Well Played, Holy Spirit!

It was one year ago today that my daughter called me at work with the news we’d all been waiting for: white smoke! And then the second phone call: “His name is Jorge, now I’m going to spell this – b,e,r,g,o,g,l,i,o. Have you ever heard of him?” I had to laugh. Two days before, his name was a last-minute entry on my list of those cardinals considered papabile by the experts. Some website had decided that there was an outside chance that this obscure cardinal from Argentina just might get the nod. On March 13, he did.

Well played, Holy Spirit!

This new “rock star” pope has garnered an unprecedented amount of attention from the most unlikely sources. As I blogged back in April of last year, one good thing about Pope Francis is that Evangelical Protestants have noticed him. And they have noticed him in a good way – quite a feat for a Pope, him being a Catholic and all. Any number of Evangelical articles and blogposts have appeared extolling the perceived virtues of the new man in the Vatican.

So, what can we say about Francis? Well, he’s down to earth, that’s for sure. His style is really what caught the attention of Evangelicals, who have long thought that being pope was about living in extravagance and having everybody come to kiss your toe. This pope has warned believers repeatedly against being sour and dour representatives of the Faith; he himself embodies joy-filled Christianity. Many Evangelicals are kind of vague when it comes to doctrinal beliefs, so they can’t really hold the pope’s theology against him. They like what they hear him saying, and they like what they see him doing. Many religious liberals like what they don’t hear Francis saying; they don’t hear him talking much about issues like abortion, for example (I guess they missed the phrase in Evangelii Gaudium where Francis explained that “the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question“). When this pope does speak, though, he is astonishingly frank:

“Journalists sometimes risk becoming ill from coprophilia and thus fomenting coprophagia, which is a sin that taints all men and women, that is, the tendency to focus on the negative rather than the positive aspects.”

Ahem….

No doubt about it, this new pope has forced everyone to sit up and take notice, for one reason or another. That’s a good thing.

Interestingly though, many people are taking peculiar notice of, and attaching a great deal of significance to, a lot of things the pope hasn’t actually said. Rumor has it that Francis is going to change dogma and revamp liturgy. This pope, being an open-minded Son of the Modern Age, is going to open the Church to some fresh, new doctrinal options like divorce and remarriage, same-sex marriage, contraception and the like. At least, that’s what a lot of journalists will tell you. And because they actually believe what they write, they too like this pope. Because they believe he’s going to remake the Church in their own image, they keep publicizing his good works, which keeps his picture on magazine covers and in the minds of kindly disposed Evangelicals. No doubt about it; this pope has gotten a lot of good press.

Ironically, this has resulted in a number of Catholics who really don’t like him, because they too believe the scuttlebutt originating from the mainstream media. Sure, they can’t really point to anything the pope has done wrong so far, but they’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop, because as everyone knows, this pope is an open-minded Son of the Modern Age. And they’re scared….

What I’m trying to say is that God the Holy Spirit has worked mightily through this papacy, helping Francis to speak to millions who just weren’t listening before. Yet, a chicken-livered spirit among Catholics may be the one thing that can derail all the good work that the Spirit has so far accomplished. Rather than seeing himself as an open-minded Son of the Modern Age, Francis has told us that he is a faithful son of the Church.

German Cardinal Joachim Meisner spoke about a talk he had with the Pope:

During my last visit to Pope Francis I was able to speak very freely with the Holy Father about all kinds of topics. And I also told him that his proclamation in the form of interviews and short statements leaves many questions unanswered, questions which should be explained further for the uninformed. The Pope looked at me with surprise and asked me to please give him an example. And my reply was that, in his return from Rio to Rome, on the airplane, he was asked about the question of divorced and remarried people. And as the Pope said, divorced people can receive Holy Communion, remarried divorced people can not. In the Orthodox Church it is possible to marry twice. That was his statement. And then he spoke of mercy, which in my experience, which is what I told him, is only understood in this country as a substitute for all human failings. And the Pope very energetically replied that he is a son of the Catholic Church and is not saying anything but the teachings of the Church.
And mercy must be identical to truth, or it doesn’t deserve the name mercy.

