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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Change Takes Time

I don't have a working TV at my house, so I was excited yesterday to be at my parents' house when the white smoke appeared: there was a new pope.

We anxiously waited and watched to see who he would be.  Cardinal Bergoglio from Argentina.  Francis I, after Francis of Assisi.  A Jesuit, a man who lived humbly, a Latin American: all these things gave me hope.  Doctrinally conservative: well, this was expected.

Today as I've been reading analyses and predictions of how Francis I may lead the Church, I've been swinging from optimism to pessimism. So far, I'm spending more time on the optimism side.

As he rose in the ranks of the Church's hierarchy, his lifestyle in Argentina was humble: he lived in a small apartment, rode the bus, and cooked his own food.  In the first 24 hours after being announced as the new supreme pontiff, Pope Francis declined a number of the privileges bestowed upon a pope. When presented as pope for the first time, he did not wear all the usual vestments and adornments.   While his doctrinal conservatism causes me dismay, his humble actions give me hope.  

Yesterday I had dinner with a friend who was talking about his spiritual journey.  He's in his 40s and he made the remark that he hopes to "get there" by the time he's 80.  He said he's in no rush to completely know himself and is enjoying the journey of growth and self-discovery.  I agreed that the journey is beautiful.

Change takes time. 

For one single person to grow into the full embodiment of what God intended for her or him takes a lifetime. Or more.  Do most of us achieve that complete incarnation of God's image in the course of our lives? I don't think so.  Buddhist tradition holds that reincarnation gives people the chance to live through many lives in order to reach enlightenment. 

We Catholics who are impatient to see change must practice patience.  If it takes more than a lifetime for one person to be his/her best self, how much more time will it take for a Body made up of 1.2 billion people to reach its best incarnation?

As I write this, I don't have any salve for the wounds that the Catholic Church has inflicted on people, even its own members.  Recognizing the pain and desiring to heal it is what make me impatient for change.  I hate that many people feel excluded from the proclaimed catholic nature of Catholicism.  Sometimes it is me who feels that exclusion.  Sometimes it is me who wonders if I belong in this Body.

Then I look at the words and actions of Jesus, the heart of the gospels, and I know that I do.  I know that, as a member of the Catholic church, I have something valuable to say. I have something valuable to add to a tradition that both overwhelms me with its depth and beauty and frustrates me with its inconsistencies and hypocrisy.  Sometimes I frustrate myself with my own inconsistencies and hypocrisy. 

Change takes time. 

Conversion is a long process and I hope that the Catholic church will move a few steps towards its best incarnation under the leadership of Francis I.  May God bless him and guide him through the challenges the Catholic church, and he as its leader, face.

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