevant. Augustine did this. So did Aquinas. They spoke in ways intelligible to their society, their culture, their era. To me, the bedrock of our faith is the Incarnation and the Holy Trinity: it’s up to ministers to find the correct metaphors and confessions of faith to make them understandable. But this isn’t enough: how “Trinity” is one thing; but why “Trinity,” as in, why I should care is quite another: we need both.
(2) The Church’s witness to and against the tragedies of our modern society largely go unreported or unnoticed. Pope Francis has, by many accounts, changed some of this. Yet any “Francis effect” will only be lasting if the Church provokes and promotes a “real” witness around these issues.
I just returned from my third trip to the Religious Education Congress run by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles at the Anaheim Convention Center. As an exhibitor, I not only get to talk to people interested in theological studies, but I also get to watch the crowd and listen to the conversations going on in the hall. Plus, I get to drop in on a few workshops here and there. Every year congress is packed. Tens of thousands of people descend on the convention center for prayer, renewal, and some useful resources to bring back to their ministries. It’s all very well done, and the workshops are given by first rate scholars, ministers, and leaders.
This year, though, felt different. There was a different energy in the room, and different questions that were being asked. I couldn’t quite put my figure on it until the closing liturgy. Archbishop Gomez was the presider, and it was his homily that really articulated what I was feeling. He talked about the need to follow the Beatitudes – particularly mercy – and show compassion in our ministries. He articulated that need by speaking about an injustice that acutely affects his archdiocese: current immigration policy. He announced that a group of children in his archdiocese, all of them having members of their families deported, would travel to Rome to ask Pope Francis to speak out on behalf of those families that have been torn apart by politics and ideologies.
This homily, and the blessing of the travelers after communion, epitomized the Francis effect. Archbishop Gomez did not give a homily demanding ideological purity. Nor did it center around traditional social teachings. Archbishop Gomez spoke to and for people, families, and communities. The center of our faith is Jesus Christ, and our relationship with him is what grounds and permeates our lives. But our faith is lived out in the world by interacting with and loving people, particularly the poor and needy. This has been the emphasis of Pope Francis this past year, and we are now beginning to see it realized in the everyday workings of the church. I pray that this homily and the advocacy group are only the beginning of a movement that brings Christ to the real and everyday needs of people.