“Ce la farà?” Francis and the possibility of a 21st Century Church
“Ce la farà?” is loosely translated from the Italian to mean “Will he make it?” or “Will he pull it off?” This was the headline in the newspaper L’Espresso recently. It brings up a bunch of interesting topics for conversation. After more than a hundred days as Pope and two trips under his cincture, Francis has made a small but significant ripple in the ancient Dead Sea known as the Catholic Church. The jury is still out as to the significance of having a Jesuit as head of the Roman Catholic family but from what I have seen there is a new Aggiornamento, a.k.a. “A bringing up to date” that might be in the wind. The last time we heard that word was back just before John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). Through the open windows fresh air rushed into the dusty old Basilica of St. Peter and changes, still slowly working their way in after so many years began to happen. Although many have tried to stave off the tide of change for whatever reason, the quiet tsunami is still very strong,
A “peoples Pope” was elected in March to take over for a retiring Pope Benedict. He took the name of a gentle saint and jumped in with both black (not red) shoes. He shucked off the pomp of ermine and gold to address the crowd for the first time and a first blessing as a humble parish priest. Something was up. Something was new. Some things would never be the same. He decided to live in the Vatican Hotel rather than the Papal apartments. Giving up the splendor of huge well-appointed rooms for a more modest 2 room suite in a building reserved for visitors to Vatican City.
And from his own mouth came words of hope and challenge in the language of the people and not of erudite Theology. His message is simple and his lifestyle is simple. He does what he preaches. He told 35,000 pilgrims from his native Argentina to make a “mess” in their dioceses, shake things up and go out into the streets to spread their faith, even at the expense of confrontation with their bishops. He led by example, diving into the crowds in one of Rio’s most violent slums. This cannot sit too well with traditionalists I would imagine.
His focus is on the people rather than preserving the the hierarchy. If anything, he is trying to evangelize and empower the people of God. To do this he had to be in touch, physically, with the people driving security in Rio crazy. He drives around in an open Popemobile rather than the bullet proof bubble I saw driving up Geary Street in San Francisco when John Paul II visited. As he said in Rio “Either you do the trip as it needs to be done, or you don’t do it at all,” he told Brazil’s TV Globo. He said he simply couldn’t have visited Rio “closed up in a glass box.”
His exhortation to regular people should come as no surprise any more.
“There are the saints of every day, the ‘hidden’ saints, a sort of ‘middle class of holiness’ to which we can all belong.”
And that is the new challenge. To care for one another in the spirit of true social justice (Jesuit style) and the rest will take care of itself in spite of the Glenn Beck’s of this world who have a very narrow, fundamental and distorted view of Social Justice. And if we complain without taking action where’s the power? As Francis said recently,
“A Christian who constantly complains, fails to be a good Christian: they become Mr. or Mrs. Whiner, no?”
So can he pull it off? I think so. This modern reform however minor, is greatly needed in a Church that has become increasingly top heavy and increasingly deaf.
and so it goes…