The Papacy: The Person Versus The Office | Fr. David Vincent Meconi, SJ | HPR
What draws the secular media to the Vatican … (for now) is the man who is able to translate these truths into action, and to proclaim our doctrine with personal conviction.
It is one of those few moments forever emblazoned on my mind. It was in the early 90s when five of us young Jesuit novices went to the Gesù Church in Detroit to profess solemn vows. The Father Provincial preached that hot Saturday afternoon. As he was addressing the congregation from the raised pulpit, a side door, directly underneath him, surprisingly and swiftly opened. A little girl, face beaming with total joy and delight, fell to the floor instantly as she met the turned heads and stares of a few hundred strangers. Behind the door she had just opened, stood someone—presumably her mother—with bucket and mop in hand—as we were obviously intruding upon this family’s Saturday work of coming to clean the church for Sunday Mass.
Yet, without missing a beat, my Provincial smiled, and leaned down to her while gently gesturing her to come closer, saying, “Come in, Sweetie! You’re the only reason we do all of this!” At that moment, I fell a bit more in love with the Jesuits. Here was my Superior, a man respected for his gravitas, instinctually showing us that our liturgy, and our very lives, were for the sake of God’s people. We were not there to be congratulated for our vows; we were there to vow our lives for service to others. The liturgy was not there to bring us out of this world, but to unite all of us in the one true sacrifice of Christ.
What I witnessed at that moment, unrehearsed, captured well what today’s best known Jesuit seems to be teaching the entire world. Pope Francis is in love with God’s people. He is following Jesus, walking through the grain fields of propriety and ritual, knowing how to shuck what is superfluous, and savor what is substantial. Francis is not afraid to show us who he is as a man, and as a priest. Yet, at another level, he is about “more of the same,” without differing from any preceding pontiff. At the level of his own personal style, Francis feels free to formulate Christian doctrine as he sees fit. At the level of his role as universal teacher, he is holding tightly onto the foundations of the Faith.
Toward the end his epic, Paradise Lost, John Milton (d. 1674) depicts Adam and Eve’s first attempt at reconciliation since their rebellion against Goodness. After bickering, finger-pointing, and outright hatred, we finally hear Adam say to Eve that they should: