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Father Muench Says...

I know Pope Francis was speaking to me

Oct. 2, 2013

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Recently, Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, sat down for a full interview with Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J., who is the editor of an Italian Jesuit magazine.  This interview has printed in several magazines throughout the world and many news services have commented about it.  I imagine you have seen something about it in the newspaper or on the television news.

Everyone truly loves Pope Francis – he has put a smiling, loving face on our Catholic Church.  I certainly am overjoyed by these first months of papacy. 

His constant message of mercy and acceptance has touched all Catholics – and also many former Catholics.  They are truly listening, wondering where the Church is going. 

Pope Francis constantly reaffirmed all the teachings of our Catholic Church but his presentation and emphasis is so refreshing to all of us.

The interviewer began his questions – which were truly extensive – by asking the pope  “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?”

The story says the pope thought a moment and then said, “I do not know what might be the most fitting description…I am a sinner.  This is the most accurate definition.  It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre.  I am a sinner.”

The Pope’s humble and honest openness surprises us.  Yet, this holiness is truly overwhelming.

Many of us hate to face our failures, our humanity, our sinfulness yet, here is our pope honestly beginning with his struggles – and the goodness and forgiving spirit of our loving God toward him.

He is what he is – because God has been good to him.

Here is the rest of the Pope’s answer: “Yes, perhaps I can say that I am a bit astute, that I can adapt to circumstances, but it is also true that I am a bit naïve.  Yes, but the best summary, the one that comes more from the inside and I feel most true is this: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.”

As I read this the first time, I had to stop and meditate in realization of how much I also am a sinner.  I have experienced the protection, the forgiveness, the love of God – over and over again. I have recognized God’s constant readiness to watch over me.  What would I be without that?

This is only the first response of this long interview – you can imagine how much the Pope has shared here.  I hope you have the opportunity to look up the whole interview.  Notice that his spirituality is dominated – as he says – by human faces: Christ, St. Francis, St. Joseph and Mary.

I want to share one more thing with you that the Pope mentions in this interview because it truly impressed me.
Pope Francis thinks of the Church as a “field hospital.” He says this: “I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity.  I see the Church as a field hospital after battle.  It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars!  You have to heal the wounds.  Then we can talk about everything else. Hear the wounds, heal the wounds.  The Church sometimes locked itself up in small things – the most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved us.  And the minister of the Church must be minister of mercy about all.”

I know that Pope Francis was speaking to me.  With the grace of God, may I truly be a minister of mercy – may I always be ready to heal the wounds.

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