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October Article for The RI Catholic

Sr. Patricia McCarthy, CND

Julius Caesar summarized his military campaigns with the words, “Veni, vidi, vici.” (I came, I saw, I conquered.) Pope Francis visited us in the United States and could say the same words, He came, he saw, he conquered. There the similarity ends. Caesar achieved his goals by joining one hundred men into a Legion, sending them on a forced march to their enemies’ camps and then invading and ruthlessly plundering. Pope Francis came and won the hearts of many by love. There was neither force nor condemnation.

Caesar judged his success by numbers – of military, of cities, of countries, of pillage. Pope Francis counts nothing as his success and measures his encounters one by one. Even though he was in the midst of tens of thousands of people in every city he visited, Pope Francis paid attention to the one in front of him, whether in the halls of Congress or the homeless shelter.

Choices formed the details of Pope Francis’ visit. For a start he chose a Fiat instead of a Cadillac for his trips. A fact which caused some humor. Pope Francis invited Cardinal Dolan to join him in the car, it had a comic effect. The back seat could hardly hold the tall Cardinal. The Pope joked to the Cardinal that the car was tilting to his side.

The altars and chairs for the public Masses had to be built. Word form Rome was that they had to be simple wood with cotton seats – no finery. In New York they were built by day laborers and in Philadelphia by prisoners. Pope Francis was the first pope to ever address the Congress. He challenged those who heard him and asked all to pray for him, a signature act of his for many years, long before he was Pope. He knows he needs prayers, the mark of a humble person. Ordinary people as well as dignitaries were invited to the White House and the South Lawn.

After being in the place of the powerful, Pope Francis went to lunch with the homeless. He is at home with them and, by his example, nudges us toward presence with them also. Children and the sick clearly have pride of place with Francis in the Gospel way of Jesus who tells us, “I came for the sick; the well do not need a physician.”

One newscaster commented on the pope’s sign of respect to everyone by being either early or on time for each event. Yet it did not keep him from those to whom he was drawn. When he was being rushed in D.C. to move to the next venue, he insisted on going to the school children who had been waiting in the hot sun for many hours.

One, perhaps unnoticed, practice of Pope Francis’ is that he does not distribute Holy Communion. From his election he said that if he gives out Communion, people pay more attention to him than to Jesus Christ. With Francis, it is always about Jesus. He has no desire to be center stage, despite the magnetism of his own strong warm personality. He puts his attention on Jesus and tries to direct ours there also.

“Truly, we have received much, so many graces, so many blessings, and we rejoice in this. It will do us good to think back on our lives with the grace of remembrance. Remembrance of our encounter with Jesus Christ so often along the way. Remembrance of the amazement which our encounter with Jesus Christ awakens in our hearts.”  (Vespers at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York)

Amazement seemed palpable during the days Pope Francis was with us. It seemed to circle all of us whether on the streets, in the arenas or in our own homes through the television. Commentators ceaselessly tried to analyze the charismatic figure of Pope Francis. There is no figuring out the man without knowing Jesus Christ. In him, he lives and moves and has his being. Every baptized Christian is called to be the same.

Article first published by the Rhode Island Catholic


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