This past week I have given three television interviews and one radio interview about the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to the United States. I’ve pointed out that he has never been here; it’s his first visit to our country. I have discussed the significance of his visit to Washington, D.C. and his address to the joint house of congress, the significance of his visit to the U.N. and of course, his visit to the World Meeting of Families. But all four interviewers eventually asked the same question – “What will his message be?” And four times I’ve given the same answer – “I don’t know.”
But I have a feeling he will mention certain things. First – I imagine he will speak of Mercy! He speaks of it often, most recently at a simple weekday homily when he said the “greatest act of mercy is to forgive another person.” And along with mercy, I image he will speak about the dignity of the human person. He will call us to treat every person with love, care and respect, especially “those we often neglect., echoing the words of Pope Benedict XVI who said “be a friend to the poor, the homeless, the stranger, the sick and all who suffer.” I imagine Pope Frances will echo his recent words and challenge us to “be neighbors who care for each other.” He wants all of us to be “missionaries of mercy.” I could easily see him speaking about such things.
And, I’m not sure, but I think that when he visits Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families he will speak about love. The theme for the gathering is “Love is Our Mission – The Family Fully Alive.” So from that theme I would like to consider some possible themes he may speak on.
I hope he reminds us that it is in the family that we first learn how to love – to say “I love you.” How precious it is to hear those words from a little toddler addressed to mom or dad. That same precious toddler will someday be a moody, snarly teenager. How important it is for the him or her to say “I love you.” And because families are not perfect and because members of families make mistakes and hurt each other and say mean things to each other, I hope Pope Francis reminds us how important it is to say, “I’m sorry.”
I hope he reminds us to pray, especially within the home, with the family. He recently quoted the classic line from Fr. Peyton, “the family that prays together stays together.” I hope he reminds us that within the home, amongst the family of mom and dad and kids that there is holiness. I hope he reminds us that our earthly home is a foreshadowing of our heavenly home. What a beautiful message that would be.
I hope he reminds each husband that his vocation demands that he do everything possible to get his wife to heaven. To remind every wife that her vocation demands that she do all within her power to get her husband to heaven. Together as parents to see their primary duty it is to get their children to heaven. If such a message were to take root in the hearts of spouses and parents, what a renewal there would be in family life.
If mercy is his favorite topic, I think “encounter” is a close second. Do you recall the opening line of his letter, “The Joy of the Gospel?” He says, “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” And what a treasure we have in the seven sacraments of the Church, The Sacraments are the privileged place of encounter with Jesus, especially the Holy Eucharist.
I hope Pope Francis challenges all Catholics and anyone who will listen to re-discover the beauty of the Catholic Faith. I hope he challenges us to live a sacramental life- to make a commitment to never willingly miss Holy Mass and celebrate the sacrament of Confession on a regular basis. I hope he challenges us all to walk with Mary and the saints – and to make time for adoration. I hope he asks us all to live the fullness of our faith and strive for the highest of goals in this life – to be a saint!
Truth be told, I have no idea what the Holy Father will say to us. But it’s exciting to think about it. And, whatever he says will be challenging and loving. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will anoint his words and may Our Lady protect him along the journey. Hail Mary…