Monday, May 27, 2013

You're what now?

“What does it mean to be Catholic?” is about as broad a question as it is possible to ask. It is a difficult question to answer for oneself; it’s possibly that hardest question for me to answer after “What are you planning to do with a History major?” Part of the issue is that separating what it means to be Catholic from what it means to be me is a challenging task. Catholic is such an integral part of me that it is hard to figure out which things go in which category or if it’s possible to delineate them that clearly. The other challenge comes from the sheer vastness of the Catholic tradition. When you ask, do you want to know what it means for me to be Catholic on Sunday, at school, in the voting booth? It’s the same faith, but it means different things depending on where I am. Or do you want to know what it means for me as opposed to the kid three pews back, the one two to the left, the priest at the altar? Again, same faith but possibly radically different expressions. You have the ascetics, the monastics, the liberal, the conservative, the mendicant, the militant, the hippie (ie. Franciscan), the family-values, the Vatican II, the Old Church, the list goes on. They are all Catholic, but it’s rather difficult to be all of them at once.

Imagine the issues I have answering that question for myself or for my curious friend. Now, try to articulate it to the entire world. That is a daunting prospect. The advantage (curse?) of Roman Catholicism is that we have one guy who the whole world looks to for what it means to be Catholic. The man with that honor (burden?) at the moment is one former-Jesuit Pope Francis. He has the unenviable job of being the whole Church to the whole world. But, at the moment, I’d say he’s doing a pretty good job of it. At a time when Tweets carry as much weight as The New York Times, Pope Francis’ simple style is the most powerful declaration of what it means to be Catholic today. His quite compassion for all people loudly proclaims to the world that being Catholic means being for one another.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

I think that the Pope is still a Jesuit according to canon law :)

Would that we were all men and women for others!