The bishop of the archdiocese of Denver, James Conley, repeated that contention in an interview:

Pope Francis’ personal style in these interviews and elsewhere, Bishop Conley said, “has given us an opportunity to put his words into context and to explain maybe some of the ambiguities, some of the lack of precision in his language. It’s not a bad thing.” He emphasized that the Pope has said repeatedly that he is first and foremost a son of the Church and “has made it clear he has no intention of changing Church teaching on fundamental issues; but because of perhaps his style, or his way of doing interviews, it leaves a lot of room for us to explain what he really means.”

And Deacon Keith Fournier writes:

For any readers who may worry, perhaps because they have read or heard some media reports which suggested wrongly that Pope Francis is veering away from the truth as taught by the Catholic Faith on major matters of profound moral importance, nothing could be further from the truth. He is, in his own words, a “son of the Church.” He cannot change her teaching and he does not seek to do so. He fully embraces this teaching precisely because he knows it is true. It also informs his compassionate, pastoral outreach to a world in need of hearing its liberating and saving message. As for its practices, some of its disciplines and applications, that may be a different matter.

Have a little faith, people. Let’s face it, no matter what Francis says, he will be misunderstood. It kind of reminds you of another famous figure:

The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Jn 2:18-20

Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?” Jn 4:31-33

Then He said again to them, “I go away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.” So the Jews were saying, “Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come ‘?” Jn 8:21-22

Maybe Jesus needed a better speechwriter.

The hopes of the mainstream media will be dashed when they eventually wake up and smell the orthodox coffee brewing in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Ditto the hopes of any Protestants who are inclined to believed that the Pope will see the light of the Reformation and embrace the heresies of sola fide or sola Scriptura. But if you’re a theologically conservative Catholic, the only way your hopes are likely to be dashed is if you’re one of those making what Phil Lawler calls “gleeful proclamations of doom.” Sorry, Eeyore – this pope is going to prove you wrong.

If Pope Francis makes you uncomfortable, let it be because he challenges you to get up off your duff, to downsize, to ride the bus to work, to volunteer for the Meals-on-Wheels program – that kind of uncomfortable. Because the only way “doom” is going to befall this papacy is if Catholics insist upon it, work towards it, and lie down on the railroad tracks of history to derail Francis’ train. What happened on March 13, 2013 was an awesome move by the Holy Spirit, and the only one who can stop the Spirit now… is us.

 

On the memorial of St. Euphrasia of Constantinople

Deo omnis gloria!

1 comment
  1. Gina Nakagawa said:

    A beautiful statement of your understanding of what kind of person Pope Francis actually is. It is only a matter of time before a goodly number of Protestants and self-centered “Catholics” (actually CINO’s) begin the attack in earnest. Then he will need, even more strongly the prayers and support of true Catholics.

    On Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 6:14 PM, Forget The Roads wrote:

