It’s been TOO long…
In August, Pope Francis gave a series of interviews for a Jesuit magazine and they have now been published, analyzed, bandied about, and, well, marveled at. The words are at times electric, as when the leader of the Catholic Church says things like,
“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules.”
The transcript of the interviews are 26 pages long so I thought we could take it in sections. (full text is at http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview). Below is a section on a role of the church in today’s world. As you read, consider:
- What is the battle implied here? From whence the wounds, scars, etc.?
- What is your reaction to this quote, “The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.”?
- What does it mean for us to heal the wounds, warm the hearts, provide nearness and proximity?
- Have you known a pastor who “know[s] how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost.“?
Look forward to seeing you Sunday…invite a friend, and remember to bring a box of cereal for community food connection!
The Church as Field Hospital
Pope Benedict XVI, in announcing his resignation, said that the contemporary world is subject to rapid change and is grappling with issues of great importance for the life of faith. Dealing with these issues requires strength of body and soul, Pope Benedict said. I ask Pope Francis, in light of what he has just told me: “What does the church need most at this historic moment? Do we need reforms? What are your wishes for the church in the coming years? What kind of church do you dream of?”
Pope Francis, picking up on the introduction of my question, begins by showing great affection and immense respect for his predecessor: “Pope Benedict has done an act of holiness, greatness, humility. He is a man of God.”
The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle.
“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.
“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.
“How are we treating the people of God? I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor. This is pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward. The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.