|117 cards to draw from and our cardinals seemed to have drawn the wild card.|
Pope Francis has been a refreshing cup of tea for me because he is not afraid to be spontaneous, and it's in his spontaneity that I catch glimpses of his true self. I don't always agree with some of his spontaneous thoughts, but that's not the real issue. The real issue is he isn't afraid to show the world his thinking and his reasoning is mostly unscripted and unimpeded by much of a verbal censor. These qualities were fully on display in an interchange he had with young Italian and Albanian students this morning in Rome. The following is an excerpt from this article taken from the Vatican's Information Services website.
...The floor was then given to several students and professors who asked the Pope unscripted questions. To the first student, who asked about the doubts regarding belief that he sometimes has and what he could do to help him grow in faith, Francis answered:
“Journeying is an art because, if we're always in a hurry, we get tired and don't arrive at our journey's goal. If we stop, if we don't go forward and we also miss the goal. Journeying is precisely the art of looking toward the horizon, thinking where I want to go but also enduring the fatigue of the journey, which is sometimes difficult … There are dark days, even days when we fail, even days when we fall. [Sometimes] one falls but always think of this: don't be afraid of failures. Don't be afraid of falling. What matters in the art of journeying isn't not falling but not staying down. Get up right away and continue going forward. This is what's beautiful: this is working every day, this is journeying as humans. But also, it's bad walking alone: it's bad and boring. Walking in community, with friends, with those who love us, that helps us. It helps us to arrive precisely at that goal, that 'there where' we're supposed to arrive.” (The only thing I might add to this description of the 'art' of journeying is that sometimes the destination you think you are walking towards is just another step in the journey.)
An elementary school girl asked if the Pope continued to see his friends from grade school.
“But I've only been Pope for two and a half months,” he answered. But he understood her concern and continued “My friends are 14 hours away from here by plane, right? They're far from here, but I want to tell you something, three of them came to find me and greet me and I see them and they write to me and I love them very much. You can't live without friends, that's important.”
The next question, also from a grade school girl, was if he wanted to be Pope.
He responded by asking her: “Do you know what it means if someone doesn't love themselves very much?” He continued: “Someone who wants, who has the desire to be Pope doesn't love themself. ... But I didn't want to be Pope.” (This is a profound answer to an insightful question. Self love does not need the validation of external success. In fact, when a person is truly operating from self love, these kinds of questions don't even come up nor is that unsought for success likely to turn one's head in the wrong direction.)
Another girl asked why he had forsaken the wealth of the papacy, living at the Domus Sanctae Marthae instead of the Apostolic Palace apartments, and other similar choices. (Finally someone gave Pope Francis a public opportunity to answer this question. His answer is illuminating.)
He answered: “It's not just about wealth. For me it's a question of personality. I need to live among people and if I lived alone, perhaps rather isolated, it wouldn't be good for me. (In more ways than one.) A professor asked me this question: 'Why don't you go live there?' and I answered, 'Listen, professor, it's for psychiatric reasons.' Because … that's my personality. That apartment [in the Apostolic Palace] isn't so luxurious either, don't worry. But I can't live alone, do you understand? And well, I believe that, yes, the times talk to us of so much poverty in the world and this is a scandal. Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry. We all have to think if we can become a little poorer, all of us have to do this. How can I become a little poorer in order to be more like Jesus, who was the poor Teacher?” Returning to the original question, he finished: “It's not a question of my personal virtue. It's just that I can't live alone.” All the rest, not having so many things, “is about becoming a little poorer”. (The question Pope Francis asks about 'becoming a little poorer' is the one people in the first world are going to have to answer, and better it be an honest choice than the forced situation we are all facing.)
The Pope also answered questions related to his choosing to become a Jesuit, but the last of the eight questions was from a young man who asked how young people should deal with the material and spiritual poverty that exists in the world.
The Holy Father responded: “First of all I want to tell you something, tell all you young persons: don't let yourselves be robbed of hope. Please, don't let it be stolen from you. The worldly spirit, wealth, the spirit of vanity, arrogance, and pride … all these things steal hope. Where do I find hope? In the poor Jesus, Jesus who made himself poor for us. And you spoke of poverty. Poverty calls us to sow hope. This seems a bit difficult to understand. I remember Fr. Arrupe [Father General of the Jesuits from 1965-1983] wrote a letter to the Society's centres for social research. At the end he said to us: 'Look, you can't speak of poverty without having experience with the poor.' You can't speak of poverty in the abstract: that doesn't exist. Poverty is the flesh of the poor Jesus, in that child who is hungry, in the one who is sick, in those unjust social structures. Go forward, look there upon the flesh of Jesus. But don't let well-being rob you of hope, that spirit of well-being that, in the end, leads you to becoming a nothing in life. Young persons should bet on their high ideals, that's my advice. But where do I find hope? In the flesh of Jesus who suffers and in true poverty. There is a connection between the two.” (Hope is found in the Resurrection as well as in the lifestyle and teachings of Jesus. A person can truly gamble on their high ideals only when the fear of failure (death) is not so strong that it stifles the ability to take the gamble.)
Pope Francis may do some of his best teaching with children, especially when those children are insightful, astute, and really want to hear the answers. Sometimes those children come in adult bodies. I find myself liking him more and more because he tells it the way he sees it. He truly does have a gambler's attitude in that he isn't afraid of losing when he plays his cards and he's honest about why he's even playing the game. As he says, it isn't about losing or falling down, it's about getting up and continuing the journey. Amongst a host of careerist clergy he has to seen as the wild card Joker amongst the Catholic royalty. The Cardinals may have been looking to elect a place holding version of a suicide king, but they got the Joker instead.
I've played a lot of poker, and to me the having the joker in the deck always represented another reason to hope. Might not have been a sure thing, but the presence of the joker did add to the hope quotient. I have the same kind of feeling about Pope Francis. He's by no means a sure thing but he does add to the hope quotient and he does have people wondering and thinking and guessing where he's going next.