Friday, November 8, 2013

Pope Francis, the Church and the New Yorker: It's About Weakness

Today the New Yorker had a blog comment from Amy Davidson about the Pope's action yesterday and the Synod he's calling for next October on the family.

Considering his actions and the Synod on the family he's calling for, whose questionnaire includes a fascinating question on gay marriage, Davidson sees "the seeds of something radical". But her question is, Is he strong enough to carry it off?

It reminds me of a great essay written by the Jesuit Michael Buckley to a bunch of men about to be ordained. Don't think of yourself in terms of strength, he said, but in terms of weakness. The question isn't whether you're strong enough to be a priest, but whether you're weak enough.

That might sound a bit glib, particularly in light of the challenges in the Church, but it also points to a significant distinction in a life of faith. Contrary to what people tend to think, one doesn't care for the sick or work with the poor or live a simple or chaste life because they're strong enough, because they've toughed it out. 

No, if it lasts that kind of life emerges out of a felt sense of your own frailty and vulnerability. You do it because you have a deep down felt experience that distinctions like health or social standing are entirely artificial and utterly impermanent. 

Most fundamentally, you do it because God's the strong one. He's the one that lends the strength. 

I've never met the Pope and probably never will. But given what we know of his life and the way he lives, I would argue quite strongly, what allows him to do what he does is not some sort of super human endurance or even a toughness per se (though I think that's there), but a sense of his own humanity. He's able to be so warm and funny because he's deeply in touch with his own fickle and funny humanity.  

And it's a paradox, but it seems like for a long time now the public face of the Church has been mired  precisely by its own strength. The question going forward is I think whether it can embrace the frail, human weakness that the Pope embodies. 


KenAnselment said...

Nailed it, Seamus. Spot-on.

Rusty's music of the heart said...

Great insight, Jim!

Jim McDermott said...


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