This is going to be the first Sunday of the Francesco pontificate, and I, for one, am energized. I intend no slight to Pope Emeritus Benedict -- a humble, noble, stalwart Pontiff and shepherd -- but there's something very magnetizing about this new Bishop of Rome. The last three popes have been "the Holy Spirit's triple crown" -- but I feel an especial affinity for Papa Francesco (or Papa Paco, as I have seen him called):
1. He seems to enjoy washing and kissing feet.
2. He obviously loves the Madonna, the All-Holy Mother of God (as did his two immediate predecessors)!
3. I read somewhere that yesterday he slipped out of the Vatican to visit a sick friend in the hospital!
4. He smiles a lot!
5. He loves the poor.
6. He's going to be true to the Gospel, but he's not going to settle for a Church where we "stand up for the faith" in heated debates, while we balk at living the Gospel mandates in suffering agape-love in our lives! (Here, the criticism is directed at myself.)
7. He's the Pope! And I love all Popes!
8. He's a priest! And I love (or should love) all priests.
9. He reminds me so much of the priests I know in Roxbury, it's almost as if one of them was chosen as Pope!
10. He's a Jesuit who's not afraid to mention the Devil, but also one who knows that the love of God is all-conquering and ultimately victorious (even in ostensible defeat).
Society's sophomores will shoot their spitballs at Papa Francesco. No great matter, that. He will respond to his critics, I suspect, with a smile, or with prayerful silence.
I apologize for the "breathlessness" of all my thoughts on this new pontificate. It puzzles even me, sometimes. Is there any "logical reason" that I should be so energized and so inspired by a Pope whom we've only had as Pope for, what, four days? Makes no sense.
But there you have it. I think of these days as, quite possibly, my second reversion: from a kind of sad-sack lukewarm Christianity to what I hope is a joyful, prayerful, loving, hope-filled Christianity; and from a faith which was not much more than "notional assent" to a real personal encounter with Christ, through his disarmingly humble new Vicar here on earth!