I am proud.
I am proud to be a Catholic after reading Benedict XVI’s homily from the mass he celebrated yesterday. He spoke of the gift of “the hope born of love, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf Rom 5:5). He spoke of renewal as a gift of God, of forgiveness as a gift for which we each hunger, of the work of so many in “forming the hearts and minds of the young in knowledge and love of the Lord.” I long for that hope, that love, that faith too. May I have eyes to see it and ears to hear it today and forever.
I am proud to be a Catholic after reading the report of his meeting with President Bush. According to the official release after the meeting, the two spoke of the value of human life, of the importance of marriage, of human rights, of fighting poverty, of fighting disease, of promoting peace. I long for a leader, like Benedict, who believes in all these, not just in one or two. May I have the courage in my own life to pursue them all.
I am proud to be a Catholic after listening to the Pope speak of his shame at the enormous failings of his church in responding to the sexual abuse crisis. Shame is personal, is humiliating, is full of pain. To speak publicly of such feeling is to acknowledge what we cannot explain: how people of the Church, the vast majority of whom set out to do good, found themselves party to unspeakable evil. Shame is real and I feel it. May I have the strength to do what I can to make this church heal the pride and arrogance that created such an abomination.
I am proud to be a Catholic most of all when I think of the life of prayer. I think of all those who prayed the Rosary for the Holy Father, of those who offer prayers at Mass for his mission, for those who look to his office to provide clarity in pursuit of God’s will, not our own. May I have the peace that passes all understanding so that I too might follow in prayer the centuries of holy men and women who have given their lives joyfully in service to the only thing that really matters: the love of God.
I know. It’s been a long road for the Catholic Church in this country. Sure, Catholics were once mocked and ridiculed for their hocus pocus religion and their shocking belief in the real presence of God in sacraments; for their fishy food rules, for their rampant devotions to things of all shapes and sizes: to Saint Anthony’s ability to find the lost, to St. Jude’s ability to save the hopeless, to Our Lady’s ability to appear to the unlikely, to the blessing of throats, the blessing of the fleet, the blessing of the flocks. In our country, these all seemed so clannish and old world, like strange superstitions of an ignorant age.
Those days are gone, and most Catholics have long since entered the American mainstream. Our traditions, though they remain, have become a bit more understated. There are fewer pilgrimages from American churches to Fatima, fewer novenas on Friday night to St. Jude, fewer lengthy theological articles on the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
But for many, this most peculiar papacy still sets Catholics apart. The Pope, of all things, would seem to stand outside our common values as Americans. The Pope is what we’re not: regal, authoritative, indifferent to polling data, able to ask that we follow without giving us a vote on the issue.
Yes, he is all that. But we live in a time hungry for unity, hungry for clarity of purpose, hungry for the presence of God—the real presence of the divine. Americans are a people on pilgrimage, always searching, always willing to reinvent ourselves as we try to find out who we might become.
So maybe just for a few days, we might all pause before this man of God: human he is, on pilgrimage like the rest of us. Sure, I wish he’d make pulpits open to women, I wish he’d eliminate “only” from his love of the church he leads, I wish he’d spend more time with the poor and less with the rich.
But he made me proud nonetheless. He brought a profound reminder of what it means to believe in a faith so grand and so humble too, a faith ultimately in nothing less than God’s love, God’s presence among us, God’s promise to be with us always.
Thank you, Holy Father. Amen.