The Pope’s Challenge

Saturday morning dawned overcast, but dry and I had every intention of going kayaking. I turned on the television to keep me company while eating breakfast and there I stayed; kayaking was forgotten.

The excitement of the arrival of Pope Francis to the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia was transmitted through the television. The faces beaming with joy and happiness at just a glimpse of His Holiness reminded me of my pilgrimage to Italy, where I was blessed to attend his Wednesday audience. Looking at the pope’s face, it almost appears that he takes in all the joy demonstrated by the people and channels it back to them in his loving smile, his bright eyes and the tender caresses for the children and disabled. While I have had the privilege of attending a Mass or to at the Cathedral, to see the pope celebrating Mass there did bring me to tears.

“And you?” The quote from Pope Leo XIII to Katherine Drexel was the key message in Pope Francis’ homily at the Cathedral. “What about you?” the pope asked. In a congregation comprised largely of ordained and religious, he pointed out it was said to a lay woman who had brought to Pope Leo’s attention the plight of Afro-Americans and American Indians in 1887. Yes, she did enter religious life after that encounter, but the pope reminded us that by baptism, we all have a mission to build up the Church in our community. We all have our own unique role to play. Some are called to a religious vocation, some are called to an active response by going out to the periphery, and some are called to support activities “behind the scenes.” Since the congregation was primarily religious, one may think dedicating their life to God’s work would be enough. But Pope Francis has issued a challenge to dig deeper and reflect on what you can do to bring Jesus to the community. He said we need to be creative in adapting to the changing times, but always being rooted in the Catholic traditions.

When I attended Mass on Sunday, the priest indicated he was in the congregation at the Cathedral and was struck by the pope’s homily. We all need to be reflections of Jesus, sharing the Spirit with everyone we encounter. The whirlwind visit of His Holiness has left us with much to ponder, but it cannot stop at just thought. It needs to be turned into action. What about you? What will you do to be Christ to another?

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