Pope-pourri

I haven’t been following all the Pope coverage, but there were a few things from today’s Pope news that I thought I’d comment on. Note that I’m mostly watching this on Twitter.

Interfaith Blessings

I was delighted that Wednesday’s speech began with prayers for the Jewish people on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. What a terrific example! I always think we Christians should be praying for those of other faiths during their holy days. This past Sunday, my parish (which worships in an interfaith center) had mass in our usual space but with most of the statues, stations of the cross, etc, missing. At the end of mass, the pastor explained that this was because one of the Jewish communities was celebrating the High Holy Days in our space (because their usual space wasn’t big enough. Apparently Jewish communities also have folks they only see once or twice a year!), so we undecorated for them. That’s terrific; but it makes me sad that even when we share our space with our Jewish sisters & brothers, we don’t think to pray for them in our General Intercessions.

Then Thursday evening at St Patrick’s, he began by praying for Muslims, especially for the hundreds of pilgrims who were killed on hajj to Mecca, and asking our prayers for them as well. That’s not surprising from Pope Francis; but it’s depressingly remarkable when considered as speech by a public figure in the US, especially in Manhattan.

Let’s also pray for an end to Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry.

Four Americans with a Dream

In his speech to Congress, the Pope lifted up four Americans each of whom had a dream:

Lincoln, who dreamt of liberty; Martin Luther King, who dreamt of equality; Dorothy Day, who dreamt of social justice; and Thomas Merton, who dreamt of dialogue.

Attention all curriculum committees, catechists, religious ed teachers, church book clubs, Catholic & non-Catholic alike: you have just had a course description outlined for you! I hope you’re getting right to work on it so it’ll be ready for the spring semester. 🙂

Dr. Davila suggests a specifically theological angle:

It’s worth noting that both Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton have been, hmmm, somewhat marginalized for the past few decades, more or less for reasons of ideological suspicion: ie, were they too closely associated with or influenced by Communism (Day) or Buddhism (Merton). I’d say this counts as a major rehabilitation! I wonder if it will give a boost to their sainthood causes.

Immigrants

The Pope praised St Patrick’s Cathedral as the work of generations of immigrants who have contributed to this country.

Is it just me, or does that sound like “Love St Patrick’s? Love your immigrants!”

Remembering our Blessings

The very best formulation of the penitential rite at the beginning of Mass that I’ve ever encountered (through Fr. Joseph Donders, then at Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City) goes like this, with a pause after each petition:

Let us begin by thanking God for all the graces and blessings that we have received over the past week.

Now let us thank God for all the times that, with God’s help, we ourselves have been a grace or a blessing or a joy to others.

And finally, let us ask forgiveness for all the times that we have failed the graces we received, and have not been very much of a joy or a blessing, neither to ourselves nor to those around us.

I love this. I love this so much, because it is so gentle, it so gently moves us from gratitude to contrition, from reflecting on things we feel good about to acknowledging the times that we haven’t lived up to God’s hopes for us.

Can we name the blessings we’ve received? If this is how we do our examen, then yes, we can.

The Eyes of God

It was very heartwarming for me to see this sentiment, because one of my own prayers, for a few years now, has been that I may

see the world with the eyes of God, and love the world with the heart of God.

It seems to me that this is what Christians are called to do; it is one means by which we can bring the presence of God to those around us. In the language of mimetic theology, it is a prayer that I may desire according to the desire of God.

So when the Pope exhorts us to do something that I’ve already been praying for? I feel affirmed as a Catholic. (I’m not used to that happening from the direction of Rome!)

Then send good wishes

After his speech to Congress, Pope Francis went out onto the balcony to greet the thousands of people on the Mall, and bless them. He ended, as he always does, by asking them to pray for him… but not only that:

Please, pray for me. And if some of you do not believe, or cannot pray, then send good wishes my way.

I love that. I love that, because that is how I routinely address mixed groups of believers & nonbelievers: “Please pray for me or send good thoughts.” I love it because it is so inclusive: just the fact that the Pope peacefully and matter-of-factly acknowledges that there are probably atheists among the group of people he’s talking to is… weirdly stunning, given the religion-ized, Christianized level of public discourse in the US these days. And he doesn’t just acknowledge it; he includes them, by asking a non-theistic equivalent of “please pray for me”.

But to be honest, it’s the first reason that’s strongest. Hearing my own habitual phrase on the lips of the Pope? Priceless! 🙂

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