Walking with Pope Francis

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If we try to adopt a historical perspective on our development as Christians from the time of Jesus until today, we can note a few challenging factors. First, most of us grew up knowing more about church and church teaching than we ever did about Jesus Christ. Second, we were pretty sure we knew right from  wrong, the precise moral limits on our human behavior. Third, we managed somehow to collapse the early centuries of Christianity into one big,  indeterminate “way back then.”

However, right now Pope Francis is leading us back to Jesus. Truth be told, we’ve really drifted pretty far away from Jesus in the sense that we have  prioritized creeds and catechisms over compassion, management and money over mercy, sex and sin over sensitivity to suffering. Jesus did not impose any creeds on us, wrote no catechism, said nothing about management, avoided talk of money (except to give it to the poor), had surprisingly little to say about sex or sin. His most important legacy was the command to love one another as he has loved us.

As Francis insistently reminds us, Jesus’ priorities were compassion, mercy, sensitivity to those who suffer.  All the rest came later. That does not make “all the rest” unimportant in any way. But a historical perspective helps to put things in their proper place. And the question then emerges: if our priorities are not  those of Jesus, why do we call ourselves Christians? Indeed, how dare we call ourselves Christians at all?

As we start this year’s journey walking hand-in-hand with Francis, it might be wise just to relax our dogmatic and moral certainties enough to let him lead us back to the Jesus we all profess but often don’t really know. The combination of working among or with the poor, plus our attention to Pope Francis’ words and attitudes, plus our sharing together both our experiences and our prayer can help us traverse all those centuries and come into closer contact with Jesus.

And that, as they say, is a “consummation devoutly to be wished.”

Simon (Si) E. Smith, S.J is a New England Jesuit with a broad background and varied international experience.  He taught at different levels in Baghdad College, Iraq, Boston College, Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and Nativity schools in Boston and Worcester. His major and preferred areas of instruction are Scripture and liturgy.  He is known as an organizer and administrator, having spent a dozen years based in Washington, as Executive of Jesuit Missions for the U.S. and Canada. Si has published widely, is a popular lecturer, is fluent in French, Spanish and German and has traveled & worked extensively in the third world. And we are grateful that he also serves IVC as a Spiritual Reflector.

18 Responses to “Walking with Pope Francis”

    • Jay Burke

      Dear Si, As Francis leads us back to Jesus, I can’t think of returning to Him hand-in-hand with anyone better than you…and so many others I have met through my IVC experiences. Thank you all, Jay

    • Joe Lynch

      As I became more immersed in the gospels and especially as I delved into Church history I became more disenchanted with the Catholic Church ….

      In the last few months and especially using Ignation discernment I have been able to resolve the conflict I saw between what Christ taught and what the Church practices. I used to say I was Catholic; I now say I an a follower of Jesus who just happens to be Catholic. My mission is to bring love and peace to those I meet.

      Pope Francis and his message are such an inspiration and I just love your piece.


  1. Tom Neagle

    As always, our IVC Chaplain is right on target.

    Atta boy, Si! A credit to the Jesuits, the Church, the IVC and Holy Cross.

  2. Barbara Lee

    I’m not sure who the “we” in the first paragraph are, but not all of us of a certain age would recognize ourselves in these three broad generalizatons. Those of us who are old enough to remember St. John XXIII rejoice in Pope Francis precisely because he seems to be rediscovering the Church and the Christianity of Vatican II.

  3. Diana Gaillardetz

    Good point about many people’s passive Catholic knowledge is more about Catholic teaching and creeds than about the Jesus gained through scripture. The concerns of Jesus as expressed through the stories of his compassion, mercy and love for the underprivileged, the outcasts, and those without power have been embraced by our wonderful Pope Francis. However, the Synod on the Family showed that there is still much work to be done to find a united and prophetic voice that can echo the mercy of Jesus. Thanks for your insightful piece that reminds us that it is Jesus who is at the center of our being Christians.

  4. Suzanne Robotham

    You put a smile on my face after my meeting with two “differently prioritizing” members of a nearby parish!

    Thanks so much!

  5. Norma Nocero

    Thank you Fr. Si
    right on re focus on why and who we really are resembling Jesus.
    When I see Pope Francis I see Jesus walking the earth again and it
    reminds me of a qoute from St. Teresa of Avila:
    Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours,no feet but yours.
    Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out;
    Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now
    Thank yo again Norma

  6. Alice Campanella

    Amazing article……you’ve nailed it, and so eloquently. I’ve read, reread, and shared your article.
    Thank you.


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