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Pope Francis, A Message for the Masses

3

December 31, 2014 by eneubauer

Pope Francis gives a speech during an audience to exchange Christmas greetings with members of the Roman Curia (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis gives a speech during an audience to exchange Christmas greetings with members of the Roman Curia (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In my first installment in a series reflecting on Pope Francis’ Christmas address to the Roman Curia I put forward the idea that his message was not solely for the Curia but a good message for the faithful as well.  In addition, the Christmas season is a perfect time to step back and reflect.  Which of the ailments applies to me and why?

Let me be honest, I think one of the most difficult aspects of our Catholic faith is honest self-reflection.  Simply stated, it’s no fun looking deep within for those things / thoughts that are abhorrent to God and create a chasm between us and Jesus.  Hence, confession of our sins is our vehicle to forgiveness, healing and spiritual maturity.  Remember, heartfelt honesty is required as part of our lived faith if we desire to grow in an intimate relationship with Christ.

The first ailment Pope Francis draws our attention to is this, “…the sickness of considering oneself ‘immortal’, ‘immune’ or ‘indispensable’, neglecting the necessary and habitual controls.”  He reminds us that a growing body is:

  • Self-Critical – A call to honest self reflection, rejection of sin and a desire to run from those habits that draw us away from a relationship with Christ.
  • Up-to-Date – A recognition that we are learners and a call to be a keen observer of that which is around us.  We should not be taken off guard in ignorance of culture, politics, current events and knowledge of our faith.
  • Better Oneself – Whatever our role is and where ever we are at in our faith we should constantly be seeking to grow.

The Pope is calling the Church to be humble, well formed, participate in a type of catechesis that challenges us to grow in our faith, family and professional life.

The second ailment is “’Martha-ism’, or excessive industriousness; the sickness of those who immerse themselves in work, inevitably neglecting ‘the better part’ of sitting at Jesus’ feet.”  This is a call to rest and relaxation – giving oneself space to think and dream.  No matter what article I read, whether it is for the development of professional expertise or spiritual enlightenment, I am constantly hearing the same message.  We are too busy for our own good.  Leaders from all sides are drawing the same conclusions.  We have to make space to calm the mind and carefully consider what is ahead if we truly want to grow and develop as human beings.

The third ailment mentioned by the Pope is, “the sickness of mental and spiritual

Pope Francis stops to bless this child.  Photo provided by the EPA

Pope Francis stops to bless this child. Photo provided by the EPA

hardening: that of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, vivacity and boldness and conceal themselves behind paper, becoming working machines rather than men of God.”  As a former Protestant pastor and Director of Pastoral Ministries in a Catholic parish, I can attest to just how easy it is to get “caught up” in the administrative work of the ministry.  All of us get caught up, as the disciples did, in figuring out the “how” rather than immersing  ourselves in the simple, “doing” and “being” of ministry.  We are called to remember that people, their lives and problems really matter.  The Church, its leaders and lay ministers (all of us) are called to walk alongside people, to embrace their concerns and place special emphasis on the “least of these” (especially the poor).  I am a strong advocate of a well educated, professional clergy and staff.  However, that should not be at the expense of caring for, walking alongside and discipling PEOPLE.

I would love to hear your thoughts – more installments to come!

3 thoughts on “Pope Francis, A Message for the Masses

  1. Daniel Butler says:

    Happy New Year my friend, it’s good to see you writing here again!

    To be honest, the hardest part of dealing with the above mentioned message is that the honest self reflection is done is the harsh light of a media around the world which bears little love for the Church, and which loves to see Her fall, trip, slip, and generally look grossly imperfect. A hard thing to bear for a convert who was drawn to Her Truth and beauty and who wishes for the world to see the same!

    At the same time, everything is in the response isn’t it? If the world sees us be self reflective and then change!, that would be something to behold. Christ calls us as individuals to continual conversion, and He calls His bride to no less. Of the issues mentioned above, I fall into the trap of thinking more about the “how” than getting down to the “doing”. I will spend more time looking at a situation at feeling overwhelmed by it’s enormity than in taking a small step or two towards making it better. May the Lord help us.

  2. Daniel Butler says:

    Happy New Year my friend, it’s good to see you writing here again!

    To be honest, the hardest part of dealing with the above mentioned message is that the honest self reflection is done is the harsh light of a media around the world which bears little love for the Church, and which loves to see Her fall, trip, slip, and generally look grossly imperfect. A hard thing to bear for a convert who was drawn to Her Truth and beauty and who wishes for the world to see the same!

    At the same time, everything is in the response isn’t it? If the world sees us be self reflective and then change!, that would be something to behold. Christ calls us as individuals to continual conversion, and He calls His bride to no less. Of the issues mentioned above, I fall into the trap of thinking more about the “how” than getting down to the “doing”. I will spend more time looking at a situation at feeling overwhelmed by it’s enormity than in taking a small step or two towards making it better. May the Lord help us.

  3. rjuneau says:

    I love reading your thoughts Eric. They always challenge me. As to self-reflection, I agree that it is something we all must make time for and to be completely honest about or we (and the Church as a whole) are doomed to repeating the same mistakes and to never moving forward in your journey to peace and to Christ. It can be difficult to let go of long held beliefs and ways of looking at the world, at our actions and at those of others. I think that the next step – the sacrament of Reconciliation, is possibly the most difficult and most often forgotten step of the process. Many of us, or maybe just me, find it difficult to sit before another person, even a priest, and admit what I have found in my reflections. I can be comfortable with God in my private prayer and thoughts, but to a priest – a man who is obviously at a different level of faith than I am – that is hard. It is also why in my job here at my parish I try to make it comfortable and easy for the children.

    As to the Doing – it can become only so much movement and motion without the reflection.

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