There were the simpler, "Brace yourself: the pope is coming!" memes, and the more complicated, "Brace yourself: everyone is about to become an expert on Catholicism" memes, with many variations.
I decided to make a meme of my own:
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
To be honest, I didn't think I was going to get to blog at all during Pope Francis' US visit. I had been summoned for jury duty. But I got the news today that I will not have to serve after all, and so I do get to blog. :)
Let's start with His Holiness' off-the-cuff remarks to some young people in Cuba:
One word that struck a chord is "dream." A Latin American writer has said that people have two eyes: one of flesh and another of glass. With the eye of flesh, we see what is before us and with the eye of glass, we see what we dream of. It’s nice, no? In the objectivity of life, the capacity of dreaming has to enter in. A young person who is not capable of dreaming is cloistered in himself, he’s closed in on himself. Sure, a person sometimes dreams of things that are never going to happen. But dream them. Desire them. Seek the horizon. Open yourselves to great things.
I’m not sure if in Cuba they use this word, but in Argentina, we say, Don’t be wimpy. Open yourselves and dream. Dream that the world with you can be different. Dream that if you give the best of yourself, you are going to help this world be different. Don’t forget. Dream. If you get carried away and dream too much and life cuts you off, don't worry. Dream and share your dreams. Speak about the great things that you want, because inasmuch as your capacity to dream is greater, when life leaves you only half way, you will have gone farther. So, first dream.
You said a phrase that I underlined and took note of: "that we might know how to welcome and accept the one who thinks differently than us." Truly, sometimes we are closed in. We shut ourselves in our little world: "This is either the way that I want it or we’re not doing it." And you went even further, "that we don’t close ourselves into the 'little convents' of ideologies or in the 'little convents' of religions. That we might grow in the face of individualism."
When a religion becomes a "little convent" it loses the best that it has, it loses its reality of adoring God, of believing in God. It’s a little convent of words, of prayers, of "I’m good and you’re bad,’ of moral regulations. I have my ideology, my way of thinking and you have yours; I close myself in this "little convent" of ideology.
Now, both the US mainstream media and certain elements of the Catholic blogosphere would probably read this as: "Pope admits dislike for convents, moral regulations." I'm sure we're going to see a lot of that kind of silliness--because what Pope Francis is saying here is similar to things he has said elsewhere about creating little safe, closed-in echo chambers (note: no real convent I know of is actually a bit like such a thing) instead of going out into the world to be salt and light. And none of that is controversial; at least, none of it is any more controversial than it was when Jesus said it. Remember the parable of the talents? Remember His words to the Pharisees who were scolding the apostles for picking and eating grain on the Sabbath?
Still, people are going to be viewing the pope not through the eyes of flesh nor through the glass eyes of dreams, but (some of them) reflected in the funhouse mirrors of their own agendas. There will be some who, no matter what he says, will see what they want to see, whether that is a new and permissive form of Catholicism where the only sin is believing that sin exists, or whether that is proof positive that this pontiff is somehow an illegitimate pope who can be ignored and reviled by the Catholics who Know the Truth (tm).
Brace yourselves. One does not simply avoid the papal spin doctors.