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Some random thoughts on this new Pope

I was recently going back through my book on the prayer of St. Francis, “Make me an Instrument of your Peace.”  I was pleased at what I read.  I did well in that work, calling forth my better angels in service of a kinder vision of life than I often practice in my daily affairs.  And, in the course of rereading, it got me thinking about this new pope who has taken Francis’ name.

I like this new man, and am drawn to him.  It is the first time in a long time that the Catholics have raised up a leader who seems to shed grace and calm and light on the world through which he passes.

Since John the 23rd, all the popes have seemed to have a pinched severity somewhere at their cores — a judgmentalism born of the weight of the institution they have been called upon to lead.

This is only natural — institutions, by their nature, are embodiments of structure, not agents of non-judgmental embrace, because they have to have rules and standards by which they hold themselves together.

If the Catholic Church — one of the most venerable, venerated, and vilified institutions in the history of the world — is to become more like the man on whose message it is founded, it would seem to need to go through a period of almost chaotic embrace of the spiritual cacophony of human experience.

This new pope has chosen well by claiming the mantle of Francis.  Who among us remembers Francis’ theology and moral strictures?  We remember the man and his joy and his embrace. If this new pope can remain true to the spirit of Francis, caring more about embodying the message of Jesus than with defining it — if he can give us more Beatitudes and less Ten Commandments — a thousand flowers may yet bloom.


Fire and Ice

My wife and I are currently spending a month in Portland (Oregon, not Maine, though I would love to be in Portland, Me, as well).

There is an easy grace here, most noticeable in contrast to the almost hysterical frustration that is gripping  people during this deep and interminable winter in America’s northern and eastern climes.  The shoulders come down, the face muscles relax, the hair-trigger anger that comes to the fore when you step out into snow-laced ice and cold miraculously disappears.

I am not a believer in the theory that suffering is good for creativity.  Suffering, whether deep and personal, or transient and environmentally-borne, fosters a desire to create in order to externalize and transubstantiate inner struggles.  But it is only one source of creative energy.  Excitement, dreaming, and the hazy lure of far vistas set the imagination ablaze as well.

Anything that promotes introspection or long vision fosters creativity.  It is only those who live by simply moving through the events of the everyday, unaware of anything beyond logistics and the practical, who are in danger of lacking creative inspiration.

I do not know what will come out of this month amid flower petals rather than icicles, but it certainly will have a different timbre than what I would create back in Minnesota.  Each place is a feast for the senses, though one has a bit of bitter gall to it, while the other is a sweet delight.  What is important, more than the setting or the emotional response to it, is the openness to the coming transition from winter to spring.  It is in the spaces between changing realities that the opportunity for real creativity lies.


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