The first reading this Sunday speaks of the blessing of prudence and wisdom. Pope Francis is living in the spirit of those words from the Book of Wisdom. During his visit to the United States, he was in a position to be offered the “finest” of all this world has to offer. The Holy Father decided to walk in the shadow of Jesus.
Jesus rode a donkey to Jerusalem and Pope Francis chose a humble compact car and occasional golf cart. We saw our shepherd keep breaking rank to minister to a particular sheep of the flock during his time here. Expecting a 78-year-old man to become weary as the days moved on, the Holy Father became more animated with laughter, smiles and ministry. He was refreshed by wisdom, “because the splendor of her never yields to sleep.”
The liturgies were simple and humble. We saw furniture for the Masses made by workers from humble backgrounds: immigrants, boys from an “at risk school” with some of the materials coming from ordinary stores such as Home Depot. The clothes that covered the altar at Madison Square Garden could have been made of the finest linen (as are many linens in our parishes); rather they were designed from a simple cotton blend by six Mexican women in Yonkers. Look around your local church, are you aware of any items made by the human hands of your own parish family?
A certain amount of protocol is in place at a papal Mass. However, we also witnessed liturgies that were inclusive with lay people from every area of life ministering as lectors, cantors, choirs and gift bearers. The Masses were familiar to us, even when the pope used Latin, Spanish or Italian. The universal prayers were proclaimed in a mélange of languages such as Gaelic, Mandarin, French and Italian. What kind of diversity is being embraced in your parish?
“High church” hymns were not the sole papal Mass music of choice. We heard Latin chant, four-part choir anthems and contemporary hymns. Included at one Mass was a hymn Pope Francis claims as his favorite, Pescador de Hombres (Lord When You Came to the Seashore). Pay attention to the music used at your church; better yet join in singing it! Do you hear hymns that draw from many rich sources of music and traverses the generations? Like the Holy Father, do you have a particular hymn that is your favorite?
No special matched vestments were made for the pope’s tour. Rather, priests were to bring their own chasubles. In most instances the bishops, as well as the pope himself, borrowed the vestments from the local cathedral in each city. This Sunday your priest celebrant will be wearing a green chasuble. Do you know why? It has nothing to do with the fact that the Diocese of Green Bay and the Packers share the same territory.
This Sunday’s Gospel challenges us to ask what must I do to inherit eternal life? Pope Francis serves as a beautiful model of the answer to that question. May each of us faithfully ask God, “What must I do to gain eternal life?” and then do our best to bring that same dignity, wisdom and prudence and heart, shown by Pope Francis, to our own lives. One day may we may respond, Lord, “we have given up everything and followed you.”
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.