POPE FRANCIS’ OWN PORTRAIT
FR. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
I am extremely impressed by the talk with the Holy Father Francis who was conducted by editors of the Jesuit magazine ‘La Civillita Cattolica’. I want to congratulate to the Order of Jesuits that it gave such an unusual man, because the talk which we can read in the current edition of ‘Niedziela’, is a great testimony of faith also for the Jesuits Friars, sons of St. Ignatius Loyola, is a picture how the method dictated by the founder of the Order and hard work brings fruits also today and are present in the way of thinking of the members of this Order.
Certainly, there are many topics discussed in the talk with the Pope. The Pope speaks about the Church, faith, Christian virtues, holiness, and God. He also speaks about a dialogue, its various types and he gives an example of a good dialogue in the interview. He emphasizes what St. Ignatius Loyola had drawn the Jesuits’ attention to –a good understanding of the reality, in which the man lives, understanding spirits of this reality. And, indeed, all this about which the Holy Father speaks, points out to his thorough understanding of what is a deeper essence of the problem. Another point of the plan is a boundary. We live on the boundary of reflection and life and we should live for it. We cannot close up in a laboratory, even if it is a laboratory of faith, but we must consider life. Besides the reflection, life must have an unusual significance for a Christian believer.
The Pope notes the man embedded in his ordinary life and proceeding. He is not going towards searching for any special states in the Church, he speaks straightforward: I am a sinner, we are all sinners towards God. And he also notices that God is greater than the sin, than our sinfulness, which, thanks to His grace, can be overcome.
On this occasion, the Holy Father classifies somehow types of holiness, paying a special attention to its middle class. It is a very interesting look, as we often look at the whole pleiad of ordinary Christians in our life – pious mothers or fathers, workers or students, noticing that there are so many saint people among them, that people whose graves we visit in graveyards today, lived with God and the Gospel and they were our relatives, with whom we met and whom we loved. In the social life, we also speak about the middle class, however, considering salaries of these people. The middle class is extremely important because it is the biggest and the whole social life is based on it. If its life conditions are good, then the whole social life functions well. The middle class of saint people are average Christians, believers who go to church, receive holy sacraments and apply the commandment of love to God and our neighbor. Certainly, they commit sins but they are trying to come out of it, go to confessions, convert to God. This class is the biggest in the Church. Therefore, the Pope is not afraid of saying: I am a sinner – because every Christian can say to God: ‘Lord, I am really sorry, I am a sinner, but I want to be a better man. And this is important, it contains the Christian hope. We want to live with God, use the Divine grace, receive holy sacraments, we rely on God’s mercifulness and help. We simply – live with the Christian hope. Pope Francis emphasizes that this hope does not cheat – because God does not cheat us – this hope is based on our faith and is strongly embedded in our life, and it is somehow difficult to live without it. Christian hope is the basis for the Christian optimism. So, it is very important to know how to live, and allow the Christian hope to have a voice.
A believer is also aware that his life road is a pilgrimage. Therefore the Holy Father encourages us to have Christian faith, which isfulfillment. This fulfillment takes place in the forum of the family, is visible in hospital – the Pope mentions a nun who was a good nurse and a wonderful thinking God’s woman. The front of the faith is characteristic with the fact that it is supposed to be lifetime. The Holy Father speaks about this phenomenon in a very interesting way.
The pope Francis also sees the Church in an interesting way. He says that the Church is a mother, so it should be fertile and grow. He speaks in a witty but how convincing way about those who sometimes devote themselves to convent or priestly life, but if there is no fertility of faith in them – there is no fatherhood or motherhood- they will be only old bachelors or old spinsters. Because it is all about inner fertility, about fruits, which must go towards people and lead to development. Faith with life cannot be selfish.
Everything about which the Pope says, has the beginning in faith: I believe in God. He says: ‘I have one dogmatic certainty that God is present in life of every person’. How important statement it is! God is present in life of every person – and also in my life and life of particular people. God is present in life of every person, even when a person has got lost, even when somebody says that he is a believer -God is present in his life anyway. This is a mystery of Divine Love and Divine mercifulness.
The Pope speaks to the contemporary man in a very ordinary and human way like a parish priest. Because he is also a parish priest of the world. There are some troubles here in interpreting what he speaks about, because he is trying to analyze the general situation of the man. All this requires clarification later – and this is the task of us, priests, theologians who deal with the man in his particular situation: in a confessional, during a pastoral talk, in a counseling centre. The Holy Father speaks in a general way, he wants to convince us of the fact that God exists, that He is merciful of love and that the man in the Church should participate in a dialogue and priests should open up to this dialogue. It turns out that this teaching of the Pope is heard, that people are waiting for it, that they perceive it as attractive, through which also God becomes attractive.
Let’s note that in a relatively short time, we were witnesses of great popes – excellent John Paul II, the great Christian intellectualist Benedict XVI, and now, the fervent bishop from Buenos Aires, who was a pastor on a bus, tram, and the street and who shows us the Church from a completely different point of view. But this Church which is showed by the Pope Francis, is not surprising for us, we live in it, we exist in it. However, showed by the new Pope, the Church experiences a kind of a different light, a new glow. Therefore, people come to the square of St. Peter in such big groups, so many people come to the holy confession, especially in Italy, because they see that this Pope is leading us directly to God. Certainly, there are also many people who would like to manipulate the Pope and his texts, who sometimes take words or sentences out of the context of the papal statements, emphasizing that priests teach in a wrong way or that the Pope condemns priests. It is not so. The Holy Father can criticize priests – it is nothing bad, sometimes it is necessary to bring a priest back from astray. But, first of all, the Pope, speaking an ordinary priestly language, shows everything which is good and is a suitable road to the great mystery of God.
Therefore, we must be glad of this bigger pastoral speech of the Holy Father. We publish it in ‘Niedziela’ so that we could find out how close God is to the man, that He is present in life of every person, that faith and Christian hope do not cheat. These are important matters concerning believers from the whole world.