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Franciscan Spirit Blog

The Security to Be Insecure

Jan 14, 2022
Woman looking in a mirror | Photo by Elisa Ph. on Unsplash
A person with a great soul can move others toward the future with compassion and confidence—not judgment, paranoia, or accusation.

At the time of the Second Vatican Council, we Catholics were very self-confident. All indicators of numbers, vocations, money, and influence were positive and growing. There was no reason to reform or self-criticize. Our identity was clear, our boundaries were clear, our sense of the absolute was grounded and founded. We knew who we were and, ironically, we were therefore free to criticize ourselves, even from the very top.

The ability to self-criticize and own our shadow side is a clear sign of health and interior freedom. A historian of social change once told me that Vatican II was one of the very few times in all of human history that a strong institution reformed itself from the top—when it didn’t have to and wasn’t forced to. That’s a rather strong sign of the presence of God’s Spirit.

Before Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected pope in 2013 and took the name Pope Francis I, the Roman Church, at the higher levels, had little ability to be self-critical. We felt that we had lost our boundaries in relation to secular culture, and we were trying to reinforce them by insisting that we were always right and had the full and total picture. This is called a “siege mentality,” which always emerges when a group has lost its former influence and feels that it is under attack.

We are all caught in these bigger zeitgeists (“the spirit of an age”). Every age has been. It is almost heroic to live above them, and we never really know if we are doing so.

Yet, the person with a great soul can move others toward the future with compassion and confidence—not judgment, paranoia, or accusation. We were very happy as Catholics when John Paul II (1920–2005) set a new tone in Jubilee Year 2000 and publicly admitted and asked forgiveness for many of the historic sins of Roman Catholicism. It seemed to give permission at all lower levels for honesty and humility about the Church.

John Paul II was surely one of these great souls on many levels. His tragic flaw might well be that he did not often trust anyone else to be a great soul or to initiate the grand gesture except himself. He could be ecumenical, but we at the lower levels had to exclude even other Christians from the table. He could make major political statements, but other bishops and priests, like the martyr St. Óscar Romero (1917–1980), were given no support when they did the same. It felt a bit schizophrenic, but the issues are so enormous today that only time will prove where wisdom lies (see Matthew 11:19).

Finger-pointing is usually just an avoidance of our own transformation. To continue to move forward calmly, with joy and confidence, is probably as clear a sign of God’s presence as I can imagine. It is also somewhat rare, but those, like Pope Francis, who can do so are the people who will reconstruct. These are the people who will lead us into God’s future. These are the people to whom it is worth listening.


Keep reading!

‘The Greatest of These Is Love’

The Hard Work of Transformation

Richard Rohr on Thomas Merton’s Legacy

Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps


CTA


Comments

Maria
Fri, 01/14/2022 - 02:00 PM
Maria
“Pope Francis, who can do so are the people who will reconstruct. These are the people who will lead us into God’s future. These are the people to whom it is worth listening.” It’s a sad day in the church when we’ve been led by a Pope who has divided and brought such conflicts to our church. All we can do is pray for his discernment!!
Michael
Sat, 01/15/2022 - 12:37 AM
Michael
Agree, and hopefully…
Jeff
Sat, 01/15/2022 - 12:42 AM
Jeff
I disagree. Pope Francis isn’t a church hardliner like Benedict. Instead he is guided by his namesake. God bless our pope who doesn’t bend to the left or the right but who strives to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
Pat Forster
Fri, 01/21/2022 - 12:03 PM
Pat Forster
Pope Francis is a man of God. A unifier and a compassionate person who calls us to BE WITH AND FOR one another. It is very unfortunate when other so called leaders divide. Pope Francis is led by the Spirit of God of a conscience that deeply understands humanity and divinity. What a gift to our world. Thank you God. Sr pat
Beverly Phillips
Fri, 01/21/2022 - 03:55 PM
Beverly Phillips
I agree with Maria. There are elements within the Catholic Church that seem determined that she be "Prostestenized" which is much more than being modernized. And Pope Francis seems to be happily at the helm of it. Why is he trying so hard to eliminate the Latin Mass that people have loved and valued for centuries? And the biggest abomination was the idol "Pachmama" brought into the Vatican itself and sat on the very relics of St Peter. In the Vatican Gardens there sat Pope Francis and some of his bishops benignly watching natives bow down and worship her. Why does he have a statue of Martin Luther inside the Vatican as well? It's all very, very disturbing to many people. But these things were warmed about in the Bible, weren't they?
Jane
Fri, 01/21/2022 - 05:04 PM
Jane
You are so right!!! So very sad and just makes min-Catholics more hateful towards real, faithful Catholics.

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