Just a quick rundown of the things that struck me the most during the Holy Father's recent visit to America, in no particular order...
The sheer joy (and tears) he brought with simple acts of love and kindness:
From a Muslim commenter -- "Pope Francis makes me believe in humanity."
From a secular commenter -- "I am not a religious person but i have so much respect and admiration for this pope. He is doing so much good in this world. You can tell he truly cares about people and has an amazing heart. If there is a god, this is exactly the kind of person who should represent him."
And who could not be moved by this woman's reaction to seeing the pope? Fourteen years ago, she was a first-hand witness to the devastation of 9/11, and she has been searching for hope ever since:
The Vicar of Christ's job description is to restore hope to a weary world.
How heartening was Pope Francis' unscheduled stop to visit and support the Little Sisters of the Poor, who are embroiled in a lawsuit against the Obama administration, fighting for religious liberty and conscience rights!
Pope Visits US Nuns Involved in
Obamacare Contraception Lawsuit
Obamacare Contraception Lawsuit
Those who would say that gay marriage laws trump rights of conscience might want to know what the pope had to say about that when questioned by reporters on a flight:
...conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right."
Francis added: "Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying, 'this right has merit, this one does not.'"
Asked if this principle applied to government officials carrying out their duties, he replied: "It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right."
Is anyone listening? Obama?
UPDATE! Check this out:
UPDATE! Check this out:
(And he told her to "stay strong!")
And in the "Funniest and Weirdest Thing I've Seen in a Long Time" category:
My nephew in New York waited outside for four hours to get into Madison Square Garden for the pope's mass, and he texted me after:
Mass was amazing! I've never seen so many people packed in the streets -- even for New York -- or someone so wildly popular. It was an incredible experience. You would never guess that New York was secular and liberal based on the reception hahaOh yes, the dying, irrelevant, out-of-touch Catholic Church, led by an old, celibate white man had secular New York City electrified and cheering! Go figure. ;)
And oh wasn't it beautiful, during the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, when several international Catholic families greeted the Pope and told their stories! The Jordanian family who has endured real persecution for Christ; the Nigerian wife and mother who poured out her painful and incredible story of faithfulness; St. Gianna Molla's own daughter reading a love letter from her mother to her father, Pietro, written just days before they married, then the saint's daughter embracing the Holy Father!
Too many other incredible moments to mention, but all so affirming of families, of our Faith, and of the universality of the Church. We are blessed, and everyone is invited to join us!
Now, as for commentary, this is my favorite. So many Catholics and non-Catholics have their reasons for loving Pope Francis, but also their reasons for criticizing him for what he did or did not do. Dr. Gerard Nadal, a pro-life and pro-marriage warrior of many years, said it best:
[Some traditionalist Catholics] paint a picture of a pope who has ignored the red meat issues of American Catholicism’s troubles in favor of a left-wing socio-political agenda. How do you solve a problem like Francis? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? (Cue the Sound of Music)
But as this papacy has unfolded, something about traditionalists’ complaints over Francis calls attention back on the traditionalists and their hero popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. In thirty-five years of these two giant popes, we have witnessed all of the heavy-lifting both philosophically and theologically on the sexual revolution and the decline of the status of human persons in the twentieth century. We’ll be unpacking their writing for decades to come. As western civilization has crumbled, we clamor for more writing, more words, more defense of the sacred. And we get to the point where this author needs to ask, “What more needs to be said?” How many more words? How many more documents? How many more encyclicals? How many more speeches, homilies, press conferences?Read the whole thing, here:
And if some of you are still bothered by what you perceive to be Francis' "silence" on the issue of abortion, why did Planned Parenthood get so upset with him? They heard him loud and clear. Don't we hear him, too?
And as for marriage, what about this?
Needless to say, our understanding, shaped by the interplay of ecclesial faith and the conjugal experience of sacramental grace, must not lead us to disregard the unprecedented changes taking place in contemporary society, with their social, cultural – and now, unfortunately juridical – effects on family bonds. These changes affect all of us, believers and non-believers alike. Christians are not “immune” to the changes of their times. This concrete world, with all its many problems and possibilities, is where we must live, believe and proclaim.
Until recently, we lived in a social context where the similarities between the civil institution of marriage and the Christian sacrament were considerable and shared. The two were interrelated and mutually supportive. This is no longer the case.
And, if there was any doubt about the Pope's very reason for visiting America, he cleared that up when he said to the US Bishops:
“I appreciate the unfailing commitment of the Church in America to the cause of life and that of the family, which is the primary reason for my present visit.”
Can anyone be unsure of what he meant?
Finally, our Papa is fully aware of the crisis of young people who are forgoing marriage and family. In perhaps my favorite passage from his trip, Pope Francis asks pastors, in his address to bishops from around the world, to invite young people to choose marriage and family over the "culture of discouragement":
Many young people, in the context of this culture of discouragement, have yielded to a form of unconscious acquiescence. They are paralyzed when they encounter the beautiful, noble and truly necessary challenges which faith sets before them. Many put off marriage while waiting for ideal conditions, when everything can be perfect. Meanwhile, life goes on, without really being lived to the full. For knowledge of life’s true pleasures only comes as the fruit of a long-term, generous investment of our intelligence, enthusiasm and passion.
...[W]e are living in a culture that convinces and pushes young people toward not founding a family. Some because of a lack of material resources and others because they have so many resources that they are very comfortable as they are. And this is the temptation: to not found a family.
[We must extend] a sincere invitation to young people to be brave and to opt for marriage and the family.... We have to make young people excited about taking this risk, because this is a risk for fecundity and life....
...A pastor must show that the “Gospel of the family” is truly “good news” in a world where self-concern seems to reign supreme! We are not speaking about some romantic dream: the perseverance which is called for in having a family and raising it transforms the world and human history.
There is so much more from his trip to America that I missed! I want to find a way (and time) to go back and watch all the footage, every event and homily, and yet I'm pretty sure I won't be able to. At least I have these highlights, and I'd love to hear yours!
PS: The US Bishops have pretty much every event and homily and speech right here on their site.