I write a short column monthly (supposedly) for the American Catholic Council’s on-line newsletter. I added the parenthetical “supposedly” as it has been a few months since ACC has published their newsletter. I was contacted last week by the editor for my column to place in in this month’s (February) newsletter. I am reprinting it here so you can easily access it. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it…..Reyanna
Eye on Francis, by Reyanna Rice, February 20, 2015
What is the Pope doing for Lent?
It would be hard for me to say what exact thing Papa Francesco is doing for Lent. He loves mate’, the Argentine green tea on steroids he drinks first thing every morning, so maybe he is giving that up for Lent. Or maybe he is giving up his favorite desert, dulce de leche, a sweet caramel based pudding that he had to teach the cooks at Casa Santa Marta how to make. Or maybe he is doing away with his late afternoon cappuccino he supposedly indulges in at the end of his day. I don’t think it is any of these. Would he be giving things up or would he be doing more? His recent homilies at Santa Marta give me some clues. On Friday, February 20, he had this to say and I quote a Vatican Radio report of his words:
“He said Jesus wants from us a fasting that breaks the evil chains, frees those who are oppressed, clothes those who are naked and carries out justice. This, he explained, is a true fasting, a fasting which is not a just an outward appearance or observance but a fasting which comes from the heart.”
This quote is probably more what is inspiring his Lent. It is what always makes him tick. And if I wanted to see how he goes about doing this…and remember that he says almost more with his actions than with his words….I wouldn’t have to go any further than an event that took place Sunday, February 8. He was on his way to say Mass in an outlying parish in Rome, out in one of the poorer sections. On the way there, he tapped his driver on the shoulder to stop the blue Ford Focus. They were at the gates of a shanty town. He had his guards stay back a bit and he walked through the gate into what looked like a courtyard surrounded by a bunch of chicken coops. But there were no chickens in these coops, just a whole bunch of homeless people. As the people became aware of his presence, they came running. At one point he was surrounded by people, 5 layers deep. His guards were nervously pacing at the back of this crowd. He was not concerned a bit that these folks were holding onto his hand, his arms, his cassock, little kids and women clinging to him. He was with people who needed him, needed his words of comfort, as he admired and kissed their babies and kids. He found out they all were from South American so he next prayed with them in Spanish. It was just an Our Father but it was something to give them a bit of hope. He was at one of those peripheries he talks about often. He was doing what he loved best to do while he was in Argentina, walk the barrios and be with people What does this say to us in our Lenten journeys? For me what I really need to do more than anything is to get out of my comfort zone, go out to those peripheries wherever they are around me. I should not be afraid when I do so, just go freely where my gut tells me someone needs a word of comfort a hand to hang onto or a warm meal. Ask yourself: “Where do I feel the most uncomfortable in my relationships with people?”. That is a “periphery” existing in your life where you are afraid to venture. Sometimes those peripheries are right there in our own families, sometimes it is more concrete like serving in a soup kitchen a day a week, a periphery you maybe would never have imagined yourself going out to. And when you do head out to the peripheries, do like Papa Francesco, leave the guards behind and freely walk into it. If you want to see Papa Francesco in action, click here.