Thursday greetings from the home office of J.S. Paluch and World Library Publications.
As I read the news reports about the election of officers for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops over the past few days, I thought about how much it means to an organization when the "face" of that organization changes.
We see this all the time in American politics. What we have seen in the Catholic Church over the past year in this regard has ben quite remarkable. Pope Francis, the new "face" of the 1.1 billion of us around the world, has certainly given the Church a different "face." I have been reading with interest the reports about certain groups of people who are unhappy with the new pope. Others are thrilled. And Francis has made no substantitve doctrinal shifts at all. His has been a shift in what I will call "papal tone." And frankly, for this blogger, it has certainly been a refreshing shift. I remember, as if it were yesterday, the election of Bl. Pope John Paul II, whose presence and papacy really signalled a papal presence on the world stage for really the first time in history. I remember when he walked onto the altar platform on Boston Common in October of 1979; when he turned the corner and walked right over to us, the musicians, I had a feeling of exhilaration that was overwhelming. Suddenly, I felt connected with the papacy and with my brother and sister Catholics all over the world in a way that I had never experienced. And, for the first time in my life, I was among over one million of my brother and sister Boston Catholics gathered on the Common that day.
I must admit that I am feeling something similar with Pope Francis. This is not to deny the influence John Paul exerted in the later years of his papacy nor the influence exerted by Pope Benedict. I just feel a freshness, an excitement about Catholicism in general that I see being experienced by many, many people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. And this, I believe, is chiefly due to Francis' change in tone. There just seems to be a return to Gospel basics with this new pope; a renewed dedication to help the poor and disenfranchised; of seeing Christ in the suffering. None of this, of course, is new. It's just that we now have a pope who has obviously lived these basic values in his own life and who continues to preach about them, and this preaching is at the core of his papacy and his "papal tone." I, for one, am appreciating the tone and what appears to be a new Catholic renewal.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.