The Pope is back home in Rome safe and sound after his trips to Cuba and the United States. These are events Catholics and so many others glued to the TV or their computer following his travels will be unpacking (no pun intended) for months and even years.
After Pope Benedict’s visit to America, I downloaded the transcripts of his talks, as I wanted to remind myself what he had said, but also wanted to reflect upon it further. And so it goes with Pope Francis. While completely different in their style and approach, both Benedict and Francis brought and bring the world Jesus. They also remind us of our personal responsibilities: that once we encounter Jesus we all have to be willing to be more like Him, and do what we can to make a difference in our own way and in our own circles.
It’s hard to say I had a favorite Francis homily or address. All of the talks were filled with messages concerning the dignity of the human person, the defense of life from conception until natural death, as well as strong words about what marriage and religious liberty really mean. He also said a lot without saying anything. Case in point would be the decision to forgo lunch with Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner and instead feed the poor, as well as meet with the Little Sisters of the Poor — the poster children for the Church’s fight against Obama Care and more specifically the HHS Mandate — and he did all this right after his White House address.
However, his homily on Saturday during Mass at St. Peter and Paul Cathedral Basilica resonated deeply with me. Being married to a deacon I am very sensitive to comments that are made about how Fr. So and So, Deacon So and So, Bishop So and So need to do this, that, or the other thing. I often hear the same thing from frustrated Catholics across the country. While that is true, as the Pope pointed out repeatedly during his visit, calling on priests and bishops to be less clerical and more accessible, the laity also have to take up the call to do something more than just complain. At this Mass the Pope pointed to the example of St. Katherine Drexel. After speaking with Pope Leo XIII regarding the needs of missions, Pope Leo asked her “What about you? What are you going to do?” The Pope said those words changed Katherine’s life because they reminded her that in the end every Christian man and woman, by virtue of baptism, has received a mission. St. Katherine Drexel answered the question by eventually becoming an American saint through her work, with among other things, religious education.
This is the question, thanks to Pope Francis, I am asking myself: What about me? What am I doing to do to make a difference and to bring Christ to the world? It’s a question we can all ask ourselves every day when we get up in the morning. What about that pregnancy center that needs volunteers? What about the Adoration Chapel at your parish that is looking for more parishioners to step in and be with Jesus? What about the marriage prep program or Catechism classes looking for additional instructors? What about you and what about me?
This is also a good question to ask ourselves as we head into the Synod, which begins this Sunday. Will you be praying for the bishops and cardinals participating, or spending your time worrying and complaining?
So let’s all do our part by taking another look at the words of the Vicar of Christ. You’ll find a list to the links of the various addresses and homilies here. Let’s answer the question he is raising by putting his words into practice.
Pope Francis’ Speeches & Homilies During His Visit to the US:
The Complete List of Full Texts
Wednesday, September 23rd (Washington, D.C.)
Thursday, September 24th (Washington, D.C. & New York City)
Friday, September 25th (New York City)
Pope Francis’ Prayer of Remembrance (at Ground Zero, New York)
Saturday, September 26th (New York City, Philadelphia)
Prepared Speech to the Festival of Families (speech not given, replaced by the one below):
Sunday, September 27th (Philadelphia)
For additional information, including Pope Francis’ trip to Cuba, videos of the events, and information in seven languages other than English, see the Vatican News Service page dedicated to the journey.