In his recent interview, Pope Francis said, “Christian hope”¦is a theological virtue and therefore, ultimately, a gift from God.” As I read those words, I could not help but think of the sign of hope, a gift from God, that Pope Francis is to me. It is not because he is rebuking Church teaching—which he isn’t—or because he is making a stance with one interpretation of the Church versus another. It is simply because of who he is and the prophetic message he shares.
I feel he is a source of sacred unease within me; his words and actions cause me to pause and reflect on my life and on my actions as a pastoral minister and spiritual director. He embodies many of the principles of Ignatian spirituality that I hold as guidelines for my own life: being a contemplative in action, being a person for others, trusting God to go to new frontiers, leaning on the tools of discernment. I am not sure how this man who lives thousands of miles away from me and across a massive ocean is connecting so deeply with my heart, but his words both invigorate and challenge.
Pope Francis puts forth key principles of being a minister of the Gospel:
- A person who warms the hearts of people
- A person who helps others heal their wounds
- A person able to walk through the dark night with others
- A person able to dialogue with others
- A person able to descend into another’s darkness without getting lost
This section of the interview both affirmed my call to accompany others on their spiritual journeys and challenged me to reflect deeply on how I walk with others. Truthfully, I am not sure how I would answer my own self-assessment of being a minister of the Gospel. Do I warm the hearts of people? Am I able to help others heal their wounds? Is my own prayer life solid enough that I can walk into another’s darkness without getting lost? Do I have the ability to dialogue with others while knowing my beliefs and still being open to hear where the other person is coming from? Do I start from the other person’s story or from my experience?
I feel a “holy stretching” is in my future as I take these principles and questions to prayer and as I pray to become a minister of the Gospel who has the ability to heal the wounds of others.
“Descending into another’s darkness without getting lost,” sounds scary. I pray that, if my “listening” of others making 19th Annotation Exercises should require it, He will give me the grace at the time for the particular situation.
I totally agree with Lynda and Tom. For the first time in such a long time, I feel that there is change coming due to this beautiful man God has allowed us to lead our Church community. His kindness and generosity mimic that of Christ out in the field on his mission from His Father. I see Pope Francis as Christ in action, and he motivates me to take that one more step Ignatius advised us to take when we feel we have done enough. Thank you Lord for Francis. Amen.
“A holy stretching” is a great way to express what I’ve been feeling too as I read Pope Francis’ wise and true words. I feel challenged to be the better person I feel God made me to be. I feel hope that there is a way for me to grow toward that. Christian hope is indeed a gift from God and that gift arrives in so many surprising places in my life, not least of which, lately, has been in the smiling face of Pope Francis, a man who obviously knows the mercy of God.
Becky, I agree with your thoughts. Pope Francis has given me great hope in many ways and I believe deeply that the Holy Spirit is very active these days both within the Church and in the world. Our Holy Father is setting a standard for us to follow and it will stretch us but will bring us closer to being the people that God is calling us to be. Thank you for putting all of this into words.