A Saint Among Us: Caritas Revealed

Pope Francis personal touch

“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire.
Let the truth be your delight…proclaim it…but with a certain congeniality.”  St. Catherine of Siena

Earlier this year, the world was introduced to the 266th Bishop of Rome, the office we call “pope,”  the only one in the entire Catholic Church elected, and then only by his fellow cardinals.   Those who sit in the consistory, the body that elects the pope, assure us that the presence of the Holy Spirit, a member of the Divine Trinity, is felt and that the pope, whoever is elected, is sent as the right man at the right time.

He is what he should be.

God, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit sent us a pretty stark message in Francis: back to basics and practice Christianity as if you mean it – just like his namesake preached.

St Francis quote 2

THAT is what Pope Francis is all about, and there is absolutely no hint of being false, no matter how the media tries to twist his words.  Francis was sent to us to get the faithful back on track, and to keep our eyes on the prize, so to speak.  What that means for each individual is different, but the prize of salvation is exactly the same.

The night Francis was elected, when the name was announced, an American commentator was somewhat dumbfounded that the choice was not on the short list (we’ve always got a short list for open offices), but very quickly and emphatically said, “The man is a saint.”  We are seeing that played out every day as Francis executes his office.

Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces
we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.
  Blessed Mother Teresa

Pope Francis is far from the first saint to walk among us.  The woman quoted above is on the fast track to canonization since one miracle attributed to her has been determined to be supernatural.  (She needs another.)  The entire world watched as she ministered to the poor, although being a nun, it was somewhat to be expected.  Also from the 20th century is already canonized Saint Padre Pio, more of a guardian of souls than the poor, but no less humble, hard working or emphatic.  Their touch was personal, and that made them famous.

Francis is the first POPE in the television and 24/7 news cycle era to engage in personal pastoral care.  Since World War II, when Pope Pius XII led an underground army of priests and nuns who managed to save 860,000 people from the Nazi gas chambers, each pope has led a heroic effort to somehow transform the Church.  John XXIII sought to make the faith more accessible to the people; Paul VI fought against modernism until he was neutralized by revolution; John Paul II rebuilt the hierarchy with faithful bishops and sought to reverse many errors that set in after Vatican II; Benedict XVI continued that work and reminded us that the Church is a continuum that cannot simply be “reformed” because it is not our taste.  Francis, now, shows us what we must do as Jesus Christ commanded: minister to people everywhere regardless of appearance, circumstance, poverty, and sickness of both body and spirit.  And in doing so, his touch is personal.

And as we now see everywhere, the personal touch makes a difference.

It’s being called “The Pope Francis Effect,” the return of so many Catholics to the sacraments.  The return of the faithful from having fallen away.  An admiration from those who are not Catholic, but see what Francis brings to the Church.  The world sees in this man, the pope, Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, very much the same we saw in our beloved Mother Teresa – a person not afraid to be politically incorrect and tell the world through words and deeds just exactly what a follower of Christ is supposed to be.  Every now and then such figures appear in history.  We are blessed to have him now and his very personal reminder that charity is everyone’s responsibility.

“You will find out that Charity is a heavy burden to carry, heavier than the kettle of soup and the full basket. But you will keep your gentleness and your smile. It is not enough to give soup and bread. This the rich can do. You are the servant of the poor, always smiling and good-humored. They are your masters, terribly sensitive and exacting master you will see. And the uglier and the dirtier they will be, the more unjust and insulting, the more love you must give them. It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread you give to them.”
 – St. Vincent de Paul

THIS is what Pope Francis was sent to us to demonstrate – and never doubt that he was sent, just as the Apostles were almost 2,000 years ago.  The night we commemorate Christ’s servitude to the Church, Holy Thursday, by tradition Ubi Caritas  is sung at Offertory.  Many parishes, though, sing a version during the Washing of the Feet:

UBI caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor.
Exultemus, et in ipso iucundemur.
Timeamus, et amemus Deum vivum.
Et ex corde diligamus nos sincero.

WHERE charity and love are, God is there.
Christ’s love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.

UBI caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul ergo cum in unum congregamur:
Ne nos mente dividamur, caveamus.
Cessent iurgia maligna, cessent lites.
Et in medio nostri sit Christus Deus.

WHERE charity and love are, God is there.
As we are gathered into one body,
Beware, lest we be divided in mind.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,
And may Christ our God be in our midst.

UBI caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Simul quoque cum beatis videamus,
Glorianter vultum tuum, Christe Deus:
Gaudium quod est immensum, atque probum,
Saecula per infinita saeculorum. Amen.

WHERE charity and love are, God is there.
And may we with the saints also,
See Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good,
Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.

Charity and love.  That pretty much says what this pope is about.

BTW, in the traditional, more Catholic than the pope wing of the Church, there was teeth gnashing that night in March when Pope Francis was introduced without the mozzetta and eschewing the red slippers.  There was great fear that the Indult (Latin Mass) would again be outlawed and that chant would again be shelved by decree.  None of that has come to pass.  In fact, Pope Francis has said Mass ad orientum at St. Peter’s grave, led the Rosary, has been very public about hearing confessions, and not one hint of rescinding the liturgical restoration that started under John Paul II and continued through Benedict XVI.  Francis may not pick up the baton himself, but he is not denying those who are spiritually fed through this form.  Along with his VERY obvious intellectualism and old-fashioned Jesuit teaching and thinking, Francis has even won over many trads.  That’s quite an accomplishment for a simple 60’s priest.

The best and most famous setting of Ubi Caritas by Maurice Duruflé (1960), based on the chant, of course.

Categories: Catholic Church, Christianity

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