Friday, June 7, 2013

Pope Francis Answers Questions From Children. He's A Wild Card Fer Sure

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.


  1. The Force is strong in this one.

  2. I am impressed with the depth of the Pope's responses, his spontaneity which is so refreshing, but also with the students' questions. These students asked the best questions I have ever heard asked of the Pope. Good job!

  3. He seems like an authentic human who understands himself and has the discernment to know what is essential to life and faith. This may seem like a so-what? statement. But really, in terms of what we have seen these last few decades, his simple honesty and rootedness on the earth is a refreshing change from the airiness of abstraction that we have experienced from popes and wannabe popes in our recent past. May he live a long life.

  4. Wonderful blogpost! I also have been impressed with both the substance and style of Pope Francis. I really appreciate his direct style. Interestingly, his substance is very similar to the younger Joseph Ratzinger (e.g. "Introduction to Christianity") in terms of the emphasis on Christ, service and finding God in the other, but the message is much clearer due to Pope Francis' directness.

    W. Ockham

  5. As much as I enjoy this blog (I visit it daily), and respect your point of view, I feel that you might, unwittingly, be "drinking the koolaid" regarding the current pope. I'm sure you'll get around to reading Open Tabernacle's "The Ersatz Pope", which makes it pretty clear that, despite the pretty words that you seem to be so susceptible to, the new boss is pretty much the same as the old one. I've already mentioned the connection with C&L, and now we get a very good look at "the 8", which incidentally includes George Pell who made such a dismal showing at his court appearance last week. And he is among the least troubling of the 8.

    We're all happy about the cosmetic changes that this papacy seems to be bringing about, and it's great to hear more inclusive language that would seem to represent the message of the gospels, but I'm beginning to find it troubling to see so many glowing reports about what this pope says or does when if one looks just a little closer things don't really look that different at all.

    I started reading this blog specifically for the compassionate but extremely firm challenge and contrast that your point of view provided to the "official narrative" of the hierachical structure when Ratzinger was Pope, but what I've read lately is beginning to sound and feel like the fawning of a fan mag. I know your insight is more probing and inisightful than this. Maybe we have all been so traumatized by the last two popes that any departure from their rhetoric and style makes us hail the new guy as the next John XXIII.

    I would just like to see a little more balance ihere in your reporting on the new pope. The link to the Open Tabernacle article is below. I strongly suggest that everyone read it.

  6. As a non-Catholic, I watch this and other blogs daily and especially enjoy the reporting on your new pope. Francis is a refreshing man in a time when religion - especially Christianity - is under attack. Hopefully he will help young people seek the morality so many in our society lack.

    Thanks for a nice article.

  7. I always read Betty Clermont's work and read her current post at Open Tabernacle first thing this morning. I'm not naive enough to believe that Pope Francis is going to change much, especially with regards to the influence of Opus Dei. OD has a geo political agenda and they have been at it for over 80 years. Betty is absolutely on target with her critique.

    The one cardinal chosen by Pope Francis that put me in true tail spin regarding any potential for meaningful reform was Honduran Cardinal Maradiaga. I had followed the Honduran coup precisely to learn how much OD was involved. It was involved a lot. Maradiaga's presence on this particular gang of 8 depressed me far more than Pell, who given the 'reported' reasons for the make up of this group, was the only choice available in his region.

    I have found it very difficult to write much of anything since the announced formation of the 'gang of 8'. I saw it not only as a delaying tactic, but composed of some really questionable members. I just didn't seem to have any energy to deal with what I have seen will be pretty much a more benevolent form of what we've had for the last 35 years.

    Having written that, Francis is saying important things about the spiritual path. Pope or no pope he can not control how his teachings will be interpreted or disseminated. God can write straight with crooked lines.

    Francis' messages contain the seeds of a very serious back lash should his future actions indicate his words are just window dressing covering for the same geo political agenda of the last two papacies. That geo political agenda is firmly anchored on the backs of poor, especially poor women and their children. Central America is a classic example of JPII's willingness to jump in bed with oligarchs to secure church interests. Mostly because oligarchs allow for the idea of a god, as opposed to 'godless communists and agnostic secular humanists'. In other words, right wing oligarchs see a need for religion in the pursuit of their own agendas, or to put it differently, a place for the Roman Catholic Church and it's leaders. Perhaps I should say there is a place for a specific form of Roman Catholicism. The kind espoused by OD. The kind which Bergoglio espoused in Argentina.

    To conclude this missive, I have a small amount of hope that Pope Francis will be forced to re evaluate his previous thinking. He is no longer an Archbishop in a fairly isolated part of the world. He is a global leader and hopefully will evolve into a global thinker. I really hope he listens to the leadership of the Church in the Orient. The future lies in the East.

  8. The kids questions were just great. I hope Francis maintains his spontaneity, but I don't know, he's no longer in Argentina where off the cuff remarks stayed off the cuff. The Vatican is such a cess pool of careerist control freaks I'm not sure anybody could tread for long in that toxic water without eventually going under. Somehow he's got to find the ability to walk on that water.

  9. LOL. Let's pray it's the positive side of the Force.

  10. I have to agree bosicO. Francis is a refreshing change from the dense writing of Pope Benedict and the verbose writings of JPII.

  11. He will accomplish a lot if he can give people a little hope and a bigger vision. So far, so good.

  12. There is a phrase that often expresses the way democrats handle
    elections (and being in power), "Don't underestimate the capacity of
    Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory." Democratic
    pessimism is legion since the end of the era of machine politics.

    pessimism in the church works the same way. We have a new pope. One
    form the Global South, not one who spent the last 30 years inside the
    Curia. One with experience actually running a diocese, living through a
    war and economic meltdown. He doesn't live in a palace, he won't go to
    Gandolofo for the summer. And he has to put up with the prior pope
    living in the Vatican.

    Of the 118 possible choices, I think he
    has done ok so far. Remember the alternatives. Do I think we will get
    women priests from him. Unlikely. But we might get to the point where
    speaking and writing about it won't get someone fired. I think we will
    see a commission in 5 years about married priests. We can finally move
    forward for the first time since, what, 1990? It could always be better.
    It could sure be worse.

    One of the conservative Catholic blogs I
    check in on has spent the last few days begging for the return of the
    50's. Whether the 1950's or the 1250's, I'm not sure. What I am sure is
    that when the mask is off, it isn't about Latin or the glories of the
    old Mass. It IS about having women in their place, men in charge and
    then all's right with the world.

  13. I wonder how many black Americans are begging for a return of the 50's?

  14. The presence of the joker adds to the hope quotient: I love it, Colleen. May this particular joker continue to be the wild card we need in the RC church right now.

  15. Black Americans who love good music, maybe. ;-)

  16. Indeed: