Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Calling of Pope Francis

For all the voices clawing to claim knowledge of his mind elsewhere, let the Pope remind us about the significance of today – this St Matthew's Day, now 60 years ago – in his life....


In a more general context, the 266th Bishop of Rome explained the import and ramifications of the above-cited moment in his now widely-circulated interview with Antonio Spadaro SJ....

“[P]erhaps I can say that I am a bit astute, that I can adapt to circumstances, but it is also true that I am a bit naïve. Yes, but the best summary, the one that comes more from the inside and I feel most true is this: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.... I am one who is looked upon by the Lord. I always felt my motto, Miserando atque Eligendo [By Having Mercy and by Choosing Him], was very true for me.”

The motto is taken from the Homilies of Bede the Venerable, who writes in his comments on the Gospel story of the calling of Matthew: “Jesus saw a publican, and since he looked at him with feelings of love and chose him, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” The pope adds: “I think the Latin gerund miserando is impossible to translate in both Italian and Spanish. I like to translate it with another gerund that does not exist: misericordiando [“mercy-ing”].

Pope Francis continues his reflection and says, jumping to another topic: “I do not know Rome well. I know a few things. These include the Basilica of St. Mary Major; I always used to go there. I know St. Mary Major, St. Peter’s...but when I had to come to Rome, I always stayed in [the neighbourhood of] Via della Scrofa. From there I often visited the Church of St. Louis of France, and I went there to contemplate the painting of ‘The Calling of St. Matthew,’ by Caravaggio. [Top.]

“That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew.” Here the pope becomes determined, as if he had finally found the image he was looking for: “It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff.” 
Then the pope whispers in Latin: “I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.”

*   *   *
Along the same lines, on giving a retreat to the bishops of Spain prior to his election – a volume now available in English – Jorge Bergoglio proposed the following examen, one which feels particularly fitting in this extraordinary ecclesial moment:

In a discussion about the so-called "base communities" [Ed.: a significant element in liberation theology] Pope Paul VI offers us the foundational criteria that Jesus wanted for his Church. These criteria can shed light on our contemporary situation and our examination of conscience.

The basic foundational attitude is to let oneself be formed in the Church. Jesus wants men [and women] who are rooted and founded in the Church, men [and women] who:

–seek their nourishment in the Word of God and do not allow themselves to be ensnared by political polarization or fashionable ideologies, which are ready to exploit their immense human potential;
–avoid the ever present temptation of systematic protest and a hypercritical attitude, under the pretext of authenticity and a spirit of collaboration;
–remain firmly attached to the local Church in which they are inserted, and to the universal Church, thus avoiding the very real danger of becoming isolated within themselves, then of believing themselves to be the only authentic Church of Christ, and hence of condemning the other ecclesial communities;
–maintain a sincere communion with the pastors whom the Lord gives to his Church, and with the Magisterium which the Spirit of Christ has entrusted to these pastors;
–never look on themselves as the sole beneficiaries or sole agents of evangelization – or even the only depositories of the Gospel – but, being aware that the Church is much more vast and diversified, accept the fact that this Church becomes incarnate in other ways than through themselves;
–constantly grow in missionary consciousness, fervor, commitment and zeal;
–show themselves to be universal in all things and never sectarian.
All apologies if this seems novel or dull for some... but if the Big Story of these days is what the Pope's saying, then it just seems the sane and rational thing to let the Pope do the talking – 60 years since his first conversion, it kinda comes with the new turf: