Sooooo, these past few weeks I've been gobbling up information about the new pope. Mike leaves all the newspaper articles out for me so that I can read them while I eat my morning cereal, and of course when I'm online I'm all hooked up into Catholic news and social media discussions.
And all the while, as the heady first days of his pontificate faded, I started to read, you know, STUFF. Disappointment, unhappiness. And I was very shocked to read about it at first. I mean, how could anybody be disappointed with this sweet and adorable pope?
And the thing is, the unhappiness is coming from the opposite end of the spectrum than I'm used to. What I would characterize (so this is very subjective, as I'm sure you all understand) as traditional Catholics were feeling very concerned. Admittedly, this got my attention right away. These are people that take their faith very seriously. So I took their concerns very seriously.
Sooo, the worry is that Pope Francis's more informal, easygoing style will result in him making changes to the liturgy. And the traditional Catholics that I've been referring to are concerned that this will mean that the Tridentine Rite (Latin Mass) will not be as available to them as it has been under Pope Benedict XVI.
I'm very sympathetic to this group of concerned Catholics. In fact, I would classify myself as a fairly traditional Catholic. Although I do prefer the Novus Ordo Mass over the Tridentine Rite, I support 100% the availability of this Mass for those who cherish it. And I will grant, I love being around so many other women who wear headcoverings when I do attend a Latin Mass. :) I also adore traditional Catholic devotions (I was horrified when my mother-in-law, who had lived in central Florida for well over 20 years at this point in time, asked me once when I mentioned praying the rosary if "people still did that"), traditional church architecture, and support all Church teaching.
And so, as the weeks have gone by, and I've read more about this. I can see now that Pope Francis has a different style than what we've been used to with both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. His style is, however, very consistent with his spirituality as a Jesuit.
Like many of you, I'm certain, I've read lots and lots of bad examples with regard to the Jesuit order, so I have to admit I was momentarily apprehensive when I heard the new pope was a Jesuit (if you ever read posts on secular wedding message boards about Catholic weddings, you will inevitably see someone ask about 2 Catholics wanting to get married outside, and someone will answer "find a Jesuit priest to do it! They're very flexible and understanding!"). HOWEVER, there are plenty of good examples as well, and from all accounts Pope Francis is very much one of these good examples.
I think that it all comes down to this: there haven't been many changes in the papacy within most of our lifetimes, and this pope is putting his own touches on how things are done. This is making all of us very nervous because we've gotten comfortable and used to things. But change is not a bad thing in and of itself.
I think what was bothering me so much about the whole thing is the constant "Look! Pope Francis is eschewing (fill in the blank) tradition with this much simpler way of doing things! Isn't that *fantastic*!" Well, yes, I very much like some of the things that he is doing, he's teaching us all a lot about simplicity and humility. BUT what I object to is the insinuation that his way is *so much better!* than his predecessors, namely John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who were more formal in their approach to the papacy and the liturgy (in some ways, though not in others). I just get that feeling a lot, certainly from the media coverage, but also from personal comments made to me. And I don't think that that is fair. His approach is different, to be sure, but I don't think there can be any argument that John Paul II and Benedict XVI were invaluable examples of Christ in the life of the Church.
Anyway, food for thought: last night on the way home from work, I was listening to Catholic Weekend. Catholic Answers apologist Jimmy Akin was on, and he was talking about this very phenomena, particularly after the Holy Thursday-washing-of-women's-feet-story that I just *knew* was going to be a THING (and no, I really do not think that Pope Francis is going to be ordaining women as a result of this, that's just the way the secular media likes to spin things). And he said that one should try to see a new papacy as an opportunity to learn new things about our faith, and consequently to grow in our faith. Getting used to a new pope is like getting used to a new exercise routine, he said, which I really liked. Both the old routine and the new one are good, but sometimes you *need* the new one in order to kick start your fitness goals again.
To come full circle, I'm not worried about the liturgy. Pope Francis does seem to prefer a simpler style, but I don't think he's going to change things for those that do flourish with more formality. Granted, my opinion is no guarantee of anything, we're going to have to wait and see what happens as his pontificate wears on, but my first impression is still a good one. I don't think he wants to alienate traditional Catholics; I think everything is going to be ok.
It's difficult to get used to, but in the end, growth will happen if we are open to it. I think that is what we are going through in the Church right now. I have no doubt that Pope Francis was chosen by the Holy Spirit. And knowing that, how can we be afraid?
I just saw that the new Ignatius Press book Francis: Pope of a New World was available for immediate Kindle download for $9.99. It is now residing happily on my Kindle. :) I'm looking forward to reading it and learning more about Pope Francis. I know that there is much that I can learn from him.