I nearly cried when I read how Pope Francis saw himself as the sinful tax collector Matthew called by Jesus to follow him.  He referred to Caravaggio’s painting The Calling of Saint Matthew and had this to say: “It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’  Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff.”  I guess I got emotional because I know how power and fame would go straight to my head, but here’s a man who is still filled with so much humility despite that power and fame.  He is living out the virtue of humility in the spotlight for folks like me to follow.

painting-the-calling-of-saint-matthew-caravaggio
“The Calling of St. Matthew” by Caravaggio

The interview is as explosive as the commentators are making it out to be.  Although it’s rather long, I agree with others who say it is worth reading in full, and then again.  The original article can be found at America Magazine.

In his answer about why he chose the Jesuit order and why he decided on a room in the Santa Marta for his Papal Residence, I found myself asking myself why I’m a loner.  Am I really a loner?  Don’t I also yearn for community?  I think I hold onto this idea that I’m a loner as a badge of honor, something to be proud of because I never really fit in with the popular crowd.  It is probably closer to the truth that I desire to be a part of a group, but hold up this shield of being a loner as a defense.  I don’t want to get hurt when a group decides not to include me.

When Pope Francis talked about his management experience as a Jesuit superior of a province, I found myself reflecting on how I am as a manager.  Am I making the same mistakes?  How can I learn from the Pope’s mistakes?  While the virtue of magnanimity was a bit unclear, I think I understand what he was saying better when he described it:

Thanks to magnanimity, we can always look at the horizon from the position where we are. That means being able to do the little things of every day with a big heart open to God and to others. That means being able to appreciate the small things inside large horizons, those of the kingdom of God.

It’s easy for me to fall into the trap where I desire the bigger office, the corner office.  I even found myself thinking that a good act of humility would be to give up my current office to use as a conference room and take up a cubicle where I’m sharing the space with someone.  It would force me to go out and meet my team instead of waiting for my team to come and speak with me.

His emphasis on discernment is interesting to me.  When I first converted to the faith, I did not trust my discernment.  I always second-guessed myself and asked God to give me signs that this is what He wants me to do.  I guess I still do that.  What I found interesting was how doubt was important in the discernment process.  It’s as if there is a certainty in doubt, if that makes any sense.  By doubting whether a course is the right one, I seek God.  In seeking, I become certain of what God wants — all the while still doubting my motives!  It’s a paradox: the certainty in doubt, but it’s true.  I experienced it when I asked God about Anne Marie, whether she was His choice to be my wife.  [I should blog about that sometime.]

I loved the section when he talked about a “holy middle class.”  It’s true that modern saints like Saint Therese, Mother Teresa, or Jose Maria Escrivá lived lives that may seem far out of reach, the poor working holy class doubting he can ever become a part of the “holy upper class.”  I should not fear because it’s still possible to strive for a middle class in holiness:

“I see the holiness,” the pope continues, “in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity.”

That first example is poignant: a woman who is raising children.  I definitely see the sanctity shine in my wife when she’s with our girls.  She has her flaws of course, but I see her shine with holiness as a mother.  It’s humbling and very inspiring.  And, it makes me love her greatly!

I remember another living saint who once told me, “Don’t be turned off by the hypocrites.  A church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners.”  So, when I read Pope Francis’ extension of that analogy, I really could relate:

…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….

Apparently, there were commentators who wanted to “clarify” what the Pope meant when he said “Who am I to judge?” when it came to homosexuals.  Those commentators wanted to think the Pope meant only priests who were gay.  In the interview, it was clear his sentiments applied to all homosexuals:

A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’  We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.

I like this focus on the person and on relationships.  We don’t learn truths from books, we learn them through encounters with people.  We may intellectually understand a truth as it is presented in a book, but we don’t really learn it until we live it in the context of relationships (i.e., redemptive suffering via marriage; the inner life of the Trinity via parenthood; virtue of humility via friendships, etc.)

Pope Francis said so much more that his interview is worth reading, again.  I think his words have already begun a change in me, something I know I should eventually do when the time is right.

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4 Comments

  1. Yes indeed. I agree with Michael there. 🙂

    I have not yet read the entire interview of Pope Francis, since I haven’t seen a link towards it. Thanks so much for your post and link, now that you’ve lead me there.

    And your reflections are very insightful, and i’ve identified myself from it too.

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