Monday, February 12, 2018

Happiness in This Life by Pope Francis, translated by Oonagh Stransky

Hardcover, 272 pgs, Pub Dec 5th 2017 by Random House Publishing Group, ISBN13: 9780525510970, Edition Language: English

I don’t have anything against popes per se. It seems to me that some men are genuinely holy men, in that they have thought long and hard about life on earth and prefer the alternative: heaven. Pope Francis seems to have absorbed more than a few of the lessons taught in Christianity, and he is a good spokesperson. When he says he makes mistakes, we believe him.

Earlier this month, Pope Francis defended Bishop Juan Barros for being unaware of sexual abuse committed by his mentor, the Reverend Fernando Karadima, who was notorious and hated within Chile. Unfortunately, parishioners in Chile are not satisfied with the investigation that cleared Barros.

Bishop Juan Barros
Bishop Juan Barros

Pope Francis’ support for Barros could very well be one of those ‘mistakes’ the Pope speaks of. At first the pontiff seems to be sympathetic to the victims of abuse and then backs off, suggesting the Church is being scammed by ‘supposed’ victims. He must be getting information from internal sources.

If I were him, I would have to doubt internal sources at least as much as believers. After all, the Church has failed its believers badly in the past, with abuse of minors, corruption, graft, and lack of humility right at the top of the list of wrongs. It must be hard to be part of such a large and wealthy organization and still preach humility with any degree of sincerity. Pope Francis managed it better than anyone, but he may be struggling now. When he preaches forgiveness, I might find forgiveness in my heart for him, but not so much for the pedos. Let them deal with the law first and then let's talk.

This book is divided into four sections; within those sections are very short statements he has given on different occasions between the years 2013-2016. The pieces are lessons that contain admonishments or suggestions. Those who like to meditate each day on spiritual lessons may find this form very successful for their practice.

Nearly every passage I marked out as insightful, useful, or on a subject discussed for years within the Catholic community came from the summer of 2013 when Pope Francis addressed celibacy:
“Once made, these vows of chastity never end, rather, they endure…when a priest is not a father to his community, when a nun is not a mother to all those with whom she works, he or she becomes sad…This sadness comes from failing to live a truly consecrated life, which, on the contrary, always makes us fruitful, fertile…the beauty of consecration is joy, always joy.”
We can see he means well, but not everyone is cut out to be a priest, let alone a pope, perhaps even less so today.

On another hot-button topic, the role of women in the Church, Pope Francis says this:
“The Church recognizes the indispensable contribution that women make to society, their sensitivity, their intuition, and other distinctive skills that women, more than men, tend to possess. For example, the special attention that women bestow on others, an attention often—but not exclusively—expressed in maternity. I happily acknowledge how many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests, how they guide people, families, and groups and thoughtfully contribute to theological studies.

But we need to create even more opportunities for women in the Church We need feminine genius in every aspect of society. So women must be guaranteed roles in the workplace and wherever important decisions are made, both within the Church and in social structures.”
Dear Pope Francis sounds like he is trying to make nice but his words are so old-fashioned I am not reassured. I would not be the person interested in reforming this edifice and in cranking open the brain boxes of men who long ago closed their minds to an entire sex. No. But I credit any woman willing to take it on. It is truly a labor of generosity and love.

The question remains, is the Church relevant today, or is it still standing but dead inside?

The audio produced by Penguin Random House and beautifully read by Arthur Morey is a good way to enjoy this title, though if using each little entry for meditation you may prefer the written copy. Translated by Oonagh Stransky. Pope Francis was born in Buenos Aires December 17, 1936, and was christened with the name Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He became the Bishop of Rome and the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church on March 13, 2013.

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