Fr. Jeffry Belger Pastor, St. Mary Catholic Church
I have been watching with interest, Pope Francis. Since mid-March he has been characterized as a man with intense passion for the poor and underprivileged. He wants the Church to reach out with new vigor to those who are forgotten by the world. And he has led the way. He has opted for a more “down to earth” approach to the papacy. He pays his own bills. He has changed the venue of one of the most solemn liturgies of the year, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Typically held at St. John Lateran Basilica, he instead held the Mass at a prison for young people. In this liturgy, which remembers Jesus washing the feet of the apostles, Pope Francis chose to wash the feet of inmates. Of the inmates, several were women, and several were non-Christian. Before he became pope, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio celebrated the ritual foot-washing in jails, hospitals or hospices – part of his ministry to the poorest and most marginalized of society.
Now he is in Rio De Janeiro, meeting with several million young Catholics who have traveled from around the world. Several hundred, up close and personal, due to his driver taking a wrong turn and getting stuck in traffic. Pope Francis kept his window down and greeted them enthusiastically. His security detail was not having a good day, but the pope seemed to take it all in stride.
His message remains simple. In keeping with the theme of the World Youth Day: “Go and make disciples of all nations”, a verse taking from Matthew, chapter 28. He wants everyone to remember who they are and to whom they belong. The pope addressed the crowds: “I encourage you to think of the gifts you have received from God so that you can pass them on to others in turn. Learn to reread your personal history. Be conscious of the wonderful legacy passed down to you from previous generations. So many faith-filled people have been courageous in handing down the faith in the face of trials and incomprehension. Let us never forget that we are links in a great chain of men and women who have transmitted the truth of the faith and who depend on us to pass it on to others.”
Can we all take this as a grace-filled challenge to speak openly about our faith. Early this month, the topic of conversation was centered around our freedoms that we cherish in this country. One of the foundational freedoms is the freedom of religion. Whether we are talking about freedom as God’s children; or freedom as citizens of the United States of America… One thing is necessary for freedom to “ring”, Participation in the freedom itself. Freedom is magnified as it is shared with others. May God’s blessings be yours.