Pope Francis is making it clear that he is a different person from his predecessors and this is causing discomfort and fear among the laity. There are some ugly accusations being bandied about with nary a shred of concrete evidence. Fr. Z, over at WDTPRS, wrote Liberals will soon turn on Pope Francis.
This caused me to do some thinking. Pope Francis spoke about wanting a “poor church” and some persons seem to think he means to sell off the art of the Churches but I don’t. I think Pope Francis is talking about us, the Laity, and how those who have a lot could choose to live more simply and give more to the poor. I think he is going to, like St. Chrysostom, tell those who buy the fancy cars that perhaps they could choose a nice safe but not flashy sedan and give the difference in payments to the poor. Perhaps instead of families working two jobs to buy a huge house in a fancy neighborhood where nobody is ever home, they might choose a less expensive place and spend more time with their children? I think he means that buying a moderate sized TV and giving something to the poor is a better choice than buying the HUGE screen TV. It is about the freedom to choose to own less and give more.
St. John Chrysostom riled up the wealthy women of Constantinople because in the Byzantine culture your entire social and economic status was communicated by your clothing. He wanted the wealthy ladies to sell off the expensive brocades and the gemstone hair decorations and the necklaces and ear-rings, and wear less expensive things so that their income, which had gone into the outward decoration of their bodies, might be redirected to feeding widows and orphans. What upset them was that doing that would communicate a loss of social status, a loss of importance, a loss of respect and recognition on the streets. Dressing more plainly translated to being treated less well.
Helping the poor as Pope Francis has suggested may cause a loss of status for us as well. If we drive a safe but not fancy vehicle, will we get the same admiration that we got when we drove a more expensive or newer vehicle? If we don’t live in the huge house and our address is less fashionable, will some of our friends stop inviting us to their parties? If we simplify, will we be scaling back or giving up an expensive hobby? It may be uncomfortable to contemplate how much this Pope may mean for us to change. I suspect that I will be uncomfortable with the challenges that Pope Francis is going to propose to every one of us.
Our vocations demand generosity with the people around us. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our work that we forget that we have other parts to our vocations. Marriage, spouse, children, and home all deserve segments of our time and money. Some of us spend so much on work and parish and friends that we neglect not only our homes and families but also ourselves. We must keep our priorities clear and take care of ourselves too. Generous service to others is so important that we must remember to feed the servant!
Dear Lord, please help me to accept Your gift of grace and respond to the call of the Gospel with generosity, courage and faith. Please bless and protect Pope Francis. Thank You for his predecessors Bl. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Thank You for Pope Francis. +Amen.