Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

The Happy, Hard-to-Forget Pope

Some guys will do anything to make an impression. Wash the feet of strangers. Crack self-deprecating jokes. Make surprise phone calls to wish people well. Be quick to hug and slow to judge.

2256popefrancis_00000001409If that isn’t enough, then smack some self-important big shots down to size by forgiving them, tell mafioso bosses to quit being mobsters to improve the neighborhood and suggest a dictator give the Church another chance.

He dares to have opinions on controversial issues like climate change, but warns against ideological rigidity on others like contraception. He cares more about people living on the edge than what they do in their bedrooms, and he thinks we should do more about the former and fixate less on the latter.

Timothy Egan’s New York Times column says Pope Francis has conquered the art of joy. Instead of being weighed down by the vestments of popehood, Francis seems to have been liberated by them. He no longer has to toe the church line; he gets to set the church’s example.

hgi_popefrancis_1Since his elevation, Francis returned the joy to the Catholic Church, which had been bogged down by scandal, denial and a general state of grumpiness. He finds time to kiss children, takes selfies and spins a basketball on his fingertips. He reminds people in compelling ways of some old values – caring for others, taking time to enjoy your own life and working for peace. It says something about our warped times that Francis sounds like a radical.

Or that some folks like the Tea Party shake in their boots about what he might say when given the pulpit in Congress. Will he speak up for human rights, take the side of Palestinians and Cubans or chide the sycophants of the Koch brothers? Or worse, will he inveigh against income inequality?

The Bishop of Rome’s remarks could make the Israeli Prime Minister’s recent address to Congress seem tame and conciliatory.

aptopix-italy-pope-epiphany-2-618x500Even if Francis won’t make some Republicans happy, he has managed to enliven Catholics and non-Catholics around the world to principles that are their core Christian. By his actions, Francis seeks to emulate the example of Jesus, not the church bigwigs of his time. And people have noticed, giving faith and spirituality a second look.

Whatever the tradition and despite the fanfare, popes are just people. They come and go.  Francis, however, may be hard to forget. The Catholic Church and Christianity may be a lot better as a result. 


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