"Division of hearts doesn't overcome any difficulty. Only love is capable of overcoming difficulties. Love is a festival. Love is joy. Love is to keep moving forward." --Pope Francis
Although I don't mention it much on the blog, I was born and raised Catholic, and went to Parochial school until 5th grade. I currently belong to St. Mary's Parish, and our priest, Father Dwight, pilgrimaged to Philadelphia to hear Pope Francis speak last weekend. I'm looking forward to hearing about his experiences.
I'm a complicated Catholic. While I love going to Mass and participating in the familiar rituals I grew up with, there are many tenets of the religion that I don't agree with. I have to admit that I didn't pay much attention to past Popes, although I followed John Paul II during his World Youth Day celebrations.
But then Francis was elected Pope. And I really like this man.
Is he perfect? No. Above all else, he is the head of the Catholic Church, and there are many things we don't see eye to eye on. But you can't look into his face without seeing love, joy and peace. He genuinely cares for and loves people. To me, that is the most important place to begin.
Francis is like no Pope that has come before him. He doesn't live in the papal apartment at the Apostolic palace. Instead, he stays in the Vatican guesthouse where he can live and eat in community with others, including staff and Vatican workers. He loves to meet people, and walks into the crowds who come to see him, handing out hugs and kisses. He refuses to wear the papal red shoes, choosing instead to clothe himself in simple black garments. He is a leader that is humble, and not self serving.
As things settle down from his recent visit to the United States, it will be interesting to look at the long term impacts. This trip was well choreographed to show the pontiff at his best, but where do we go from here? The number of Catholics in America has been in a steady decline. Will Pope Francis' presence here change that?
I recently finished reading The Joy Of The Gospel, which is a translation of an apostolic exhortation delivered by Pope Francis in 2013. While this isn't a difficult book, it's not a fast read either. The book is divided into five chapters, and gives great insight into who this Pope really is.
The tone of the book is summed up in the title: joy. Catholics are famous for their "Catholic guilt" and somber tones. But Pope Francis is all about joy. The joy of faith, joy of the gospel, and sharing that joy with others through missionary outreach. He calls us to live these principles in joyful evangelization. He wants us to leave our comfort zone and spread the word of God.
As I slowly read this book each day, I was touched by Pope Francis' love for God and his commitment to compassion for all humanity. He writes about cooperation and reconciliation with other faiths and the role of religion in the quest for world peace. He challenges everyone to be more joyful and loving, and to share that love with all people.
I highly recommend this book to anyone, Catholic or not, who wants to make the world a better place by living the Gospel message. We are all in this together, regardless of which religion we follow. There is so much information to learn from The Joy Of The Gospel, that I plan to start it over again.
Whether you agree with Francis completely, partially, or not at all, I do think he will do good for the world during his time as Pope. Maybe the winds of change are blowing in the Catholic Church?
*I was provided a free copy of this book by Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*