Why Pope Francis Is My Hero
Who would have guessed that I, the Grand High Poobah of lapsed Catholics, would one day find herself sending away for tickets to see Pope Francis in Central Park on his first visit to the United States. It’s true, I did. And I actually won them except for the fact that my husband was in California, my son had his homecoming and I got sick on the day of the procession. This didn’t stop me from being glued to the television to watch as it took 45 minutes for him to travel five city blocks due to the incredible outpouring of love from the crowd. There I was with tears in my eyes hanging on his every word, in absolute awe of his seemingly endless smile, and even worrying when he looked a bit tired. This is a man who, for reasons I can’t explain, has bewitched me. He fills me with enormous hope and enormous guilt all at the same time and his truth never disappoints because it seems to know no fear. He is marvelous.
Just start with the fact that he seems to transcend all religion. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, turns out to see him and bask in his glow, and his goodness and humility could so easily put all of us to shame except that, and this is part of his power, that’s not how he rolls. He is head of one of the most dizzyingly backward, wealthy, complicated bureaucracies in the known world and yet he worships peace, simplicity, kindness and reform. He is a master diplomat and puppeteer while also being a dedicated and selfless servant to the poor. He is a contradiction in so many ways that it is often hard to know him or put him in a box. He is his own man, and that alone makes him a bewildering and rare gift to all of us. He’s like the Pied Piper of goodness and quite frankly, he couldn’t have come soon enough.
To be clear, I am not a religious person. This is perhaps why I am amazed that for the first time in my life I’m not totally embarrassed to tell people I’m actually Catholic. Pope Francis has finally pulled up the church’s big boy pants and copped to all of the abuse, scandals, homophobia, and overall ridiculousness. He’s owning the whole freakin’ mess and trying to apologize while paving the way for the church to finally enter this century. While there are many examples of his humble walk-the-walk style of rebelliousness, I will share a few of my personal favorites here. He is the first pope in 119 years to shun the grandiose Vatican Palace for the modest guesthouse because he wants to live in community with his peeps and eat in the communal dining room. He is considering losing the ceremonial mitre hat (the big goofy one) because he thinks it looks “kinda dumb” and said, “Besides, you expect me to believe God really cares if I wear a big pointy hat or not? Come on.” (though he has been spotted in a construction hat, a baseball cap and a hockey jersey). He actually skipped lunch with a gaggle of US politicians so that he could instead break bread with the local Washington DC poor. He is an active broker of peace in the middle east and is responsible for the policy change in relations between the United States and Cuba. But my favorite of all has to be when asked about his feelings on homosexuality he said, “Who am I to judge?” With these five simple words he rose above all of the hatred and made an earnest call for all of us to be kinder, gentler, more forgiving. He is truly the people’s pope and it’s not hard to see why he’s a game changer who has decided to use his moral authority to remind us that all we need is love. A rebel with a cause, and a clown nose. My kinda guy.
Image credit: Giuseppe Felici