Ok, at this point in Lent, our resolutions are not unlike our New Year’s resolutions.
We start out with good intentions and, well, you know the rest. But I’m offering two that each one of us can embrace and which will serve the Church and the world.
Hold on. I’m getting ahead of myself.
This past weekend, I attended the LA Religious Ed Congress. I know, many of you thought people like me should either not attend the REC or would not survive the REC. Here’s my advice: attend the REC next year.
Did I agree with all of the content offered? Nope. But people are allowed to have different opinions, even in the Catholic Church.
Nevertheless, there was a lot of really good content. And the exhibit hall is a must for anyone involved in anything Catholic.
But the strongest take away came from a place that I wasn’t expecting: John Allen’s talk, “The Francis Revolution: The Papacy at the One-Year Mark.” Don’t get me wrong, I admire John Allen’s expertise immensely. In fact, that’s why I went to the talk. I was looking for his analysis of the Francis papacy. He gave that. Superbly. But his analysis provided the basis for two Lenten resolutions that we can all take to heart. [Full disclosure - I know John and really appreciate his description of me in his book Opus Dei, which was something like, "an intelligent, sometimes brash, young woman."]
Allen is a fan of Francis, as he was a fan of Benedict. And he will strongly dispute the Francis good, Benedict bad narrative. He gave some vignettes to demonstrate the Francis effect. Simply put, the world is taken with Francis. Consider his effect in the US alone. Allen cited a recent CNN poll that puts Francis’ approval ratings at 88%. Almost 90% of Catholics in the US agree upon something. That in itself, as Allen noted is huge. When was the last time 90% of Catholics in the US agreed on anything?
Allen went on to lay out why he calls Pope Francis the Pope of Mercy. Francis lives mercy, preaches mercy, communicates mercy, and – not for nothin’ – has emphasized the sacrament of mercy, namely confession/reconciliation. [An audio recording of Allen's complete talk can be ordered here. You may have to wait a few days/weeks for them to be posted online. The talk was Workshop 7-01.]
So what to do with this “missionary moment”? Here are his suggestions:
1. Stop using the Pope as club to beat up on other members of the Church. Give it up for Lent.
2. Despite the age of social media, we don’t have to have an opinion on something the Pope says or does minutes after it happens. Give it up for Lent. Instead, sit with it, meditate on it, pray with it. Try it for Lent.
The whole world is looking at the Church. We need to be a Church that the rest of the world wants to be part of, not a Church that they just want to watch for entertainment or scandal. Almost every lapsed Catholic (or other person who’s decided not to become a Catholic) can point to an experience where they saw, even encountered, a Catholic behaving badly.
In the words of Bob Newhart, “Just stop it.”