Monday, November 16, 2015

What if the pope doesn't like you? Or, guest post # 2: my sister writes again!

My awesome sister, Heather Sprinkle, wrote a guest post for this blog last week that was quite well-received. She has sent a second installment that I'm sure you will also enjoy! I appreciate so much that she is willing to write a few posts for me during National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. November) because right now I'm about 38,000 words into a space adventure in the middle of a war involving people who move ships by teleportation (otherwise known as: Tales of Telmaja; see the sidebar for links to more information especially regarding the three books in this series I've already published!). So having Heather's take on some of the ongoing issues in the Church and the world to share with all of you is especially nice!

So here, without further ado, is her latest:

What If the Pope Doesn’t Like You? 
Heather Sprinkle

Edward Pentin wrote a post on his blog at the National Catholic Register titled: “Pope Francis on Keys to Authentic Christian Humanism” in which he focuses on the Holy Father’s apparent dislike of “conservatism and fundamentalism.” Pope Francis, according to Pentin, was addressing the Italian Church in Florence in “a lengthy address,” but Pentin’s quotes largely deal with the Pope’s rejection of conservatism and fundamentalism as demonstrated by what the Holy Father defines as Pelagianism and Gnosticism.

Cue the wails of those leaning toward sola historica. Comments immediately ensued moaning about the state of the Church, the imminent preaching of heresy at the highest levels, fear for the future, and just how horrible horrible horrible this pope of ours is.

And I started to wonder: What if the Pope doesn’t like me?

Yeah, just think about that for a minute. We all want to be liked, don’t we? We want to be affirmed in our okayness and esteemed. And it’s personal. It really is. When the Pope; someone we should respect and to whom we should give the benefit of the doubt says, according to Pentin, “…it is useless to look for solutions in conservatism and fundamentalism, in the restoration of practices and outdated forms that even culturally aren’t able to be meaningful,” it seems like he’s looking right at those of us who care about the historical forms and practices of the Church and saying, “I don’t like you. Your insistence on dressing nicely for Mass is meaningless. Your study of Gregorian Chant is a waste of time. Your organization of forty hours devotions is obstructionist.”

What to do, what to do…? Well, what not to do is get upset and call the Pope ugly names. What not to do is assume that a) you have the whole story, and b) the Pope is addressing you personally and c) that you are one hundred percent perfectly totally right in your interpretation of the Holy Father’s words. Maybe a little examination of conscience is in order. You know, it’s possible to go to Mass nicely dressed and spend time looking down on, and feeling sorry for those poor dweebs who don’t know any better, isn’t it? It’s possible to give a great appearance of being good so as to become a burden to those who look to you for an example but can’t measure up to your perceived perfection. It’s possible to get so caught up in this novena or that appearance of Our Lady that we spend too much time measuring our lives against certain promises that we forget to live. Maybe a little perspective is in order. The Holy Father has a world full of children to minister. Just because we have instant access to nearly every word that drops from his lips doesn’t mean that every word is directed to us, personally. In other words, “It’s not about you!” Remember there was a time prior to the internet when this address of the Pope’s would have been recorded by a journalist, archived, and forgotten until an official biographer dug it up.

But what if the Pope really doesn’t like you? Does it really matter? I mean if you’re respectful of his official words, mindful of the unchanging and unchangeable teachings of Holy Mother Church, doing your best to be the best Christian you can be, day by day, always learning and growing in the Faith, then what can it matter? None of us is so important that the Pope has to like us or the Church will suffer. None of the “practices and outdated forms” we like or find meaningful or spiritually healthy are so essential that the Pope has to like them or the Church will suffer. Those leaning toward a sola historica mentality often accuse ordinary Catholics who give the Pope the benefit of the doubt of “popolotry.” Yet it seems to me that getting upset about everything he says is just as bad as thinking everything the Pope says is Inspired-by-God. It’s another kind of popolotry. So what if the Pope doesn’t like us? He doesn’t have to. My wise mother taught me that we don’t have to like anybody; we just have to love everybody. So as long as the Holy Father love us, and we him, we’re all good.