Please, allow me to begin by presenting myself as a not particularly perfect Catholic. Simul Justus et Peccator and all (that jazz).
Beyond that, my journey to Rome has been an interesting one, to be sure.
It began with a call to the faith, in universum, from Billy Graham. There I sat before the boob tube, alone at the age of three, and therein responded to the call of Christ in my fallen toddler state. I ran into the other room and declared to my mother that I had been saved, or so the legend goes.
Thus began the Christian journey whirlwind.
What followed were two decades in a Christian charismatic cult. A moment in C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe and a degree from Wheaton College (that Evangelical mecca). A stint as an Orthodox catechumen—please forgive my Eastern convictions with the filioque clause. Two years as a lackluster agnostic, followed by a short tour as an Episcopalian sexton. (I might even have played poker one night with the guys with unconsecrated wafers. But, trust me, we discarded them after we were done. Plus, I donated all my earnings to charity.)
Somewhere in the midst of that, I was shat upon by a pigeon during Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. During my subsequent jog down the Via Dolorosa in search of a towel, it occurred to me that our Creator has a vast sense of humor.
And, after several solemn sessions of prayer that summer in the Jerusalem RC cemetery before the rock-bedecked grave of Oskar Schindler, I can see now that my course toward Rome was fully laid.
Several years back, I was baptized in the Holy Roman Catholic Church—in the home parish of the esteemed Cardinal Bernadin, a sanctuary where Pope John Paul II, that great thespian and convocator of world peace, once visited and presided Mass.
Thus endeth the preface. Human and fallen am I, your eager Catholic servant.
I have followed your early papacy with intense interest, yet despite the fact that I have this modest national voice, I have waited to weigh in with thoughts (and pleas) until enough time has passed for me to consider my words with care.
The world at large is indeed enthusiastic at your numerous table-turning instances of righteousness and holy indignation, which include reaching out to the poor and needy, chastising Church leaders who abuse the temptation of riches, and, most of all, striking out against those who suck the teats of Mammon.
But I have to confess: I might be the only person in the world who isn’t surprised by your bold stance for Truth and Christian Love.
What instead surprises me is the long list of Church leaders (popes included) who preceded you who did not stand for the obvious Truth with a capital “T.”
It’s a long list of names, to be sure. And with limited space, let’s just agree that the 14th century Popes of Avignon, the Spanish Inquisition, Pius XII and the various pedophilic priests down through the ages are represented by the downswing of that remark.
I knelt toward Rome, an earnest spiritual romantic, hoping that someday this moment might come. And, indeed, here we Catholics find ourselves in a Super Bowl of media glare.
Our faith is a blazing sword when held high. As you have shown, the Truth of Christ has no qualms about lopping off the heads of personal and corporate greed.
But where do we go from here?
It’s one thing to denounce Church leaders obsessed with “abortion, gay marriage and contraception,” but I wonder where Papacy Phase II leads.
Will you use your powerful voice to excoriate the United States military industrial complex?
Will you excommunicate any service personnel who fly Wedding Party drone missions?
Will you hold forth your ceremonial mace and forbid all nations of the globe to strike out against one another?
Will you? Please?
Will you come forward at the conclusion of your Sex Abuse Task Force and hand over any and all clergy members accused of hurting children?
Will you sell Laocoön’s Altar and all the other precious art treasures in the Vatican to the highest bidder to aid the suffering and poor?
If you could place Codex Vaticanus on the Sotheby’s auction block to build a world-class hospital in Haiti, would you?
How far are you willing to go to reach spiritual perfection (before your detractors stop you)?
Are you crazy enough to suggest that human beings with vaginas might be spiritually sufficient to take the collar? (After all, if a woman were immaculate enough to birth the godhead, why couldn’t her kind handle a flabellum and pyx?)
All I’m saying is, I’m willing to follow you as far as you’re willing to lead us.
But where will you lead us?
O, Blessed Pontiff, please take us THERE.
I can feel the angry heat from some of the priests in my own conservative diocese. They’re incensed (and it has nothing to do with frankincense). Suddenly the CEO of the Holy See ain’t so hot to trot about priests driving newfangled Saabs; he objects to the obligatory anti-abortion, anti-gay homily at Mass.
Suddenly we’re all being asked to love our neighbors as ourselves—for reals.
Politicians and corporate boards are quaking.
The Roman Catholic Church comprises 1.2 BILLION PEOPLE. Nearly one in five human beings.
What if Rome were to say tomorrow to FILL IN THE BLANK?
Achtung! Global Markets: stand thee on red alert!
Dearest Francis, I beg thee: lead the world toward peace.
We are waiting. We are listening. We are willing.
Praise be you, through Brother Fire! / Through whom you light the night
So sang your namesake. Feed the flame, Father Francis.
Pax et bonum,
Arik, a simple communicant
p.s. That Evangelii Gaudium is a damned fine read.
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