BY FATHER JIM
Pope Francis is known for being a people’s pope as well as having a pleasing way about him, the common touch — being humble and reaching out to all kinds of folks.
All this is true; however, recent popes have thankfully made evident these wonderful qualities. Pope St. John Paul II certainly reached out to all kinds of people throughout the world in his pilgrimage travels and youth Masses, with holiness and humor.
Pope Benedict displayed one of the most humble acts we have seen in our lifetime, retiring from being the pope in charge for the good of the Catholic Church. Pope Emeritus Benedict simply knew he didn’t have the energy or health to meet the demands of the position. What humility to give up something for love of our church.
What is the unique thing that Pope Francis offers to the world?
It is a fresh, renewed sense and feeling of pride and joy in being Catholic in a culture and world that likes to find everything that goes wrong among us.
Like a pleasant breeze flowing over us, Catholics and even non-religious folks of all ages say that Francis brings a rather welcome tone and style of mercy, openness and joy. Recently this pope said: “The church is not a refuge for sad people. The church is a house of joy.”
Remember Jesus said to his closest friends, “May my joy be yours, and your joy be complete.” The Catholic heritage we hold — traditions, music and art; the beauty of the sacred seasons and Holy Days; the presence of Christ in our sacraments and our value given to human life; the inspiring look of our awesome churches, cathedrals and basilicas; the dignity of each baptized person — this is the source of joy in being Catholic.
Another recent quote of Pope Francis is this: “To believe in and follow Christ is something beautiful, capable of filling life with a new splendor and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties.”
Saints who had nothing in their bank accounts, no frequent-flier miles and no reservations at five-star resorts or hotels, these are the saints who tell us of their deep and profound joy.
These days the duty or obligation of going to weekend Mass, keeping holy the Lord’s Day, this does not work in encouraging Mass attendance much anymore. Maybe a good way to invite and encourage going to church is to speak of the joy that comes with practicing and living out faith.
After all, most people say that they really do feel better upon leaving weekend Mass than when they entered the church doors.