Saturday, September 5, 2015

Dear Francis

A few weeks ago, my latest column for the Global Sisters Report was published. In it, I talk about what seems to be the preeminent topic here in Philadelphia these days: Pope Francis' Visit in a few weeks.  My column sorts through the process of deciding whether to write and all the considerations of what one might write to the Pope.  As I say towards the end of the column, who knows if I will write... that's between me and Francis. What I do know is that I have great love and admiration for this man and what he is doing for our world and our church. (Just look at last night's 20/20 Audience.)

And so with that out of the way... here's the beginning of my column:


The first call came after five days. Pope Francis called the newsstand where he would buy his daily paper in Buenos Aires to cancel his subscription. It seemed he was going to be away longer than expected. 

I remember reading that first news report in March 2013; it was almost as surreal as the turn of events that had taken place over the preceding weeks. For the first time in six hundred years, a pope resigned and for the first time ever, a Jesuit was elected to the papacy.  Now it is history, tempered by time, but still no less remarkable.
The world has sat intrigued with each phone call- with the pope who would call and the people who have written. There was the young student who shared his hopes, the single mother who was trying to make it on her own, the newspaper editor and atheist. They all wrote and Francis called. 

I remember as a student reading about the great people of faith who had written to popes. They were distant figures of faith. They were people the likes of whom time holds sparingly- the saints and rulers, reformers and rabble-rousers, the Catherine’s of Siena and not the Jane Doe’s of this world. And yet, in a world where popes resign and successors make follow-up phone calls, the thought of writing a pope doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
So, how do you write to a pope? Or more importantly, what do you write to the pope?

With Pope Francis headed to the United States, and in particular to my own city of Philadelphia, in a few short weeks, I found myself asking that exact question.

If watching Francis has taught me anything, though, the answer to that first question is clear. The only way you could possibly write is from the heart.  Any other way would be a sham. A letter from me would be different from your letter just as my life is different from yours. And yet, to write from the heart is to mirror the deeper call within and beyond us to live from the heart too. To live lives of such authenticity, we have to align ourselves with the heart of Gospel, beginning with the way we relate to one another and to God. Any other way would be a deception.

This is the foundation of our being.  And beyond the boundaries of language or religion, Francis has made this point poignantly in the witness he bears.  This is not always perfect but it is honest and for that, I give thanks.  If nothing else, that way of living and being-from the heart- gives us the example of how to far beyond letter-writing.

From the heart come words of gratitude, statements of truth, and deep sharing of hopes and dreams.  Putting any one of those things into writing is a task and yet, when I consider what, if anything, I would want to write to the Pope, it is those deeply-held beliefs, deeply-transformed visions, and deeply-fostered emotions and dreams that rise to the surface.

Somehow, even though I have never met the man, there is a desire within me to share from the depths of my being with him. That compulsion, at times, seems to me to be foolish. Why write? What difference could it make? Would the letter even be read? And if it was, is there a risk to such honest sharing? 

I wonder all these things and yet, the desire to write still remains.


Part of that desire is to say thank you... Read the rest here.

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