Turn off your television, your radio, close the door and be quiet just for a second and listen. Do you hear that? That’s the sound of silence, which is the opposite of the cries of elation, confusion, and outrage reverberating around the world in response to the recent interview with Pope Francis by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., titled, A Big Heart Open To God.
On one side, the liberal media’s coverage of this article, unfortunately displays an extreme lack of journalistic integrity. The popular spin is that the Pope is a flaming liberal as proclaimed by William Saletan of Slate Magazine. The Huffington Post and many other outlets are helping to spread the misinformation to people who will listen to their reports but never bother to read the actual article, asserting the notion that the Pope had all but come out in support of homosexuality and abortion, of which he did neither.
On the other side, conservative Catholics are having a nervous breakdown over the Pope’s words, which I find perplexing. In reading the entire article, I contend the Pope’s message here is the same one he’s been proclaiming since we first heard the words Habaemus Papam; to live the virtues of love and humility. From day one, he’s been challenging all Catholics alike to serve. Serve the poor, be a good samaritan to the outcast, etc. There should never be anyone too lost for us to love or too low for us to serve (lyrics to the song The Face of Love, by Sanctus Real). Can we not all remember that we Catholics who strive to live a holy life are sinners, too? Not one of us that strives to be perfect as scripture exhorts us to do is better than anyone else. We are all sinners. As a matter of fact, Pope Francis said this about himself at the beginning of the article:
I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.
I understand that some people feel the Pope needs to better articulate his messages so as not to cause confusion and I don’t have a problem with that. But I would like to share with you my point of view on what I believe Pope Francis’ overall message is in that article.
I am a conservative cradle Catholic and in my 50 years of life, I have stood on both sides of my faith. I leaned to the left during my post divorce years where I was looked down upon and often ignored by many “good Catholics” because of my circumstances. I did not want my divorce and I could not help that I had lost 3 children in miscarriage, but few people were willing to listen to my story. Unfortunately then, I sought happiness in the world, knowing deep down it was not the answer, but not knowing where else to turn. No one in the Catholic Church was throwing me a bone.
Later, I leaned to the extreme right of my faith. That came after a crisis of conscience when I finally realized true healing wasn’t found in the world, it came through embracing my faith. I fell deeply in love with Christ, the sacraments and all things Catholic. But without realizing it, I became rather judgemental of others, in that I assumed someone who was not living their Catholicism to the degree I was, was not as good as I. I became the people who nearly drove me out of the Church years before.
But between these left and right positions was one amazing priest, Fr. Frank. This priest sat in his office with me for more than an hour one day as I made a general confession. During that time, Fr. Frank was completely silent; never interrupting, just listening. When I finished, what he told me changed my life and helped me find my self-worth in Christ. He assured me that, although I had wandered far from my faith, Christ had been with me all along. Christ had walked through it all with me, His hand on my shoulder, never losing contact. I was that precious to Him. I was the lost sheep coming home on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd. That’s not all he said, but it was those words that moved me to my core and revitalized my love for my faith.
After reading Fr. Antonio’s interview, I can’t help but remember Fr. Frank for I believe the Pope’s overall message in this article is no different than my experience that day in confession. My favorite quote of Pope Francis’ from the article is:
I see the church as a field hospital after battle.
That’s what the confessional and Fr. Frank were for me that day nearly 20 years ago, and that’s what Pope Francis is asking all of us faithful Catholics to be—healers in the field hospital that is the Church. Focus on the person, draw them closer to Christ and help heal the wounds so they can experience the fullness and beauty of the faith. Amen!
You can send your comments, disagreements and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Twitter at @lisaduffy.