Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My comments on the Pope Francis interview

PASTORAL LETTERS – September 29, 2013

Last weekend would have been perfect timing for me to preach on the now-famous Sept 19 interview that Pope Francis gave to Jesuit publications around the world and its coverage by the mainstream media. But, I try to always let the readings set the direction for my homily rather than my own agenda. So I wanted to use this weekend’s column to give some brief comments that I hope will be helpful to you. You can read the interview in its entirety at http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview

On one hand, the mainstream media has enabled people who are not very well tuned-in to the Church to now be introduced to our Holy Father. Hopefully their interest will be piqued to explore his statements further. But, we, as faithful Catholics, should be tuned-in and should pay attention to coverage from outlets that aim to present the Church faithfully. Toward that end, I highly recommend the newspaper, National Catholic Register (ncregister.com); on T.V., EWTN, the Eternal Word Television Network (ewtn.com); and in magazines, I especially like First Things (firstthings.com).

My comment is that a caricature of Pope Francis has been constructed that does not coincide totally with the full depth of who he is. He is presented as a “pastoral” pope who is more “pastoral” than his predecessors, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Blessed (soon to be Saint!) John Paul II. And often the word “pastoral” is used to mean “more open, less tied to those bothersome teachings on abortion, homosexual acts, and artificial contraception.” But, it is helpful to remember that “pastor” is Latin for “shepherd.” To put it simply, Bl. John Paul II was philosophically rigorous and Benedict XVI was theologically rigorous. Shepherding us in how to think well (what philosophy does) and then what to think about (what theology does) is an exceptionally pastoral and charitable thing to do! Now that we have been recently taught how to think well and what to set our minds too, Pope Francis (himself a rigorous thinker) exhorts the thoughtful Catholic to give a loving expression to our faith and teachings. He wants us to convey the GOOD NEWS of these teachings, not only the “Thou Shalt Not’s”. He wants our evangelization to bring about encounters with the Person of Jesus Christ and to reach out and capture the hearts of all God’s people. Pope Francis wants the content of the Truth to remain the same; after all, he is the servant of the Truth, not Its master. The presentation should change though, wherever it is not showing the loving and merciful face of a mother, our Holy Mother, the Church. I couldn’t agree more.

For a better understanding of particular points of the interview, check out the very good article on ncregister.com, titled, “Pope Francis Grants an Interview and Shakes Up the Church” at http://tinyurl.com/k48ckf9

In Jesus and Mary,

Fr. Hardesty

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