    > Rene Lin posted: “It was one year ago today that my daughter called > me at work with the news we’d all been waiting for: white smoke! And then > the second phone call: “His name is Jorge, now I’m going to spell this – > b,e,r,g,o,g,l,i,o. Have you ever heard of him?” I had t” Respond to > this post by replying above this line > New post on *Forget The Roads* > Well Played, Holy Spirit! by > Rene Lin > > It was one year ago today that my daughter called me at work with the news > we’d all been waiting for: *white smoke!* And then the second phone call: > “His name is Jorge, now I’m going to spell this – b,e,r,g,o,g,l,i,o. Have > you ever heard of him?” I had to laugh. Two days before, his name was a > last-minute entry on my list of those cardinals considered papabile by the > experts. Some website had decided that there was an outside chance that > this obscure cardinal from Argentina just might get the nod. On March 13, > he did. > > > > > *Well played, Holy Spirit! * > > > > This new “rock star” pope has garnered an unprecedented amount of > attention from the most unlikely sources. As I blogged back in April of > last year, one good thing about Pope Francis is that Evangelical > Protestants have noticed him. And they have noticed him *in a good way* – > quite a feat for a Pope, him being a Catholic and all. Any number of > Evangelical articles and blogposts have appeared extolling the perceived > virtues of the new man in the Vatican. > > > > So, what can we say about Francis? Well, he’s down to earth, that’s for > sure. His style is really what caught the attention of Evangelicals, who > have long thought that being pope was about living in extravagance and > having everybody come to kiss your toe. This pope has warned believers > repeatedly against being sour and dour representatives of the Faith; he > himself embodies joy-filled Christianity. Many Evangelicals are kind of > vague when it comes to doctrinal beliefs, so they can’t really hold the > pope’s theology against him. They like what they hear him saying, and they > like what they see him doing. Many religious liberals like what they don’thear Francis saying; they don’t hear him talking much about issues like > abortion, for example (I guess they missed the phrase in Evangelii Gaudium > where Francis explained that “*the Church cannot be expected to change > her position on this question*”). When this pope does speak, though, he > is astonishingly frank: > > > > “Journalists sometimes risk becoming ill from coprophilia and thus > fomenting coprophagia, which is a sin that taints all men and women, that > is, the tendency to focus on the negative rather than the positive > aspects.” > > > > Ahem…. > > > > No doubt about it, this new pope has forced everyone to sit up and take > notice, for one reason or another. That’s a good thing. > > > > Interestingly though, many people are taking peculiar notice of, and > attaching a great deal of significance to, a lot of things the pope *hasn’t > actually said*. Rumor has it that Francis is going to change dogma and > revamp liturgy. This pope, being an open-minded Son of the Modern Age, is > going to open the Church to some fresh, new doctrinal options like divorce > and remarriage, same-sex marriage, contraception and the like. At least, > that’s what a lot of journalists will tell you. And because they actually > believe what they write, they too like this pope. Because they believe he’s > going to remake the Church in their own image, they keep publicizing his > good works, which keeps his picture on magazine covers and in the minds of > kindly disposed Evangelicals. No doubt about it; this pope has gotten a lot > of good press. > > > > Ironically, this has resulted in a number of Catholics who really don’t > like him, because they too believe the scuttlebutt originating from the > mainstream media. Sure, they can’t really point to anything the pope has > done wrong so far, but they’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop, > because *as everyone knows*, this pope is an open-minded Son of the > Modern Age. And they’re scared…. > > > > What I’m trying to say is that God the Holy Spirit has worked mightily > through this papacy, helping Francis to speak to millions who just weren’t > listening before. Yet, *a chicken-livered spirit among Catholics may be > the one thing that can derail all the good work that the Spirit has so far > accomplished*. Rather than seeing himself as an open-minded Son of the > Modern Age, Francis has told us that he is a faithful son of the Church. > > > > German Cardinal Joachim Meisner spoke about a talk he had with the Pope: > > > > During my last visit to Pope Francis I was able to speak very freely with > the Holy Father about all kinds of topics. And I also told him that his > proclamation in the form of interviews and short statements leaves many > questions unanswered, questions which should be explained further for the > uninformed. The Pope looked at me with surprise and asked me to please give > him an example. And my reply was that, in his return from Rio to Rome, on > the airplane, he was asked about the question of divorced and remarried > people. And as the Pope said, divorced people can receive Holy Communion, > remarried divorced people can not. In the Orthodox Church it is possible to > marry twice. That was his statement. And then he spoke of mercy, which in > my experience, which is what I told him, is only understood in this country > as a substitute for all human failings. *And the Pope very energetically > replied that he is a son of the Catholic Church and is not saying anything > but the teachings of the Church.* > *And mercy must be identical to truth, or it doesn’t deserve the name > mercy.*” > > > > The bishop of the archdiocese of Denver, James Conley, repeated that > contention in an interview: > > > > Pope Francis’ personal style in these interviews and elsewhere, Bishop > Conley said, “has given us an opportunity to put his words into context and > to explain maybe some of the ambiguities, some of the lack of precision in > his language. It’s not a bad thing.” He emphasized that the Pope has said > repeatedly that *he is first and foremost a son of the Church* > *and “has made it clear he has no intention of changing Church teaching on > fundamental issues*; but because of perhaps his style, or his way of > doing interviews, it leaves a lot of room for us to explain what he really > means.” > > > > And Deac

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