Sunday, March 17, 2013
My Sunday Feeling
No matter what your religious persuasion might be, one would have to concede that the election of a Pope is a really big deal. As my Baptist preacher buddy Randy said at lunch the other day, "He's a head of state and the spiritual leader of over a billion people world-wide. What the Pope does affects us all if only indirectly."
How could it not?
My interest in the events since Pope Benedict retired, which was completely amazing in and of itself, is not just because I enjoy history or because I have many Catholic friends. It's a lot more personal than that.
Despite being a Methodist, I somehow wound up with a Catholic Godson. Or he wound up with me. Neither one of us had much say in the matter as I recall. Anyway, I promised at his baptism that if the unthinkable happened and I wound up in charge of Sam's spiritual guidance and welfare I would "raise him Catholic" as the old saying goes. And so I have to pay attention to what's going down over to the One True Church Apostolic and Universal in the improbable event that random laughing chance hands me the keys.
I wondered what Sam was thinking when the white smoke went up. I'm sure that they watched it at school as it would be a very big deal over at Holy Souls. Sam is 11 or so. So he is not a Catholic by persuasion. He just is. Indeed, as I know the kid his persuasions are limited to pizza, soccer and messing with his younger brother.
But I wonder if he found it quaint that the world was informed of a new Pope by smoke instead of a tweet. Or if he detected the irony in the Vatican using technology to jam cell phone and other transmissions from both into and out of the conclave but still made the announcement by igniting something.
I wondered if it struck him as odd that the selection of the successor to Saint Peter was picked by mostly elderly, mostly European, men. Looking at the process with my Methodist eyes, it strikes me as amazing that half of the workforce of the human race, and I am talking now about women, have no say in the selection of the leader of the Universal Church.
Sam's world will be one that is more pluralistic than even mine is. It will be even more driven by technology and science, 2 areas in which the Roman Catholic church has not particularly distinguished itself historically speaking.
Further, to some of my Catholic friends, the Vatican is as out of touch with Catholic life on the streets as is Washington in the secular realm. And how will an older man, as holy and humble as Francis seems to be, but nonetheless selected from a subset of other older men, continue to make the church relevant to Sam's sisters?
The new Pope seems to be committed to the "preferential option for the poor" as they say. Francis is said to be an unassuming sort. He took public transportation back home in Buenos Aires. He prepared his own meals. After being elected Pope he went and paid his hotel bill and retrieved his own luggage, for God's sake.
And yet the new Pope has a lot on his plate. Secularism is on the rise in the church's European back door. Indeed the European Union is high pissed at the Vatican Bank, whose finances and "records"are cloaked in secrecy. The tragedy of child abuse at the hands of the clergy still lingers. The ranks of the priesthood and the "peoples religious" are shrinking. How will the church engage with Islam? Gay folks ain't going away. Neither are women.
That's a lot for a man in his seventies to unpack. Will Pope Francis bring about the reforms many in the Church feel are required to insure its continued relevance? Will he bring it into this century? It will be interesting to watch.
Sam and I need to get some ice cream at Leo's and talk about this here new Pope. I'd like to know what he thinks.
Because of the promise I made at Sam's baptism, I got skin in the game. I have to pay attention.
Good luck, Your Holiness. You will need it. But for what it's worth, Sam and his Methodist Godfather are pulling for you.