Meet Randy Trendy and Maddy Traddy: See who you agree with….
Randy: Don’t you think Pope Francis is great! He is a man of the poor for the poor.
Maddy: I like the fact that he serves the poor, but people aren’t good just because they’re poor. And rich people aren’t bad just because they’re rich.
Randy: Are you kidding me? Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor” and “It is more difficult for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Maddy: I think you’ll find he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” What he meant was that those who are humble of heart are blessed. Surely you don’t think that Jesus meant that being poor is something good or that a person is blessed just because he lives in poverty?
Randy: What about the rich person not getting into heaven?
Maddy: Are you rich?
Maddy: Compared, let’s say, to a single mother living in a one room cardboard shack with five children in a slum in Brazil are you rich?
Randy: OK. I’m probably rich.
Maddy: The point I’m making is that wealth and poverty are relative. I find it strange that I’ve never met anyone who thinks they’re rich–not even people, who by anyone’s standards are fabulously wealthy.
Randy: So your point is?
Maddy: Just that the rich-poor thing is slippery. We almost always compare ourselves to someone who has more than we do and so we think ourselves poor. We rarely compare ourselves to someone who has less and discover that we’re rich. It’s even more slippery when we try to judge others. This is the real reason why Pope Francis’ emphasis on the poor is important–because he makes all of us shift our attention to those less fortunate than ourselves rather than being envious of those who are more wealthy.
Randy: OK, but don’t you think Pope Francis is great to have got rid of all that fancy stuff that Pope Benedict wore? He’s putting all those fancy clothes, the red shoes, the big miters and all the extra gear into mothballs. Did you see he replaced the papal throne with a more ordinary chair? This is going to make a big, big impact.
The vast majority of people love those kind of gestures. They think the Catholic church is rich and full of old, rich white guys sitting on a pile of wealth. A pope on a throne wearing a gold miter gives the wrong impression. St Francis is probably the best loved Catholic saint in the world. Everybody knows him and loves him, so to take the name Francis and live like Francis is the best move forward for evangelization possible. I’m thrilled by it.
Maddy: Are you so thrilled by it that you intend to follow his example?
Maddy: Are you going to move out of your nice house and sell your nice car and ride the bus and stop eating out and give your money to the poor?
Randy: I think you’re missing the point. It’s important that the pope does this.
Maddy: Uh huh.
Randy: So you’re actually in favor of all those trappings? The red silk cape, the ermine trimmed vestments, the golden crowns, the red hand made shoes, the throne, the old fashioned hats–all that fancy stuff?
Maddy: I once heard about this English priest who was appointed to be a Bishop–let’s say the Bishop of Bootle, and he said he didn’t want to wear the cope and miter and carry the crozier and do all that fancy stuff. He just wanted to be known as “Bishop Ted”. He just wanted to be down to earth and be one of the guys. One of his advisors said, “With respect Bishop, the people don’t really want you to be ‘one of the guys’. They want you to be the bishop. They don’t care about “Ted” they care about the Bishop of Bootle. They want to see the Bishop in his miter and cope and crozier. If you deprive them of that and give them “Bishop Ted” who is just one of the boys, they won’t thank you for it. Anyway, why would you want to impose your personality on the Bishop’s office in such a way? You think it would be humble to be just Bishop Ted–one of the guys–but wouldn’t it be more humble to be the Bishop of Bootle and allow Ted to disappear within the office and the vestments of the office? By being “Bishop Ted” aren’t you sort of showing off how humble you are, and if so, is that really humility? If the vestments and the limousine really don’t matter to you why not be humble enough to just use them and not make a fuss?
Randy: Oh, very sly. But I’m afraid it doesn’t wash. In fact, the vast majority of people think it is great that Pope Francis has a simpler style. They like how he relates to people and is not all distant and cut off from them. They like his simplicity and they’re impressed by his humility and service to others. Don’t you see how much all that pomp and circumstance with fancy vestments and choirs singing Palestrina and Vivaldi and a bulletproof popemobile and all that–it just alienates people. They think the Pope and Cardinals are all renaissance princes of the church.
