Pope Francis continues to delight and surprise as he pursues his radical pilgrimage across the global psyche -- inspiring with his humility while also sending shock waves with his subversive spirit.
Yes, make no mistake, this humble man
from Argentina who describes himself first as a sinner and prefers
simplicity to the opulence afforded by his station is, like Jesus Christ
himself, a radical.
He washes the feet of the poor while
eschewing the ruby papal slippers for his own holy feet.
He lives in
humble quarters among colleagues rather than in the isolation of the
Vatican suites where his predecessors have slept.
He immerses himself in
humanity while urging a greater pastoral role for the church and a
de-emphasis on the harsh judgments of institutional authority.
In a world where greed and pride hold hands
in the dark, Francis appears like a brilliant apparition of, say it,
brother -- hope and change.
He is a paradoxical mix of friend and foe
wrapped in a happy package of tough love: friend of the poor,
downtrodden and marginalized; foe of the purveyors of a status quo that
worships money and throws away the young and old.
He is, in other words,
a problem for the world and poses special anxiety for pious politicians
both inside and outside the church walls.
As such, he has a unique,
transformative opportunity unseen in our time, not only for the Catholic
Church, which could use a good purgative, but also for the larger
The anti-politician, he is fearless,
provocative and willing to call out the weasels -- not so much by their
names but by their actions.
He has special criticism for globalization,
which, he says, has created a culture in which the weakest suffer most
and those on the fringes, the elderly and the young, "fall away."
such a money culture, "we throw away grandparents and we throw away
In other, less orderly times, Francis
would be hustled out of town on a donkey. In today's universal media
world, word gets around and there's no hushing a brave man with a
message millions long to hear. "Truth will out," goes the saying, but
Francis gives truth a nudge at the door.
In a recent interview for the Jesuit
publication America, the Vicar of Christ implored the church to not
overemphasize those issues that social conservatives hold so dear.
didn't go so far as to suggest that the church change its core beliefs
on subjects such as abortion and traditional marriage, but he urged a
reordering of priorities and a less harsh approach.
The hungry need food
before they can hear a lecture about nutrition.
More love, less judgment is the seed
he is planting, a worthy bumper sticker these days. In a judgmental era
that sometimes rivals darker ages, Francis' words tumble into the human
conversation like an uninvited guest.
This humble, radiant man doesn't
sprinkle rose petals and platitudes to amuse and beguile.
He drops daisy
cutters of truth and social justice smack into the punch bowl.
Talk about a splash.
And all the while, he smiles.
But Francis says he doesn't wish to be
known as the smiling "cordial manager of the church" who "comes here
and says to you 'have courage,'" as he recently told a crowd of
unemployed workers in Italy. Rather, he wants to be the brave one, the
man who reaches deep inside his own well of humanness with all its
frailties and limitations and finds the will "to do everything I can as a
pastor and a man."
Telling the crowd to "fight for work,"
he said the economic system that created the "idol which is called
money" is not a local problem but a "world choice."
In his short time at the Vatican,
Francis also has tackled one of the worst scourges on the planet -- the
explosion in human trafficking, including child labor, forced domestic
work and prostitution.
Not content to bemoan this sorry state of
affairs, he has called on the Vatican to study the problem and, during a
conference he has scheduled for November, develop an action plan.
In the parlance of the street that
Francis seems to know better than most, he walks the walk.
It is not his
style to, if you'll pardon the expression, pontificate.
His soul may be
aimed for heaven, but his heart and feet are firmly planted in the
May his roots bear fruit.