Loving Pope Francis
This morning I heard, “I will pray for him and for us,” on a national radio program. I felt my faith lifted to hear such faithful and loving words broadcast widely. Even though the faithful Catholic who said this doesn’t share my belief in a prophet, but instead has great faith in the newly chosen Pope Francis, I felt a kinship of faith with her. I want to tell her that although our faith is exercised in slightly different ways our hearts stretch towards the same Heavenly Father, who accepts both of our prayers. Her faith inspired me to have more faith in prayer, to not limit my prayers to my little sphere of influence but to believe that my prayers can contribute to a better world.
Years ago we had wonderful neighbors who were Catholic; the mother’s name was Fran, short for Francine. She was named after the same saint that the new Pope chose as his namesake. Saint Francis of Assisi is known for stories like this: “It is said that, one day, while Francis was travelling with some companions, they happened upon a place in the road where birds filled the trees on either side. Francis told his companions to ‘wait for me while I go to preach to my sisters the birds.’ The birds surrounded him, intrigued by the power of his voice, and not one of them flew away. He is often portrayed with a bird, typically in his hand.” Many more things that I’ve learned about St. Francis makes him my favorite Catholic saint (not that I know many).
I heard an anecdote about Pope Francis that helps me believe his faith is genuine and his name choice sincere. When he was cardinal in Argentina he rode public transportation every day. This seems to be the kind of humble leadership the world thirsts for. Another reason I like Pope Francis is because I was encouraged to learn that he supports some of the same social ideals that the LDS Church espouses. It’s nice to know we won’t be alone in carrying the standard; the Catholic church will continue to be right up there with us.
When Sister Sylvia Allred was called to the General RS Presidency, I lived in a Spanish speaking branch and I was thrilled for my Latino sisters. They could identify more with Sister Allred because of their shared language (or accent) and cultures. Before her call it was hard for them to catch the vision of their leadership until they saw Sister Allred. When she spoke they could see themselves in her, and realized that God is no respecter of persons, that all of his children, regardless of where they are born, can lead. In a similar way I hope Pope Francis’ call to the papacy helps the Latin world feel that they have a great role in religious leadership in the world (if they didn’t already).
Yesterday my daughter had a much different attitude than me towards the reports about the new Pope. She said, “So what? They didn’t care when President Monson was called, why should I care about the Pope? Besides, they vote about who should lead their church like it’s politics.”
It wounded me to see her jaded view of Catholicism; the faith that inspires men and women to selflessly devote themselves to lives of service as priests and nuns, to great humanitarian efforts which the LDS church often contributes to, and to make the world a better place by sharing a belief in the healing power of the atonement of Christ.
All too often Latter-day Saints try to explain what our religion is by comparing it to other religions to point out what it is not. This no more accurately describes our religion than me saying that I’m not green and don’t eat flies so I’m not a frog. Instead of bashing the faith of others because we don’t agree on all points of doctrine, I would love for us to more fully embrace each other and see our faiths in light of what we share.
We recently moved closer to old friends who are Lutheran, and we’ve enjoyed attending their church from time to time. We watched their daughter and son in a musical production based on Christ’s teachings of faith, hope, and love. At one point my eleven-year-old son turned to me and said, “Hey, they’re talking about the good Samaritan!” It was his sudden realization about how much faith we share, even though their sanctuary is vastly different from our chapel, including an electric guitar. I’m grateful my son had this realization. It seems as though my daughter needs more exposure to Catholicism to more fully appreciate it in a similar way. In the meantime I’ll share with her why I love Pope Francis as a fellow disciple of Christ.