Friday, March 22, 2013

Francis, Week Two: or, "Living Stones" aren't Squishy Rocks

Pope Francis has 'recycled' the motto he'd chosen as bishop, talked about Saint Joseph, and put World Youth Day 2013 on his schedule.

He also opened his papacy with a friendly gesture: a sort of 'papal hi.'

I'll be back in an hour or so, with something else: but figured this was enough for one post.
  1. A Recycled Motto, and Papal Symbols
    • Tuxedos, Casulae, and Regional Culture
    • 'Out of Step:' Two Millennia and Counting
    • Symbols, Authority, and History
    • 'Out of Step:' Two Millennia and Counting
    • Symbols and History
    • Authority, Nitwits, and Me
  2. Saint Joseph: Protector
    • "Living Stones," Squishy Rocks, and Getting a Grip
  3. World Youth Day and Continuity

1. A Recycled Motto, and Papal Symbols

"Pope Francis : 'Miserando atque eligendo'..."
Vatican Radio. via (March 19, 2013)

"Pope Francis has chosen the motto 'Miserando atque eligendo', meaning lowly but chosen; literally in Latin 'by having mercy, by choosing him'.

"The motto is one the Pope had already chosen as Bishop. It is taken from the homilies of the Venerable Bede on Saint Matthew's Gospel relating to his vocation: 'Jesus saw the tax collector and by having mercy chose him as an Apostle saying to him: Follow me.'

"This homily, which focuses on divine mercy...."
I think "Jesus saw the tax collector" is a reference to Mathhew 9:9, and that's almost another topic.

I decided to become a Catholic after I learned who currently holds the authority my Lord gave Peter. (Matthew 16:17-19) (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 551-553) Colorful traditions and rich symbolism developed over the last two millennia were a sort of bonus: which, sadly, aren't always appreciated.

Tuxedos, Casulae, and Regional Culture

The Pope 'dresses funny,' by contemporary Western standards. That's a perennial source of amusement, with jokes of the 'he wears a dress' variety.

I don't particularly enjoy that sort of humor, particularly when it's accompanied by all-too-familiar assumptions about Catholic Church: but I generally don't rant and rave in response.

Experience suggests that emotional meltdowns do more harm than good.

Besides, I grew up in this culture, and see their point. I also realize that our clergy's formal wear predates tuxedos, breeches, and chaperons.

For example, we call casulae a "chasubles" these days, but the basic style goes back when Caesars were still running Rome. Time passed, a few other empires rose and fell, but there hasn't been a good reason to make more than a few changes in clerical vestments.

'Out of Step:' Two Millennia and Counting

Our vestments would look out of place in most American offices. That's hardly surprising, since they predate the current iteration of Western civilization.

A three-piece business suit might look just as odd a dozen centuries or so from now.

I don't expect an outfit that's endured for millennia and is literally καθολικός, universal, to follow one region's current fashions.

As for being 'out of step' with today's fashionable clothing, and ideas?

Even when the casula was street wear, the Church was 'out of step' with contemporary mores: and I'm okay with that.
"...I'm content to be 'out of step' with whatever philosophies are popular today. I think it's more important to be in step with my Lord. That's why I became a Catholic. I'm content to be part of the Church that's rooted in eternity, under the authority my Lord gave Peter,3 marching through time toward a city that hasn't been built yet...."
(April 1, 2012)

Symbols and History

A few years ago, I asked my wife about the symbolism behind colors in votive candle holders. Apparently the clear, red, green, blue, and other colors are simply there 'for pretty:' at least in the local culture.1 Not everything in a Catholic church is fraught with symbolism.

On the other hand, quite a bit of the Pope's 'full dress uniform' says something: for folks who understand the visual language:
"Francis' papal symbols linked to past Popes"
David Uebbing, CNA/EWTN News (March 19, 2013)

"When Pope Francis was installed as Bishop of Rome today, the two major symbols of the authority he received were connected to previous Popes.

"The inauguration ceremony began with Pope Francis visiting the tomb of St. Peter. He then processed out to the square, with the patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches carrying the Book of the Gospels, his pallium and the Fisherman's ring....

"...the papal ring and the pallium - a circular stole of white wool that symbolizes Francis' role as the chief shepherd of the Church - are connected to Paul VI and Benedict XVI, respectively.

"The ring, known as the Fisherman's ring because Jesus made Peter a 'fisher of men,' has a unique and circuitous history....

"...The pallium is made from lamb's wool and has five red crosses on it to recall the five wounds of Christ. Major archbishops also wear palliums signifying their roles as shepherds, but their crosses are black...."

Authority, Nitwits, and Me

Spending my teens in the '60s encouraged me to see my attitudes in a particular way. I thought I didn't like authority, until my wife pointed out that I was just fine with authority: it was pompous nitwits that I have trouble with. (March 30, 2011)

We've had pretty good popes during my life, but that hasn't always been the case. The 11th, 12th, and 14th centuries were particularly rough patches.

I think Francis will be another 'good pope,' but that isn't why I am still in solidarity with the Holy See.

I am a Catholic because the authority my Lord gave Peter rests with the current Pope: no matter what sort of person he is.

If anything, the Church's survival despite occasionally regrettable leadership convinced me that this really is the Bark of Peter. (December 7, 2010)

2. Saint Joseph: Protector

"Pope: Homily for inaugural Mass of Petrine Ministry [full text]"
Vatican Radio. via (March 19, 2013)

"Homily of the Holy Father at the Inauguration of his Papal Ministry 19 March 2013:

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church...."
The transcript is available in English on the Vatican's website, too:
Francis I had quite a bit to say, including this bit about "living stones." If I thought God wants to literally make me into a chunk of structural material I'd be worried, to say the least. That's not what 1 Peter 2:4-5 means.
"...God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a 'protector' because he is able to hear God's voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God's call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!..."
(Francis I (March 19, 2013))
I recommend reading the entire transcript: it's not all that long.

"Living Stones," Squishy Rocks, and Getting a Grip

I can be quite certain that following my Lord doesn't involve becoming squishy rock. For one thing, 1 Peter 2:5 says " living stones, let yourselves be built...." It's a metaphor, like calling baptized Christians "living stones." (Catechism, 1268) I wouldn't expect to convince a literalist, and that is another topic.

3. World Youth Day and Continuity

"Pope Francis will attend World Youth Day, officials confirm"
CNA/EWTN News (March 19, 2013)

"The president of the Brazilian bishops' conference, Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, has confirmed that Pope Francis will travel to Brazil in July to participate in World Youth Day 2013.

"The statements by the Archbishop of Aparecida concur with recent statements by the Archbishop of Rio, who said Benedict XVI told him that either he or his successor would be present for the event...."
This is good news for folks in Brazil, and everyone who plans to attend World Youth Day 2013. I think it also show that Popes come and go: but the Church goes on.

Related posts:

1 As usual, it's not that simple. Sometimes colored glass in votive candle holders does mean something. For example, I've seen a bank of candle holders arranged so that one color makes a capital "M:" Quite appropriate in the Our Lady of Angels parish church.

We think quite highly of Mary, but don't 'worship' her, and that's another topic or two:

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.