Pope Francis: The Reformer
BY MAURA STEWART | September 30, 2013
written by: Maura Stewart, John Carroll University ’14, ISN Media Team
As a young Catholic, I was overwhelmingly pleased to read Pope Francis’s recent interview that was published in many Jesuit journals. I have often struggled to reconcile the Church’s doctrine with modern realities. After reading the Pope’s words, I was much more optimistic.
The Pope notes that we are restricted by narrow-minded rules. We are not called to be the judge of others, but to help others on their journey to Christ. In a recent interview, he said that if a homosexual person is of goodwill and seeking God, then he could not judge that person. My hope is that Catholics can model their behavior after our Pope.
There are many notable quotes from the interview, but the following section struck me the most: “How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.” (Source: America Magazine)
My hope is that Pope Francis can transform the Church into an open and loving entity. We must call back those who feel forgotten, unwanted, and outcast. The people who stopped coming to Mass and those who have given up on God. That is what Jesus did during his ministry and it is how we are called to live. The Church is not meant to be a place reserved for those who have their lives in order, those without problems. That is why I connect so deeply with Catholicism and especially the Jesuit order; we are called to serve the poor, the downtrodden, and the outcasts. We are called to be a light for the world, but we cannot fulfill that calling if the light is kept from those who need it.
“Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.”
These words have rekindled the fire within me. I have been praying for reform in the Church and if our earthly leader feels the same, perhaps it is possible.
Maura is a senior at John Carroll University with a Communications major and Spanish minor. She enjoys traveling, social justice, photography, writing, and social media. After traveling to Immokalee, Florida and El Salvador on Immersion trips, Maura became extremely passionate about immigration reform, human rights, education, and poverty alleviation efforts. She is very excited to be a part of the Media Team and attend her first Teach-In this fall!
Pope Francis is an answer to so many of my prayers. “How are we treating the People of God?” It seems to me that this is as much a statement as it is a question. As a lay minister I feel strongly about honoring, promoting, and safeguarding the priestly office of all the baptized members of the Body of Christ. By speaking out against clericalism, “theological brainwashing,” and obsessing over rules, and by calling for more dialogue, inclusion, and a deeper appreciation for the theology of women, Pope Francis is giving witness to the sacredness of that holy office to which all the baptized have been anointed for.
Thanks for your reflection!
Pope Francis – He is God’s Gift to humanity, Society and the Planet.