Tell me. What do ordinary people in Africa or South America or the suburbs know or care about all that fancy stuff? You’re probably also into the Latin Mass. I’m not getting on your case, but how does that help evangelize? How does that help reach out to people? How does that communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ–who was born in a stable, worked as a carpenter, had fishermen for followers and died on a cross as a common criminal?
Do you think people will actually be converted and have a profound encounter with Christ because the pope wears silk vestments, a golden crown and red shoes? C’mon. The world is starving for the reality and the grit and grace of the gospel and you guys are getting huffy because the pope didn’t wear the right hat.
Maddy: I do actually believe that people are converted by beauty, truth and goodness. Are you suggesting we should dumb down the liturgy? I suppose you want to bring in guitar masses and have clowns and big puppets to help “relate” to people.
We’re talking about the worship of Almighty God. We’re entering the court of heaven. It’s supposed to be grand and glorious, and why should poor people or ordinary people be short changed and given a dumbed down liturgy, tacky music and a kind of game show instead of the Divine Liturgy?
Randy: I’m not saying you have to do all that stuff. I’m just saying it’s about people for goodness sake! It’s about souls right? It’s about the gospel. It’s about God taking flesh from an ordinary peasant girl called Mary and living as one of us–not as a prince, but as a pauper.
Don’t you see what we’ve done? Jesus comes to us as an ordinary person: God in the guise of the common man, and we’ve turned him into some sort of high class hoity toity Episcopalian with perfect taste and perfect teeth and beautiful robes and combed hair. You traditionalists have become the very people he condemned: the ones who love to wear fine robes and sit in the best seats in the temple and have people bow and give you respect. Thats’s what people think of a Pope who expects everyone to kiss his ring and bow down to him.
Maddy: Sounds Protestant to me.
Randy: Have you ever asked yourself why the Protestant Reformation happened in the first place? Maybe they wouldn’t have all gone off in a huff if the Catholic Church hadn’t been so obsessed with fine vestments, papal palaces and thrones and all that stuff. If the pope then had been humble like Pope Francis maybe the Reformation wouldn’t have happened!
Maddy: OK. I like Pope Francis, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad he is who he is and I hope his ministry will be all that we hope it will be. I’m just a bit cautious about his style. I’m not convinced that the stuff he’s doing is much more than a gimmick. I get worried whenever I see people washing the feet of AIDS victims and making sure the cameras are there. You know?
Randy: What about him going to the prison for Holy Thursday? That’s pretty impressive no?
Maddy: Will the cameras be there? Probably. And if they are, then it will probably be good for the image of the papacy and good for the church and the gospel. However…
Randy: You’re not going to slam that are you?
Maddy: Well, think it through. St Francis kissed the sores of lepers, but he didn’t do so at the Mass of the Last Supper. Popes have always washed the feet of their fellow priests in the Basilica of St Peter. Jesus washed feet, but he didn’t wash the feet of just anybody. He washed the feet of his apostles. The foot washing is linked with the apostolic ministry and the ordination of the first priests. It’s a reminder that the pope and the priests are servants first of all. This is why the successor of Peter–in Peter’s basilica–washes the feet of priests with whom he shares the apostolic ministry of service. This is done with reverence and honor in a grand liturgy showing that within the liturgy itself is locked the simple and humble sacrament of service.
The pope going to wash prisoner’s feet is a beautiful and humble gesture, but he’s sort of thrown out all that other rich symbolism and connection with the gospel by doing so. Is the gain in good public relations and the strong action of washing the feet of the prisoners enough to cause us to sacrifice these other rich and meaningful traditions? Not in my opinion. Furthermore, I’m not blaming the pope for this, but usually when people are set out on reform they are invariably aiming to destroy something–not build something. Pope Francis wants to do something beautiful and good by washing the feet of prisoners, but maybe in the process he’s throwing out something which was even better and more beautiful.
Randy: I can’t believe you’re so cynical and negative.
Maddy: I can’t believe you’re so ignorant and naive.
Randy: Let us share with one another the kiss of peace.
Maddy: The Lord be with You
Randy: And with your Spirit.