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Father Muench Says...

If you had five minutes with the pope...

Sept. 23, 2015

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Finally, it is time for Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.  Suppose you could spend five minutes with Pope Francis alone, what would you like to talk about with him? What would you like to do with your five minutes? 

Suppose you are one of those who would spend time with Pope Francis.  I contacted several people, inquiring what he or she would do if they had those five minutes with Pope Francis.  So, I would like to share some of those responses that I received.

Here is one that I found especially wonderful. It is from my niece, Susan, who is married to my nephew, Paul. They have three children – two in college, one in high school – and Susan is also a member of her parish’s Parish Council.

Susan wrote: “I would thank him.  I think he is breathing new life into Catholicism.  I feel like he truly is speaking on behalf of the teachings of Jesus, without regard for how it plays in the modern world, even in spite of it, just because it is not going to be easy to take care of the poor or take care of the gift of the earth that God gave us, does not mean we shouldn’t make it our life’s work to try and do that. 

All my life, Popes, Cardinals, and Bishops have always spoken with what seemed to be shaded speech, Susan continued. They always seemed to have to be careful with how the audiences were going to interpret and react.  I am sure Pope Francis put tremendous thought into what he says and what words he uses, but the words always go back to the basics of what Jesus said, not some agenda that is colored by modern politics or secular forces.”

Susan goes on: “I would like the church to come around on homosexuality and still has some catching up with the position of women in the Church.  Pope Francis has come up a little short on those two issues for me.  However, I do feel for the first time that the Pope is actively trying to make strides with respect to that.  So, if I had five minutes, I would probably love just to take a walk with him.  Although I’d be torn between asking about church stuff or just talking to him like a regular person and see what comes up.  Might be fun to play a game of Apples to Apples with him.”

So, thanks Susan – for your wonderful insight – of an involved Catholic – I have no doubt Pope Francis would enjoy five minutes with you.

Here is another response from my friends, Sister Janet, a Mercy Sister.  She wrote this: “I would first thank him for sharing his gifts of gentleness, kindness, and love for the poor and marginalized.  I would also ask him to continue the challenge and encouragement for me to follow his example. 

I would add a special thanks for his initiative in calling the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Sister Janet said.  We will expect a focus on God’s compassion and love, and our responsibility to love on another.  When I made vows, we chose a motto and my motto is “love one another””

Here is one more from another Susan, who I remember from many years ago when she was just a child.  She writes: “I would thank him for his bravery in caring less about the restrictions of the Church than the teachings of Jesus.  I feel like he approaches each matter with the simplest (and yet the hardest to live) formula of unconditional love and acceptance, which is what I was taught when I was young.  For me, that is the most refreshing, positive and potentially revolutionary thin, that he can do for our Catholic Church.”

I have found personally with so many who have written to me a readiness to form a close relationship with the Pope as a friend.  They approach him as a human – as a friend – not some far off Supreme Leader of the Church.  They see in him a real embodiment of Jesus – they find the Lord and his message through this Holy Father.  He has come across to them as a real person.

As for me, I see in him the priest – that compassionate and merciful priest – I would certainly ask him, if I could go to confession to him – he seems like the merciful and compassionate confessor I have always looked for.

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