I sat with a group of my colleagues in the Family Life Office Conference room, filled with excitement as the white smoke rose from the chimney. We all awaited our new Holy Father with great anticipation. And when Pope Francis finally came out on the loggia, we were all filled with joy and we joined with our brethren around the world in welcoming our new Supreme Pontiff.
Now, having had a few days to learn more about Pope Francis, I am still excited and filled with anticipation. This has the promise of being an amazing papacy.
If you read the secular media, you would think that the greatest challenge facing the Church is the reform of the Roman Curia — the bureaucracy of the Holy See. It’s funny. I think that 99.99999% of Catholics have no idea what the Curia is and does. Honestly, after almost twenty years of working in the Archdiocesan chancery (our local version of the Curia), I don’t really have much of an idea of what the Roman Curia does, nor can I identify a single instance in which the Curia has had any impact on anything that I’ve ever done.
Most Catholics innately understand that the focus of the Church isn’t inwards, on administrative matters. We all know, in our hearts, that the Church is always a missionary, going out to the regular people, walking with them in their joys and sorrows, and offering them the hope of a personal loving friendship with Jesus Christ, and life eternal in the loving embrace of the Trinity.
That’s why we have so quickly fallen for Pope Francis — he is that kind of man. Humble, ordinary, straightforward, uncompromising on teaching the truth, and unstinting in his care and concern for poor people.
He also sees very clearly that the mission of the Church is outward, not inwards. That we must take the Gospel — and the Cross — with us to the ends of the world. His first homily at his Mass with the Cardinals says this loud and clear:
We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO [non-government organization], but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord. When we are not walking, we stop moving. When we are not building on the stones, what happens? The same thing that happens to children on the beach when they build sandcastles: everything is swept away, there is no solidity….
When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
My wish is that all of us, after these days of grace, will have the courage, yes, the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s Cross; to build the Church on the Lord’s blood which was poured out on the Cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified. And in this way, the Church will go forward.
Our new Holy Father is a missionary, not a functionary. Thanks be to God.